I love the fall! The colours are splendid, the fragrances are intoxicating and, while it might seem cool out there, the temperature is just right for a bike ride. On one exceptionally warm autumn day, I recently noticed that the bike paths were jam-packed. Nevertheless, as soon as the mercury drops by a few degrees, they’re almost deserted. I love seeing so many people take advantage of the beautiful weather to get outside and stay active, but I think it’s possible to get even more out of the fall season—even on days when it’s a little cooler. You simply need to know how to adapt!
Here are a few tips to help you make the most of autumn on your bike.
“There’s no such thing as bad weather… there’s only bad clothing.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself. In the fall, you need to dress right if you want to fully appreciate your bike rides. The trick is to dress in layers and make sure that your face, head, hands, and feet are well protected. Here are a few of my favourite items I always make sure to have with me in the fall: ear muffs, a Buff-style neck warmer, a good pair of gloves, a windbreaker, and—in case of “extreme” cold—some shoe covers.
You can’t worry too much about feeling the fresh air when you first go out, as your body will warm up when you start to make an effort. I actually always prefer to get a little too overdressed and pull off layers of clothing, rather than feeling cold and wanting to add a layer or two.
Switch out your frame
If you have a mountain or cyclocross bike, it’s a good idea to use it in the fall. As they are equipped with wider, studded tires, these bikes are somewhat slower than standard road bikes. By rolling along at a slower speed, you’ll feel less wind.
Also, these types of bikes allow you to take forest trails, go through parks, and ride on gravel paths that can’t be accessed with regular bikes. On the trails, the speed is even slower, and with the trees to protect you, you’ll be sheltered from the wind and cold.
Personally, I can’t think of anything that’s more fun than riding along a trail and listening to the crackling of dry leaves under my wheels, whether it’s on a cyclocross bike or mountain bike.
A mountain bike ride can also be a great way to take in the beautiful colours of autumn. In my opinion, it’s the ideal vehicle for getting up to a high peak where you can admire stunning views. Not to mention that you’ll also be rewarded with a magnificent descent along trails where you can stay warm.
Vary your routes
If all you’ve got is a road bike, you might want to consider putting on bigger tires so you can explore some gravel roads. In addition to allowing access to more varied terrain, they’ll also increase the overall comfort of your bike. In Quebec, we have an array of gravel roads that run alongside small streams and are surrounded by forest. These roads are often off-limits to cars and, above all, sheltered from strong winds.
The trick to finding them is to take a look at several maps and travel along the smallest roads you can find. I often drive a few kilometres to get to spots that allow me to enjoy my entire ride in a wonderful setting where I can avoid bike traffic. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed with the tranquility or the beautiful landscapes all around you.
A little something to keep you warm!
Just because it’s cold doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure to hydrate. However, in very cold weather, you may only rarely feel the need to have a sip of something right away... When the mercury gets down close to zero, I like to keep some hot water or tea in my bottle. In addition to giving me something pleasant to sip, this little precaution is also an efficient way to help me keep warm.
To sum it up, even though riding outdoors in the fall requires a little more preparation, I think it’s truly worth the effort if it means extending your outdoor season by a few months… especially since a bike ride gets you a front row seat for the magnificent autumn landscape.
After a day in the great outdoors, who doesn’t love coming home with rosy cheeks and sitting down to a good meal with friends and family before bundling up in front of a warm fire?