It’s easy to be a cyclist in the summer. The suns on your back, the roads are dry, the scenery is glowing, and there’s no shortage of willing ride partners. But cycling in autumn? Well that requires a lot more effort, right? Actually, not at all. With a few sensible kit choices and a slightly different outlook, becoming an autumn cyclist is as straightforward as the changing of the seasons. And the rewards for continuing to ride are huge. So let’s see why and how you should keep pedaling this autumn.
Making the most of autumn
Let’s start with an unarguable benefit of autumn cycling: your personal fitness. The chances are that over the summer you’ve trimmed up and lost a bit of weight. So why undo all that good work? By continuing to ride, not only will you keep all those benefits, but you may increase them.
You could even set a loose goal for Christmas, and effectively ‘pay’ for your festive excesses in advance.
Autumn is a perfect time to embrace cycle commuting, which will help you save money too. But in the shorter term, there are other more ephemeral benefits. Autumn heralds some incredible scenery, from misty mornings to the rusty reds and browns of falling leaves, which you can only fully appreciate by immersing yourself in them. The view from the train, bus or car window really is no substitute. Start your day with a ride and arrive at work invigorated.
It’s more than just views and aesthetics, though: knowing that you can conquer the elements, and your choice of kit and sheer willpower can overcome Mother Nature, inspires a heady sense of accomplishment. Then, just as food never tastes so good as when you’ve earned it, a warm shower never feels so rewarding as when you really need it.
Rising to the challenge
So how can you conquer the autumnal elements? For Evans Cycles Ride On autumn campaign, the challenge has been split into three parts: staying dry, being seen and keeping warm. Here, we’ll add an extra component: retaining your existing fitness, whatever the weather.
It’s no fluke that we start by looking at staying dry — wet weather is probably the single thing that puts most people off riding a bike. Nobody likes the idea of ploughing on through road spray while your sodden clothes cling to your body. But it really doesn’t have to be this way.
Thankfully, clothing technology is moving so quickly that waterproof outers are now incredibly effective and if you buy the right jacket, your upper body will remain immune to damp external conditions. Don’t forget to use breathable kit as well, to prevent self-produced, sweaty sogginess ruining your ride.
Waterproof gloves also help keep your hands in fine fettle. Waterproof trousers and — even more importantly — mudguards help to prevent wet backs, soggy bottoms and squelchy saddles. Waterproof overshoes are very effective to stop foot discomfort. And don’t ignore the importance of protecting your eyes: cycling glasses aren’t just for summertime posing, they’re also great at stopping grit and road spray flicking up to disrupt your vision.
In the case of autumnal cycling, there are three aspects of visibility to consider: being seen in daylight or lowlight; being seen at night; and seeing the way forward.
Being seen in daylight is often overlooked – In fact, it’s often easier to see a cyclist at night than during overcast moments. That’s why in autumn we’d recommend wearing a brightly coloured or high-visibility outer layer, and team that with a product from the ever-expanding range of bike lights that have daytime running functions. Like a car’s daytime running lights, these enhance a cyclist’s road presence and particularly help other road users spot a cyclist approaching in situations such as junctions.
Being seen at night ultimately comes down to how much light you can generate or reflect. Reflective elements are often built into everything from cycling shoes to jerseys, bags, trouser clips, belts and even helmets.
The last aspect of illumination is bike lighting, which helps you both be seen and see the way ahead. For the first, look for bike lights that have a wide angle of visibility, so that others can see you even from the side. Then, look for lights that put out enough power and — crucially — have a suitable beam pattern for your purposes. You’ll need at least one red rear light and one white front light, and we’d recommend adding a helmet light too.
The TraceR is a great value option from lighting experts Exposure, yet it features much of the same tech as more expensive options, including USB charging, high power, wide angle visibility and DayBright daylight running.
When it comes to keeping warm, we have one word: layering. If you effectively use different dedicated layers of clothing, you can happily deal with temperatures right down to minus numbers. At the base of all good layering systems is — literally enough — a good base layer. This should keep warmth in and let perspiration out. Beyond the base layer it’s up to you to choose a combination of any or all of the following, depending on conditions:
Jersey (short sleeve or long sleeve): Your summer staple can work in tandem with just a base layer on warm days, but also act as an extra layer to retain heat throughout the year.
Softshell jacket: these are very good at keeping all your upper body warm, including arms.
Gilet: this keeps your vital core temperature high and is especially good at keeping the cold wind off of your chest.
Outer layer: Cycling outer layers can be anything from thin rain capes to highly technical windproof, waterproof and breathable jackets. We’d say, consider your other autumn cycling needs — dryness and visibility — when purchasing.
Other kit: Don’t forget about your other vital areas, particular the extremities and contact points. Good, full-finger thermal gloves are vital. Thermal overshoes are a very great idea for long rides. And neck warmers keep the chill out. For changing conditions, consider things like arm, leg or knee warmers.
Available in brightly coloured versions with reflective highlights on the back, the insulated, waterproof, breathable and lightweight Gore C5 Gore-Tex Active jacket can do it all.
Despite our high-faluting notions of beating the weather, there may be some days when you just can’t get out on the bike. But you might be able to still get a ride in, indoors. Rollers and turbo-trainers are a vital component of racing cyclists’ off-season armoury, but they can also be a very effective way for even leisure riders to keep your legs spinning when conditions stop you heading outside. Best of all, they don’t have to be expensive and you can often mount your existing bike to them, meaning it feels almost as natural as going for a fresh-air ride.