The changing of the seasons provides a challenge for those who want to bike outdoors as long (and comfortably) as possible. Indoor riding on the stationary trainer just isn’t the same as good ol’ fresh air and sunshine! Mornings and evenings are becoming cooler and the days are becoming shorter. Below are some basic tips/suggestions that I’m discovering as I transition into fall.
1. A base layer or arm warmers are starting to become a regular addition to my morning bike routine. I’m generally always on the cooler side; most times I’m comfortable if I can keep my arms warm. You can wear a jersey or t-shirt over the base layer to keep your core warmer on mornings or evenings that are especially brisk. Depending on the time of day, I would also recommend wearing a pair of light-weight gloves. My fingers tend to get stiff when cold, and that can affect how fast you can react; especially with braking or shifting. I’ve been fine so far with my fingerless gloves, but have started to pack gloves in my bag for my rides home from work. For commuting, you’ll likely find yourself wearing a sweatshirt or some sort of light jacket in the mornings or evenings when you head out.
2. I had my first ride with knee warmers and I would say they were a benefit. Your knees like to stiffen up when chilly, and most times I don’t give a hoot about my legs. As long as my upper body is warm, everything else survives. Overall it was a lot nicer to not have stiff knees; however, I find knee warmers a bit cumbersome. Learning how far to have them up and how to not have them fall was an annoyance. Last year during the fall months, most of the time I wore an older pair of jeans. You can go that route or wear tights. As it gets colder, you’ll find yourself slowly covering up more and more of your body. You do not have to have "bike clothes" to ride a bike, you just need to be able to stay comfortable with what you have.
3. You want to dress so you are a wee bit chilly when starting out, but are comfortable and not too warm during the ride. If you have a hydration pack, you can strip off some of the smaller stuff if necessary (arm warmers/knee warmers) and store it in there if you get too warm. Jersey pockets can be utilized too. It may take several attempts to find your happy medium with certain weather conditions.
4. In terms of riding you will find it’s not very different. However, there are some hazards or things to look out for. Wet leaves can provide you a slippery surface that makes it easy for you to wipe out. They are something to be aware of on paved trails, mountain bike trails, as well as commuting around town. Leaves are beautiful on trees, but when on the ground they can be unpredictable. Be mindful when coming down inclines or going around corners when there are wet leaves about. Give yourself more time to brake and be aware that starting on a slippery surface might make you spin out.
5. The days start to get shorter; this means that you will need to use bike lights for commuting home from work or doing night rides on the trails. Make sure your batteries are charged up and everything is in working order. If you have an inexpensive light that doesn’t shine out in front of you, consider getting a more expensive one. This is an instance where spending more money on a piece of equipment is an investment in your overall enjoyment and safety. At night, drivers in the street may not notice you, especially if the light isn’t powerful or shines out in front of you. A more expensive light will aid in your visibility as well as be much more obvious for drivers. I started out commuting with a tiny light and was quickly converted to a much more powerful light. I feel confident that people can actually see me, and I can also see road hazards on my way home from work. I’ve used it for night rides on the loop; it provides me with a lot of security and makes me feel much more confident that I know where I’m going.
Every body is different, so expect some things to work better for you than others. Thankfully there are many options out there for you in terms of what you can wear to stay comfortable. Look into them and invest in the ones that really work for you. Also consider upgrading your current light; especially if you have one that is more for just being visible to drivers, not necessarily to see with. I hope you find these tips helpful, and that you get out there and enjoy the ride!
*Image courtesy Flickr creative commons.