Autumn has always been my favorite season. I love the changing of the colors, the refreshingly cool afternoons, and the leaves that crunch satisfyingly under your feet. I love the foods of fall – apples, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash. Even as a kid, I was sad that summer was ending, but looked forward to the beginning of school.
So it’s no surprise that I love biking in the fall. The heat of summer has passed, while the cold of winter hasn’t descended. Fortunately, I got in two very nice rides recently before the rain of Hurricane Sandy arrived. Last Saturday, I pedaled back and forth to Food Day at my church and this Saturday crammed in a short loop around the Millennium Trail with a detour to pick up canned goods. The rides allowed me to both get in a bit of leaf-peeping and see the fun Halloween decorations my neighbors put out. Considering my dual love of Halloween and ridiculous zombie costumes, I hoped to participate in BicycleSpace’s Night of the Bicycling Dead ride on Tuesday, but it’s probably going to be rained out.
While on my rides, I thought of a couple of useful tips to keep in mind while biking in the fall:
1) Be prepared for rain. This is a sort of obvious one today, as we’re just waiting for the inevitable loss of power, but helpful the rest of the time. Summer rain showers around here can be pleasant, offering relief from the oppressive humidity. But the fall is often just cold and windy enough for rain to make the difference between fun and miserable. If the temperature is low enough, it can even lead to hypothermia.
2) Slow and steady is the name of the game, especially on multi-use paths and bike lanes. While roads around here are usually clear of leaves, you are luckier than I if your municipality clears multi-use paths and bike lanes. Bike lanes and shoulders in particular seem to be a favorite place for suburbanites to shove the piles of leaves that would otherwise be mussing up their lawns. Unfortunately, leaves can hide a multitude of maintenance sins, including potholes and bumps. In addition, they’re often wet and slippery.
3) Dress in layers. A fall afternoon can easily go from warm to cold in a matter of hours, leaving you woefully unprepared. When I left on Saturday, I was comfortable just walking around in a short-sleeved shirt, so I figured I wouldn’t need more than that for my ride. In the two hours it took between the ride and the grocery store stop, the sun moved behind some clouds, the temperature dropped, and I was rather chilly. In addition, it’s very easy to get cold if you’re sweating and then stop for a break.
4) Bring enough water. Just because the temperature’s lower doesn’t mean that you aren’t going to sweat.
5) Be prepared for the dark. If you’ve been biking in the summer, it’s easy to forget how quickly the sun sets in the summer. Even if it’s not close to dusk, it can turn dim quickly and it’s worth having good lights for the sake of visibility.
What’s your favorite time of year to ride? Any other tips for riding in the fall?