It has started. Shorter days, cooler temperatures, vibrant and changing leaves – like it or not, fall is officially upon us. Autumn is actually my favourite time of year to ride and I’m not the only one (check out #9).
Somehow it feels like there’s more opportunity to take in the sights and sounds and enjoy my surroundings. Unfortunately, fall can also bring less than desirable commuting conditions, (full disclosure, sometimes they downright suck). The oftentimes dreary weather makes it an easier decision for fair-weather commuters to pack it in for the season and stop pedaling to work.
No disputing that it takes a little more planning and substantially more clothing but cycle commuting to work is definitely still possible, nay fun, during the fall months. Plus, you might actually get to work NOT looking like a sweaty mess.
Hack: Layers | Your New BFF
The key to riding in the fall is staying dry. Being cold is bearable, being wet is bearable, but being cold and wet is irrefutably miserable.
This time of year brings seemingly hourly changes in weather conditions and these fluctuations can be the most challenging part of fall commuting. No matter what the weather is in the morning, it is likely going to be quite different in the afternoon. For this reason, layers are your best friend. The kind of friend who’s there for you when you need them most. The friend that won’t get offended when you cancel plans or cry because a sunny day turned stormy.
For my commute, I’m wearing the perfect amount of clothing if I am slightly cold for the first 10-15 minutes of my ride. If I am comfortably warm when I step outside, I will be a sweaty mess by the halfway point and then freezing by the time I get to work. If your commute is more typical than mine and thus shorter, I’d love to hear how you dress for the fall weather, give us some insight in the comments below.
Hack: Contractor Gloves | A Friend You Never Knew You Needed
If layers are your BFF, a good pair of gloves is the friend you never knew you needed until they magically show up in your life.
Riding with gloves at this time of year can be the difference between an enjoyable commute or barely surviving. The wind and rain suck all of the heat out of your hands and it can make braking and/or shifting gears a not-so-fun game. Single-speed commute anyone?
If you head to your local bike shop looking for gloves there will be a ton of options but I get my commuting gloves from the local hardware store in the form of contractor gloves. They are durable, warm, some are waterproof and, my favourite part, rather inexpensive.
Hack: Clothes | Don’t Forget Another Set
As for clothing, I bring an extra set of commuting clothes for the ride home if there is any possibility that I’ll get wet on my way into work. No one wants to start a ride by putting on wet gear.
On a number of occasions, after forgetting to pack an extra set of clothes, I have dried my riding clothes during my lunch break (washroom hand-dryers do the trick nicely) so my afternoon commute will at least start dry.
Hack: Shoes & Feet | Harness Your Inner MacGyver
Keeping your shoes dry can be tricky. If you wear shoes with cleats, shoe covers are a great option. I opt to save the shoe covers until it gets really cold but you can find thin water-resistant ones that are beneficial on the cooler autumn days.
If you don’t have shoe covers or aren’t able to dry your shoes at work, plastic bags and fresh socks are a handy, albeit utilitarian, option. In fact, more often than not I bring a spare pair of socks for the ride home.
Once you get home, be sure to stuff your shoes with newspaper and they will be ready to go by the next morning.
Hack: Fenders and Mud Guards | Trade ‘Dork’ for ‘Dry’
Most people think that you will only get wet if it’s raining. The reality is that you will get soaked from the spray coming off your bike itself – even if the roads are only slightly damp.
The best way to avoid the cycling rooster tail is by getting a solid set of full coverage fenders (or mud-guards for my UK friends). I love my fenders and they stay on my bike year round.
Without fenders, my backside would be cold, wet, and dirty from the rear tire and my feet would be soaked thanks to the front tire. Don’t hesitate, get yourself some good fenders now, your future “winter commuter” self will thank you.
These are some of my best fall commuting practices and if you need a little convincing about continuing (or starting) to ride to work this fall, check out our Top Ten Reasons To Bike To Work. If you want to share your own genius hacks for biking to work on cool and wet autumn days – and we’d love to hear them, leave a comment below.
Have a good ride!
Instagram | @joe.meissner