How to transition from Summer to Autumn

This year we’ve had, what, about 5 days of proper summer weather?!? There’s been so much dark cloud and rain about that you’d swear we’ve been in Autumn for months. Such is the weather of Ireland.

Cycling in the nice warm weather is kind-of easy. The gentle breeze as you pedal along brings a lovely balance against the heat of the sun on you back.

To keep cycling when the weather turns horrible take a bit more perseverance. Some people give up cycling once the weather turns. They don’t want the hard slog of riding through the wind and rain.

However, it’s entirely possible – and some may say desirable – to keep cycling all year round.  The key is to be like every good boy scout, and be prepared.

Good Clothing

You need to prepare for the cold, and prepare for the rain. You don’t need to spend a fortune on specialist clothing, but you probably will need the following:

  • Waterproof Jacket – preferably one that can roll up and fit in your bag for the rare days when it stops raining. If you can, also get a jacket with adjustable air vents under your arms (sometimes called “pit zips”), as you might welcome a bit of ventilation in that area when you start to warm up.
  • Warm Layers – instead of a big thick coat, which can get too warm when you’ve got going, it’s better to dress in multiple thin layers. That way, if you get too hot during the ride you can take one layer off, or if you get cold you can add a layer. Each layer also traps heat, and can work more effectively to keep you warm. However, the important thing to remember is that you’re certainly going to warm up as you ride from the exertion, so you may want to start a ride feeling a little bit cold, knowing that you’ll warm up in a few minutes. Of course, your extremities (arms and legs) won’t warm up as much as the core of your body, so you’ll want to keep them covered.
  • Waterproof Trousers –  something that can fit over your normal trousers and keep you legs dry. The extra layer can also be used to trap heat and keep your legs warm.
  • Hats, Scarves and Gloves – having the perfect accessories can really define your outfit – and also keep all your extremities warm. When cycling you can’t shove your hands in your coat pocket for warmth, and it can also be tricky to hold an umbrella on the bike. And so, it’s important to think about the protection of your head, neck and hangs. There are specialist waterproof hats and gloves out there, which cater for sports and leisure cyclists. Personally, I prefer to use normal woollen hats and gloves – and in the event that they’re going to get soaked on the way into work, have a second set in my bag for the journey home.
  • Waterproof shoes or shoe covers – to stop your feet getting cold and wet. Again, there are specialist waterproof shoe covers out there, but from what I can tell they seem to be designed to fit over cycling shoes. A couple of years ago I did find some waterproof covers for normal shoes, but they ended up being a pain to use, and have since been thrown away. What I do these days is buy normal shoes, like these from Clarks, that have Gore-text to keep my feet dry in the rain.

Preparing the Bike

As well as planning ahead and having the right clothing, its also advisable to check your bike out and make sure its safe to use in bad weather:

  • Check the brakes to see if they can stop you safely in the wet
  • Make sure your bike well lubricated/oiled to stop water getting in and rusting everything up
  • Wash your bike – the grit put down on roads when snow is expected can be very corrosive on bike parts

Low Visibility

You might also want to bear in mind that, with bad weather, comes reduced visibility. You know yourself, car windscreens are not as easy to see through in the rain, and many people set off in the morning with their windows still fogged up.

So in the bad weather, give some consideration to the fact that motorists can’t see you as well as normal. This is a situation where high-vis clothing and lights would be a big help, even during daylight, to make sure you can be seen.

The days are also going to start getting shorter, and it’ll be dark when we commute in and out of work. Studies have shown that these twilight hours can be the most dangerous part of the day in terms of visibility.

Richard Bloomfield

Richard is the founder of Dublin Bike Blog. He commutes to work every day by bike, come rain or shine, on his Dutch city bike. You can read more from Richard on his blog richardbloomfield.ie.

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