The air is crisp. The ground is dry. A scattering of leaves litter the road. You can see the cold morning air on people's breaths. The anticipation of what is to come.
Whether riding alone or with friends, riding in the autumn can be memorable for all the right reasons.
Getting your autumn kit sorted plays a key role in having enjoyable rides. Having cycled in autumn over the past seven years, these are the items and tips I would recommend:
There is no such thing as certainty when it comes to British weather. Getting soaked or cold can and will diminish your enjoyment. A good, waterproof gilet can go a long way to providing both protection and warmth. There are a huge number available (depending on what your budget is). Both Castelli and Rapha have excellent options in the shape of the Fawesome gilet and the Pro team gilet.
Gabba Jersey (photo from Castelli's blog)
If the weather looks particularly rough, do take a rain jacket. Another option which has been popular over the past few years is the Gabba jersey. Made in response to the Pro riders who asked for weather proof race wear, the result it is now copied by others. Available in both short sleeve and long sleeve, it is a superb piece of kit.
Most manufacturers produce a rain jacket at various price points. The more technical the fabric and the lighter it is, the more you are probably going to pay. The most important factor is probably going to be breathability. The very last thing you need it to have the rain kept off you and feel like it is raining inside the jacket! Look out for form fitting, cuffs which can be tightly closed, waterproof taped seams and also reflective features.
Base layers have improved from the polyester sweat garments which were all too common. Merino wool is definitely the most popular now and available from most major manufacturers. Whether polo neck versions, mesh versions or various weights, there are many to choose from and they work well. No stink, keep your warm when wet and super-comfy. What more do you want?
Next up is keeping your hands warm. Autumn can be warm enough to keep on your track mitts or be wishing for thicker full fingered gloves. Most companies do autumn / spring full fingered gloves of various thicknesses. If you have winter gloves that came as part of a system, you can sometimes wear the inner glove. Do be careful if they don't have any grip or padding, though.
Onto your head! Yes, I get a very chilly head and so always wear a cycling cap throughout autumn and will very often switch to a warm wooly hat when cold. The big thing to remember is have one which covers your ears.
Last not least is the feet. There is nothing worse than having cold or wet feet. I have found that a most useful bit of kit is oversocks. These allow two things: keeping the chill off your feet plus keeping your shoes clean. Oversocks tend to provide enough protection in light drizzle or if the road is wet. When it is raining you can add proper overshoes to provide some level of waterproof protection.
Preparation is key as we approach the winter and autumn is a good time to test any new recipes you may have.
During the summer I've started to mix up my own turbo-charged cereal the night before. It's a delicious alternative to a lot of the standard cereal brands and much healthier. (Or just go for the coffee and croissant option!)>
The important thing is that it is easy too.
Get decent sized bowl and add the following:
' enough oats to meet your hunger (up to you, no guidelines here)
' a scoop of protein powder
' two decent pinches of cinnamon
' a spoon of flax seed
' a spoon of granola
' a spoon of any supplement powder like maca for example
Then fill the bowl with almond milk or an ordinary milk. I much prefer the former for this as it gives a nice sweet taste.
Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and bang it in the fridge. Job done.
The morning before the ride remove the bowl from the fridge and spoon on some honey / blueberries. Delicious. If you wanted to add some warmth, pop it in the microwave.
Whilst on the ride the traditional combination of bars and gels seem to work. But yet, I much prefer proper ride food and did invest in a small rice cooker. (I need to dust this off!). Making rice cakes is surprisingly easy and you can add bacon and egg for savoury versions or go for something sweet like chocolate chip and blueberry. Mmmm!
If you want to know more about ride food, then this book is a terrific read:
Recovery drinks seem to be either loved or hated. The For Goodness Shakes are definitely the tastiest (think choccy milkshake!). A new brand on the market is My Endurance (http://myendurance.co.uk). They have an excellent three product range focused on before, during and after exercise.
If at all possible, it is worth investing in a specific autumn/winter bike. Why? It's probably going to be worthwhile spending some money short term to save money medium to long term. Believe me, you do not want to be riding your best bike with the nice carbon wheels when it is salty, wet, dirty and cold. You can start causing some damage to chain and cassettes very easily and this can cost a lot of money to replace them.
There are many winter bikes available in a variety of materials. I can recommend titanium for being strong, rust proof and stand the the test time. Mine is five years old and looks brand new.
Whether you have a specific bike or not, these are the things you will need:
- Tough tyres ' as we go through autumn is it important to consider the grip you will need and use a tyre to stop those pesky punctures. I'm a big fan of the Conti GP4Season
- Lights! The clocks are about to go back and it is getting dark very quickly. Combine that with low, grey cloud and possible rain during the sunday ride, it makes a big difference to have bright lights. We are big fans of the Exposure Flare
- Mudguards ' these are essential for three reasons. They will help keep your bike clean. They will keep your clothing relatively clean. Last but not least, the person behind will not get sprayed with mud and water when riding in a group. You will NOT be popular if you turn up for a ride with no mudguards
- Spare tyre, tools and levers: changing a trye is no fun when the weather is wet and getting colder
We hope this gives you a good starting point for your autumn riding. We would love to hear if you have any specific tips or recommedations!
Last but not least, the best recommendation of all? Keep riding and enjoy '?