Whilst I may have said that winter was the best time to get started on the bike because it was the toughest, I think I’d like to take that back.
You see, with winter you can pretty much assume it is going to be cold and most likely wet so you can prepare for that. However, the autumn is likely to throw all four seasons at you within the space of a few miles.
If you dress warm for the cold bits you are likely to boil over during the warm bits. If you need to get the waterproofs out, you’re likely to become a “boil-in-the-bag human”. So, how do you deal with this?
1. Layer up
The key is to layer up for the cold parts. A September morning in Cardiff is unlikely to warrant a thermal base layer, but if you are wearing a jersey, go for a short-sleeve one and some arm warmers. The same goes for the legs -a pair of shorts and some leg warmers. The great thing about arm and leg warmers is that they can be rolled down to your wrists and ankles when you start getting too warm.
The next layer to consider is a jacket. An ideal option would be a windproof jacket that can be rolled up into your jersey pocket when you don’t need it. However, if you are carrying a bag anyway, storage isn’t the issue. I have an Altura jacket that has zip-able air vents, is very light and covered in reflective panels. It’s not warm, but it keeps the wind and rain out.
If you are riding with cleats, one item I cannot recommend enough is a pair of overshoes. These will keep your feet warm and stop your waterproofs depositing water into your socks. Best of all, they’re about £20.
Finally, a pair of sunglasses with interchangeable lenses. I don’t know about you, but riding in the cold makes my eyes water and if it is windy, expect a face full of leaves.
2. Watch out!
Ahh, the leaves! The other occupational hazard of autumn is the collection of dead leaves on shared paths and at the edges of the road. These hide a multitude of hazards, not least that they can be slippery as heck. Expect the unexpected beneath a pile of leaves, particularly things that can cause punctures –glass, pins, nails etc. If you are on the road, take the primary position if you are in any doubt and give yourself plenty of room.
3. Be prepared!
Expect punctures! Carry a couple of spare inner tubes, some tire levers, a multi-tool and a mini pump in your bag and make sure you are familiar with the process of fixing a puncture. This handy GCN video should help…
4. Light up…
Get your lights out, even if it is light when you set off. The sun sets quickly in the autumn and an overcast day evening will likely call for a spot of illumination. Having to stop to sort your lights out is a pain.
If your lights run on AA or AAA batteries, make sure you keep an extra set on you and if they are rechargeable, keep them topped up. There’s a more in-depth look at lighting here.
5. Have fun…
Seriously, autumn is a beautiful time of year. The leaves are changing colour, people start to wrap up in bigger coats and anything that can happen with the weather, will. Take some time out on your ride to get some photos, share them to Twitter (#cardiffbybike don’t forget!) or to our Facebook page and just have fun. If you see people on the same route as you, say hi, strike up a conversation. That’s the great thing about cycling, talking to complete strangers!
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