If you live in a four-season climate, you know that autumn rings in incredible foliage, cool relief, and, undoubtedly, rainy weather.
When it comes to cycling, whether you are preparing for your daily commute by bike, or looking for a cycle tour over a weekend or holiday, you need to adapt both your bike and your clothing to make sure you stay safe, visible, and dry!
Don’t let unexpected weather ruin your ride – and the good news is, your bike can handle more than you might expect. With safety in mind, there are a few essentials you need to complete your all-weather cycling kit as autumn sneaks up on us. With these key must-haves you’ll be ready to take on the roughest ride to work, as well as any ride out of the city to get lost among the fall colors.
Before you bundle up, make sure your bike is just as outfitted to take on colder, wetter days. Though you might not have thought about needing mudguards (also known as fenders) during the summer, you’ll be relieved to have something stopping mud and slush from catapulting up the backs of your legs as you pedal. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination with a perfectly seat-shaped wet spot decorating your backside and mud streaking up your pant legs.
A pair of front and rear mudguards will deflect water as you pass through puddles, catching it from both directions. Most mudguards screw in to pre-existing mounts that can typically be found on your fork and seat-stay (the part of your frame that connects to the seat post).
The German brand SKS produces a huge range of mudguards in different sizes, finishes and shapes; the Bluemels series is a favorite for road bikes. If you are already overwhelmed, the company website has a useful filter to help you find the perfect pair based on your bike type, wheel size, and tire width. Planet Bike’s selection is also guaranteed to help you find a long lasting shield; the company’s Cascadia series has you covered with sturdy aluminum design and nine different guard sizes for the ideal fit.
Don’t assume that your bicycle has mudguard mounts readily available; mounting options vary by age, model, and bike build. You might want to opt for clip-on mudguards, which will attach to bikes without standard mounting points. If you’re uncertain how your favorite fenders will attach to your bike, consult a trusted bike shop for a straight answer.
Once your bike is ready to hit the road (or the muddy torrent where the road used to be), it’s time to pick out some waterproof gear for yourself. A single waterproof outfit should last you through years of riding, so choose wisely.
The minimum is a pair of waterproof pants, shoes, and a jacket. Gloves and a cycling cap are useful additions, along with shoe covers.
Most well known cycling apparel brands carry waterproof options, including but not limited to Pearl Izumi, Giro, and Gore. Showers Pass, which specializes in rain gear, is another brand to keep an eye on; their versatile jackets and pants keep you dry and active on or off the bike, and work well in any outdoors scenario.
The Showers Pass Club Convertible 2 Pant, for example, offers full coverage with the option of detaching the lower half. The Elements Jacket is another option that will get you through any storm with a detachable hood, vents, and plenty of room to move around in. Cycling caps and helmet covers are two ways to keep your head protected when the rain is coming down; some rain jackets also have hoods that expand to fit over the average helmet. Pay attention to the care instructions that come with your garments- some fabrics have to be maintained over time to retain water resistance.
Your waterproof shoe choice depends on whether you are a clip-in rider or not; more cycling-specific options exist for clip in riders. Waterproof flat pedal shoes are harder to come by, so many riders go with more casual footwear like Chrome’s Storm 415 Workboot . Look for a waterproof guarantee, Gore-Tex technology, grip, and lightweight qualities when searching for the perfect flat pedal shoe. For those who prefer to clip-in, shoe covers like these made by Giro add an extra layer of resistance to keep your toes both warm and dry.
The arrival of autumn means not only grayer days, but shorter periods of daylight as well. It will only get darker by the time the end of your work day rolls around, so be prepared with far-reaching front and rear lights. Wearing high visibility gear is always a good idea, especially on moody mornings that might be obscured by fog. Choose light and neon colors for outerwear, and look for gear with built-in high-vis stripes or logos. Attach a reflective triangle to your rear rack, and make sure your lights are charged and on you at all times- strap a third light to your bag or backpack if you carry one.
USB- chargeable lights are the norm nowadays, making it convenient for you to charge up at work or overnight. Bike light brightness capacity is measured in lumens, with more lumens producing more light. A minimum of 800 lumens in the front is reasonable for riding after dusk, especially if your commute is not well-lit, or if you’re riding off road. Aim for at least 500 lumens if you’ll be riding strictly in a city environment, but remember that you can never be too safe; the more lumens your lights put out, the better.
Blackburn’s Dayblazer 1100 Front Light can reach a brightness of 1,100 lumens and can be charged using any USB port. With a five hour charge time, the Dayblazer is a great daily accessory. You can also adjust its brightness to fit the time of day and its position to illuminate the road ahead of you. It pairs well with Blackburn’s Dayblazer rear light, and the two are sold in a variety of sets.
Lezyne is another lauded brand specializing in bike accessories; some of the company’s products feature Alert Technology, which automatically adjusts the brightness and flash of your light based on acceleration and deceleration. As you slow down, your light will shine continuously instead of flashing, and glow brighter to draw the attention of vehicles or other riders behind you.
As you ride in the rain, the dirt, grime, and unknown substances that lurk in city puddles splash up into your chain, inevitably sticking to it long after the rest of your bike dries off. To prevent build up, which can lead to creaking, squeaking, and a host of other audible blockages, make sure you clean and lube your chain after every ride in wet weather. As soon as you get a chance, wipe down the chain with a clean rag to get initial dirt off before it dries. Soaking the rag in degreaser beforehand is a helpful extra step to get a deeper clean.
Then, slowly drip bike lubricant on each chain link as you turn the pedals backwards. Do this for about three rotations, making sure each link receives a drop of lube. Then, wipe off the remaining lubricant with another rag while backpedaling; be careful not to let the rag get stuck in. between the chain and cassette, and keep your fingers clear of any moving parts. Dirt can stick to extra lubricant left behind on your chain, so make sure to wipe it as clean as you can after lubricating. When shopping for lubricant, you’ll come across dry and wet lube; if you’re preparing for rainy weather, opt for wet lube- it’s water resistant. Chains should be lubricated periodically in dry weather, but during wet seasons, they require more frequent care.
Take the time to wipe off the rest of your bike as well- pay special attention to steel details that have the potential to rust. It’s best to take the wheels off while you clean them, which will also give you access to the brake and brake pads (Use brake cleaner if you want to be thorough). Warm water and dish soap are the household choice for a quick cleanse.
Bike tires are known to attract more small particles when they’re slick with water, meaning there’s a higher chance of getting a flat during or after a downpour. Check your tires for small pieces of anything foreign after getting off your bike to prevent a puncture, including glass, thorns, and sharp metals. It’s common practice to lower your tire pressure by around ten PSI to ensure better contact with the road and increase your tire’s grip on the asphalt.
Wet roads can pose a danger to drivers as well as cyclists, so be hyper-aware when out on your bike, and make visibility a priority even in the daytime. Wet weather riding can be a challenge, but knowing you can cycle through unexpected weather and still make it to your destination on time is a small triumph. It can even be kind of fun, provided you stay cozy in your new waterproof outfit. Rainy weather often means you’ll have the road or bike lane mostly to yourself, and you might avoid the drenched-in-sweat part of daily commuting. Best of all, it’s great practice for winter riding, your next step in conquering the four seasons on two wheels.