You can see the signs everywhere: kids are back in school, vacations are over, pools are closing – Labor Day has passed, and traditionally that marks the end of summer in the U.S. It's the end of long days and hot, steamy weather.
But it’s still a great time to ride! We’ve already seen some cooler days, and if you’ve been out on the trails in the mornings, you’ve seen the first long sleeves and long pants on runners and cyclists. Remember my earlier piece about how to beat the summer heat by riding early? Now you don’t really have to do that. The days just aren’t that
hot any more. In a few weeks, you’ll be able to go out in the middle of the day and ride comfortably, and soon you may even need a sweater or light jacket.
A few things to bear in mind as we move into the fall.
First, the days are getting shorter. That means you have to start thinking about and planning for the amount of available daylight. Perhaps you can work your rides into the shortening days, but if not, you’d better start thinking about lights for your bike. Even if you “never ride at night”, it’s not a bad idea to have at least a simple set of lights just in case you get caught out after dark. Even at dusk, when you can still see, it’s wise to have some lights so drivers can see you.
The simplest and most affordable solution is a self contained, battery powered headlight and tail light. Any of those will allow drivers and other riders to see you, but they may not provide enough illumination for you to see. If you ride on very dark trails at night, you might consider either one of the more powerful battery systems with a separate, rechargeable battery pack, or a dynamo system, where the movement of your wheel provides the power for your lights. There are a wide variety of lights out there, so the best bet is to talk to your favorite shop and ask their advice.
In addition to the shorter days, the weather is going to get cooler. In the height of summer, you can pretty much count on being fine in shorts and a short sleeve top, but as we get into autumn, the temperature can vary quite a bit. It’s best to be prepared for a range of temperatures on any given ride. To do that, dressing in layers is best. Your usual summer shorts and short sleeves can act as a
base, at least in early fall, and you can add other layers over that. A windbreaker is an excellent choice, as it cuts the chill and can be rolled up and easily stuffed in a bag.
I’m personally a big fan of lightweight wool tops, either long sleeve “base layer” shirts or a thin sweater for cooler weather. You can also try leg and arm warmers, which slip on over your limbs to take off the chill, without adding a complete extra layer.
The end of summer brings a lot of changes for all of us. Vacations are past, work and school picks up, and the holidays start racing towards us. But you can still get out and enjoy a bike ride, as long as you plan and prepare for it.