This blog was originally published on the PeopleforBikes blog. It has been reposted here with permission in an edited format. This blog was first published in 2018 but updated in 2020.
The leaves are turning, the air is crisp; fall is officially here. But the beauty of autumn also means cooler temperatures, earlier sunsets and sometimes less-than-ideal weather. For the many of you who picked up biking for the first time this summer or returned after a long hiatus, the thought of braving colder weather while riding might feel intimidating.
1Quell your fears with cold-weather gear.
The right gear makes all the difference. Outfitting yourself with the items you need to stay warm, dry and comfortable while you ride will make your colder weather rides bearable and, dare we say it, even enjoyable.
Consider the length of your ride and the conditions you expect to encounter to help you determine what gear you’ll need. Do you live in an area with high rainfall? A waterproof shell and water-resistant shoes will help keep you comfortable and dry throughout your ride. Wearing a moisture-wicking base layer underneath waterproof gear will also help by regulating your body temperature. Gloves and ear protection also go a long way in mitigating wind-induced discomfort.
2Weatherproof your bike.
If you haven’t yet experienced the joy of rain and mud splattering down your back all ride long, let us save you the trouble with this bit of advice: Invest in fenders. Depending on the type of bike you have, it might be as simple as purchasing a set of easily installable clip-on fenders. Talk with your local bike shop to see what style of fender works best for your bike.
You should already be in the habit of carrying a flat repair kit; if you’re not, now is the time to start! It’s never fun to get stuck with a flat, and it’s even less enjoyable to find yourself stranded with a flat in the middle of a downpour.
3Bring your street skills.
When moisture hits the road, conditions can change fast. Stick to the routes you’ve gotten comfortable with over the summer, avoid riding through puddles (it’s hard to gauge depth, and the water may be covering bigger hazards like potholes), and feather your brakes. In wet conditions, water and dirt can prevent rim brakes (brakes that squeeze the rim of your tire) from properly engaging. Feathering your brakes—squeezing them on and off until you feel them begin to get a grip—will help you safely stop when you need it most.
4Light it up.
Daylight hours in summer are long and forgiving. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for fall and winter months. Always carry front and rear lights (and make sure they’re charged or have fresh batteries!) to avoid getting caught riding in the dark. Even the most basic set of lights increases your visibility to other traffic (cars, bikes, scooters, pedestrians) and can help illuminate your path.
5Phone a friend.
Cold weather can make us fickle, even when we have the best intentions. Biking with a buddy makes the ride more fun and helps keep you both accountable by getting your butts off the couch and on your bike seats.
Let’s be honest: Even with all the right gear, the right attitude and an awesome riding buddy, riding in the cold isn’t always the most fun or appealing. But no one said you have to ride every day. Instead, give yourself a goal of riding a set number of times each week, or shoot for an overall number of rides for the season. When you reach your goal, reward yourself with some new bike gear or whatever else you’ve had your eye on. In the meantime, a warm cup of hot chocolate or bowl of soup is another great way to reward yourself after a chilly ride.
Biking in colder weather might require more planning, but when you make the effort, fall rides can be rich with rewards: beautiful colors, rosy cheeks and the satisfaction of getting out on your bike. Grab some layers, fender up, and enjoy the refreshingly cool breeze of an autumn ride.