I was rummaging through drawers, tossing aside tank tops and light weight jerseys in search of my arm warmers, tights, wool socks and full fingered gloves. I dug to the bottom of the drawer and begrudgingly dragged out my cold weather gear for the first time this year. It was 7am and forty degrees outside. I had to leave for my Saturday morning ride in about thirty minutes and realized I was not prepared for my first cold ride of the year.
As much as I hate to pile on all of those additional clothes for the chillier weather, I do love riding in the fall. The weather and foliage are gorgeous. The leaves on the trees burst into brilliant red, gold and orange and the air feels so cool, refreshing and crisp. I find myself making many pilgrimages, by bike, to the local cider mill for cider and homemade donuts. I think part of the reason I enjoy the beautiful autumn days so much is because I know that “winter is coming.” Soon we may all be relegated to trainers, staring out the windows at snow covered roads, longing for the spring (at least here in New Jersey).
Even though there is some racing going on at this time of year (I know its prime time for cyclocross), cross races seem to have a fun and laid back atmosphere that you don’t see at most other kinds of racing throughout the year. During these races the riders work hard and throw down, but after the race is over everyone seems to be truly enjoying themselves. For me, nothing is better than the time of year when I can take the pressure off and just enjoy riding for a bit. If you do a decent amount of bike racing or compete in triathlons, you will understand what I am talking about. In the late fall you can finally take a little break from the structured training regimen and get back to basics and ride your bike just for the sake of riding.
Really everyone should dial it back at some point during the year and just enjoy some fun and casual riding. No one can or should train at one hundred percent effort year round. This is the time of year for a mental and physical break. Do some casual riding, go hiking, take out your old mountain bike and just switch up that normal training routine.
If you are new to cold weather riding, making sure you have the appropriate gear is fairly important. It is also important to keep your knees covered in colder temperatures as this helps the fluid in the joint continue to work well and prevent injury. The knees are connected by synovial ligaments and tendons and are able to move so fluidly with help from cartilage and synovial fluid. Tendons are an elastic tissue that becomes less flexible when cold and becomes more susceptible to tearing. Keeping these tendons warm is extremely important for injury prevention. I am notorious for not covering my knees in the moderately cold temperatures but I am trying to get better!
Arm and leg warmers are nice to have for fall days, especially for longer rides. It may be 40 degrees when you start your ride and 70 degrees when you finish, so it’s nice to have the warmers that you can just peel off and stick in your back pockets if you get hot as the temperature warms up throughout the day. Wool socks and toe covers help to block some of the wind from going through your shoes and some good mid-weight full fingered gloves are a couple of other fall essentials. Honestly with just a few extra pieces of clothing you can enjoy this beautiful time of year on your bike and even continue outdoor riding possibly into early December.