Autumn in Northeast Ohio brings some of the best cycling conditions of the year, but riding in the fall also means spending a little more time planning your outings, especially when considering what to wear to stay comfortable.
Choosing the right clothing for the weather can be challenging even for experienced riders. Here are some tips to help you stay comfortable and safe on your late-season rides:
1. Get arm warmers and leg warmers to conveniently adapt to quickly-changing temperatures.
These clothing items may look a little funny, but once you try them, you'll be convinced that they provide the ultimate in versatility and convenience for when the day turns from cold to warm or from warm to cold. When you take them off mid-ride, they are small enough to easily stuff into your jersey pockets. Lightweight liner gloves can fit under your regular cycling gloves, and are another small, easy-to-carry item to help adapt to different temperatures.
2. Be prepared for wet weather by carrying a light jacket.
An unexpected rain shower during a hot summer ride isn't too dangerous; some cyclists even welcome such a refreshing splash. During the non-summer months, however, even if temperatures are only mildly cool, such a rain can be dangerous--you can develop hypothermia in temperatures as high as in the 60s. There are a variety of lightweight jackets that provide different levels of protection for cold air and rain; most of them pack up small enough to carry in your jersey pocket, or you can tie it around your waist, strap it to a cargo rack, or stow it in a trunk bag or handlebar bag. Some jackets have zip-off sleeves, combining the protection of a regular jacket and a vest, and the versatility of arm warmers.
3. Use a headlight and taillight to help stay visible as the days get shorter.
With fall's late sunrises and early sunsets, you may find yourself out on the road in less-than-ideal conditions for visibility. If you plan on riding in the dark on a regular basis, it's wise to invest in a high-intensity rechargeable light system. If you just want to have a backup in case you end up being out a little longer than expected in the dusk, an inexpensive headlight and taillight are adequate to help make sure you're seen by motorists.
4. Remember to stay hydrated and use sunscreen.
Without the summer sun and humidity beating down on you, you might not feel the urge to drink as much water or other fluids, but don't forget that it's still just as important to stay hydrated. Also, even in overcast skies, the sun can be just as dangerous on exposed skin as in the summer.
5. Bring a change of clothes, or at least a warm jacket, to wear after the ride.
Even when it's cold, you're still going to sweat while pedaling. If you manage to stay at a safe and comfortable temperature during the ride, it may be during the post-ride cool-down that you need to worry about avoiding the chills. Unless you're ending your ride at home, bring a dry set of clothes to change into for the drive home, or for the group get-together at the coffee shop. If it's not practical to change clothes, bring along a warm jacket that you can put on over your cycling clothes.