Fall Weather Cycling Tips

Fall is now upon us leading to changing weather and road/trail conditions for cyclists.  While this change of season can present some hurdles to getting out for a ride, these can be overcome with the right equipment, apparel and a little know-how.  In this post I will present some of the tricks and safety tips that I have learned over the years commuting and riding during this transitional season.

See and Be Seen

Fall means less daylight hours and darkness begins to set in during the evening rush hour.  Get yourself some quality rechargeable LED lights to see and be seen by motorists.  Cloudy days and pre-dawn hours are also good times to have your lights on.  I'm a firm believer in lights "always on" no matter the time of day to increase my visibility.

Adjust the angle of your front light to accommodate for speed or conditions so as to not over drive your headlight.   Over driving your headlight coverage can put you in danger of hitting obstacles, potholes and other road hazards.

Exercise caution at intersections, especially during dark hours.  Motorists aren't always expecting cyclists to be out during the cold months and any way you can get their attention before crossing can keep you from being hit.  I will use a loud whistle to make my presence known if I think motorists are unaware of me.  If you are not sure whether a motorist knows you are there, err on the side of caution and don't put yourself in a position that could lead to being struck.  It is better to be safe than sorry.

Reflectives, in addition to lights, will help get you seen during low light hours.  I use Brilliant Reflective Stick-on Strips placed on my forks for approaching traffic and on my seat stays for better visibility from behind and the side.  These strips are made with 3M Scotchlite Reflective Material that is super bright and can be seen from up to 500 feet away letting motorists know of your presence.  Bike bags and apparel with reflective accents and brightly colored clothing are also good choices after dark to make yourself more visible.

There are a lot of anti-fog products on the market as well as many home remedies that you can find online to keep your glasses or goggles clear in the cold.  I use one on my daytime and nighttime eyewear to avoid that irritating fogging of my lenses.  Using a neck gaiter, balaclava, scarf or working up a sweat can fog up your glasses quickly and using an anti-fog of some sort will keep you seeing clearly.

Road Conditions

The freeze/thaw cycle of fall can present some road hazards that you won't experience in warmer weather.  Frozen puddles and frost in the shadows can can present some slick riding conditions so keep alert and avoid these obstacles to keep your bike "rubber side down".

Fallen leaves on roadways and bike paths can hide potholes, frozen puddles and other obstacles you want to avoid to ride safely.  Moving over may mean you will have to take the lane to get safely by.

Check your tire pressure often and adjust accordingly as cold weather can lead to decreased psi.  Lowering your tire pressure can help put more of the tire in contact with the road providing better traction but release too much air and you risk pinch flats.  A lot of bike commuters will switch over to a wider tire choice this time of year to put a little more rubber on the road for a more confident ride feel.  I swap out my 35 mm tires to a wider 45 mm each year at this time.

Clothing Choices

Get your clothes picked out the night before based on the weather forecast for your commute or ride to save time getting ready in the morning.  This will also help to make sure you don't forget anything.

This is the time of year I start using all of my baselayers to provide the warmth and wicking needed to ride comfortably.  I use wool, polyester, and wool blends of different thicknesses to cover a wide variety of temperatures.  After some trial and error over the years I have gotten pretty good at picking the right one to pair with my jacket selection.  The key is to start out a ride a little chilly because you will start to generate your own heat soon enough.  Choosing a baseleayer that is too warm for the temperature will leave you starting out warm and cozy but soon lead to  overheating causing excessive sweat that will have you wet and chilled.

A neck gaiter and a windproof/breathable beanie under the helmet provides some extra warmth on chilly mornings and evenings.  When things warm up during the ride they can be removed and stored in a jacket pocket.

Get yourself a good pair of windproof/waterproof shoe covers to keep your feet warm and dry.  I wear mine over my cyclocross boots with wool socks to give me extra riding time in below freezing temperatures.

Keep the cold out with a quality windproof and breathable soft shell jacket.  It will cut wind's bite and let moisture and heat escape to help regulate your body temperature.  Jackets with zipper venting under the arms or in the front can be opened to cool you down so you don't become overheated and can be closed when you're comfortable again.  I'm a big fan of Gore Windstopper and Bontrager soft shell jackets but there are a lot of good choices out on the market.  If you don't have one of these in your cycling apparel arsenal, buying one is well worth the investment for cold weather cycling.

Riding during the fall months that lead into winter can be enjoyable with the right gear and know-how.  Don't let the cold or shorter days cut your riding season short.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...