Whether it’s your first time around the block or you know it like the back of your hand, there’s never been a better time to enjoy the simple pleasures of a neighborhood bike ride. Skip the crowded parking lots and trailheads and don’t worry about plotting your route: you can Ride It Out from your own neck of the woods.
As gravel riding continues to surge in popularity, every unpaved road is fair game for exploration. Still uncertain about taking your next ride off-road? Here are five reasons why you should.
The leaves are turning, the air is crisp: Fall is officially here. But the beauty of fall also means cool temperatures, earlier sunsets and the onset of rain. How do you keep up your good summer bike habit when the season turns?
Go for a ride with your 82 year old dad and 78 year old mom for 20 miles. If this doesn’t motivate you nothing will.
To keep riders motivated in the cooler fall months, I try to schedule rides when it gets warmer around late morning.
Here in Metro Atlanta, fall and winter weather is pretty darn awesome after our long, hot summer. Tip? Just head on out there and see for yourself. Don’t forget front and back lights in early morning/early evening or when it’s foggy, rainy, or snowy (some people use them all the time). Lumens under 500 will help you be seen; lumens over 500 will help you see.
I like my $20 bright orange poncho (which flies behind me like a cape and make me feel like a superhero) and my mountain bike (rather than the thin-tired road bike) in the rain. “Feather” your brakes in the rain, by the way, to remove moisture from them.
Note that you do heat up while riding (even in the cold) so don’t overdress. Once you ride a bit in different temperatures and wind conditions, you’ll know what your personal threshold is for needing gloves (for me, light gloves between 35-50 degrees, heavier gloves under 35); wool socks (under 40 degrees); a long shirt (50-60 degrees); a light jacket (under 50 degrees); a winter jacket (under 35 degrees); ear muffs and a scarf (very rarely); etc. You’ll also know what your cut-off temperature is. I’m good (with what I already own clothes-wise, without any special or expensive gear) down to about 23 degrees.
Whether you’re commuting or planning a recreational ride, lay out your kit the night before. Go ahead and fill your bottles and set them on the counter with your favorite ride snacks. Prepping everything gets me excited the night before, and the next day I’m already primed and ready to ride!
A safety tip to keep in mind with earlier sunsets is to avoid riding directly into the sun. And invest in a good front and rear light.
Find a riding buddy. Making set plans to bike with someone regularly will motivate you and make the ride more fun!
Pick out a few go-to outfits. Having 3-4 cold weather riding outfit combinations for different temperatures will make it so much easier to get out of the house quickly, which is especially important this time of year when time is of the essence.
Try different routes! Your usual routes might be feeling monotonous and boring by this time of year or maybe your usual route isn't safe in the dark or isn't plowed. Check out new routes in your area on RideSpot or make a slight detour on an existing route to add a new element of adventure.
Be seen! Make sure your lights are charged and packed the night before. Wear bright colors or clothes with reflective features.
Make it fun! Decorate your bike with holiday lights, wear a silly outfit, bike to see the sunrise and sunset on the same day, pretend you are racing to an unexplored part of Antarctica but take a detour for a soft pretzel if you can.
Embrace the absurdity and have fun with it. Don't be too hard on yourself! Setting riding goals can be an amazing motivation tool, but don't beat yourself up if you take a day off or just don't feel like riding in the cold one morning. Take it day by day and don't give up on the whole season because you didn't bike for a few weeks.
Dress for the weather, in layers! Nothing like a nice crisp fall bike ride. Bring a layer or two to add or remove as needed. Cold weather biking gear is clutch! [Also], take the scenic route and tons of pictures!
It's obviously not easy to ride in the cold and dark but here's two things I know for sure:
1. Good equipment makes riding a LOT more comfortable in the cold. Invest in quality products over quantity. Even if you can only buy one good jacket over two cheaper but with poor quality jackets, the former will make riding much more easy and comfortable and that will likely lead to better overall experiences and more repetition.
2. If you can, ride first thing in the morning. When motivation is low, delaying riding to the end of the day will very likely bring more stress and less quality to the ride but also it's more likely that you gonna skip it. And we all know the snowball it follows once you skip one or two workouts... get up, grind it first thing in the morning. Strong coffee helps, I don't know about you but with the amount of coffee each serving of my cups has, I wake up just to have that and get pumped immediately to use all of the adrenaline.
One benefit of winter rides is that the trail isn’t that crowded, and the sun sets early so you get to see some beautiful skies/sunsets.
My advice for winter rides:
Light layers: You warm up after the first 1/2 mile, so you want to have the option of stripping down a layer (wear a lightweight backpack to stash the layers).
Gloves and an ear band/hat are a must. I also love a scarf because of the wind picks up, you can tie it around your face.
Always bring some cash or a card. The local coffee spot’s steaming hot beverage ️ may get you over the hump on a longer ride.
When I replace a tire I cut a section out before disposing of it to use as a "boot" in case a flat cuts a hole in the tire. Put the boot in your seat bag with the patch kit. Old tubes also make good giant rubber bands.