By Joel Zanatta, The Biking Lawyer LLP
Our team at The Biking Lawyer LLP are committed to year round cycling. No matter what the weather has in store for us, we adapt. That said, perhaps our favourite cycling season is fall.
Riding in the fall can be exceptional. The heat of summer is behind us while the frigid winter temperatures are yet to arrive. But it would be dishonest to suggest that fall riding is without challenges. Rain is frequent and the days are shorter. These issues can be easily managed if you follow some basic advice.
Fall calls for lightweight, removable pieces that can adapt to the changing weather. Here are some great pieces to have in your fall riding gear collection:
- Merino wool base layers
- Vest to protect you from wind without overheating
- Light, packable jacket
- Arm warmers
- Knee warmers or leg warmers
- Toe covers to keep your feet warm without the bulk of full shoe covers
Rain is the biggest deterrent (and danger) for people cycling in the fall. If you want to ride year round you must invest in quality rain gear that not only includes a jacket and pants, but also gloves and shoe covers. If you’re commuting to work, I highly recommend carrying dry clothes with you so you can change when you get there. Some people find wearing a regular backpack on a bike too hot, so if you’re one of those people, either find a backpack with a mesh back to increase air flow or install a bike rack and a pannier system.
Whatever you wear, make sure it’s comfortable, breathable, reflective and above all, rain repellant.
We recognize that gear can be prohibitively expensive. Our goal is to get people on bikes, so be sure to look for cost effective options out there. Some places to check out include Facebook Marketplace, Decathlon, end of season sales, Value Village and various used sports equipment stores.
Fall days can be short, dark and wet so you have to ride defensively. Always assume that the road will provide less traction, but also be mindful of anything metal, like manhole covers, grates or railroad tracks. Even the painted lines on road can become slick when wet.
Disc and drum brakes respond pretty well in wet weather, but rim brakes, not so much. With them, you have to allow yourself about twice as long to come to a full stop. You can’t hit the brakes too hard either, as you’ll skid, so feather them. That means squeeze them on and off until you feel them begin to grip. By feathering the brakes, you help remove the water and dirt that keeps the brake pads from gripping to the rim.
Another important adaptation for fall riding is to vary your route. While sticking to quiet side streets may be your preference in the summer, they are not cleared as often in the fall and winter, so can have more leaves and debris than the busier routes.
Fall Bike Maintenance
Wet roads tend to kick up a lot of dirt, which makes your chain and brakes grimy. Clean everything more often. Just a quick hose down after a ride helps to get the gunk off. Wipe the water off your bike with a small towel to keep all your parts as dry as you can to reduce deterioration.
Keep your chain lubed and switch from a dry lube to a wet lube, which is water resistant. Also add a layer of water resistant grease on your headset, bottom brackets, wheels and hubs.
Make sure you keep a spare tube and tools with you. That extra debris on the road increases the likelihood of you needing to make a repair.
Best luxury buy? A set of fenders and a wider pair of tires. Fenders prevent rooster tail, that distinct (and sometimes embarrassing) line of mud that runs up your backside. Slightly wider tires with a more pronounced tread will give you significantly better traction.
We are huge advocates for lights all year round, but they are especially important as the days get shorter. It’s also the law. Ontario law requires cyclists to have a white light facing forwards and a red light or reflector facing backwards. If you don’t have a pair of lights, contact our office and we will send you some – they are that important.
In addition, wear as much reflective clothing as possible*. The fact is, when it’s dark, you are hard to see. Rain especially obscures vision. When it’s really coming down, you should wear a jacket with reflective strips or a high-vis vest. You can get a vest at any construction outfitters for about ten bucks, fold it up and carry it in your pannier or pocket for those days you really need it. And another easy way to add visibility is with LED slap wraps.
Yes, it’s a lot of work to prepare for fall weather riding. But I promise you it’s worth it. When you’re prepared, getting out for a ride in the fresh air – even in the rain – can be amazing.
For more information, visit https://www.thebikinglawyer.ca/