21st September 2017.The end of the summer is a welcome event for many cyclists. Finally, you can put the hottest and most unpleasant riding season of the year behind you. The arrival of autumn signals cooler weather, but can often mean storm clouds and rainy days. While it won't always be as nice as your springtime rides, the fall still presents plenty of opportunities for excellent cycling. It isn't without its challenges, though, and you will still need to make adequate preparations to continue succeeding on your biking journey. The wet weather and leafy debris can create extra wear on your bike, while the wind can leave you feeling chilly and ready for an early end to the ride. What gear should you pull out of the closet for the autumn? How often should you perform maintenance, and what problems might you encounter on the road? With the answers to these questions and more, you can prepare well before the first leaves begin to turn and drop from the trees. Now is the time to enjoy yourself while you still can before the cold weather and possible snows of winter arrive to stay. Speaking of weather, that's what you should think about most in your preparations.

What to expect from autumn weather

In the summer, it's easy to know what the weather will be like: hot and sunny. In the autumn, on the other hand, make a habit of checking the forecast for the days ahead. Facing days with slow, steady rain from morning till night is just one of the seasonal challenges you'll encounter; the winds often pick up dramatically some days too. Use your phone's weather app to keep apprised of the situation before you head out, as it will have a significant impact on the way you dress ? especially if you like to ride in the mornings! While that's the best time of day to ride in summer, autumn mornings can send the mercury plunging. This changing weather may mean you need to adjust your cycling schedule. If you're training hard, try to plan to take your rides during the time of day when you're most likely to be comfortable. Don't forget that the days will grow shorter and that you won't have as much time to ride in the light as you did in previous months. If you do intend to ride at night, do so only with the appropriate safety measures, like reflective clothing, in place.

Dressing appropriately for fall rides

A reflective vest and lights on your bike will keep you safer, but how about dressing for comfort? With such changeable weather conditions, you can probably expect to pack away most of the ultralight gear you use during the summer months. Unless it is unseasonably warm or you're cycling very hard, you'll find it's too chilly to end up down to your base layer at any point. Choose a comfortable short-sleeve cycling top as a base layer. Rather than relying on synthetic fibres as you might in the summer, consider the benefits of Merino wool clothing too. Not only does the material naturally wick sweat away, but it has anti-microbial properties ? keeping your clothes smelling fresher even after you return from a ride. For trousers, you could choose a three-quarter length pair of cycling tights, or you could use shorts and leg warmers. Use what you have at hand and what makes you the most comfortable. A light jacket to help break the wind without warming you up too much is also a smart choice; you can pair some very lightweight jackets with thicker windbreakers, too, to provide more effective layering on colder days. Don't forget to grab a pair of gloves that you can comfortably bike with, either; the wind will chill your fingers more than you might expect. You don't want to find yourself unable to feel the brake handles, after all!

Bike maintenance: beware falling leaves

Everyone loves fall colours, but the combination of the wet weather and accumulating leaf debris can spell trouble for your bicycle. While you won't have as many maintenance considerations as you would in the winter, you'll still need to keep a closer eye on the quality of your bike's components. For example, riding along the side of the road where leaves collect can kick up more grime and debris into your wheels and spokes than usual. Some of this could end up in your chain, eventually causing performance problems. Remember to wipe your bike down after a ride, especially in the rain. Keeping your bike dry after use will help prevent corrosion and accidents on the ride. Now may be a good time to affix mudguards to your bike, as well as additional lighting for coping with fewer daylight hours. Are you feeling like you aren't getting as much grip on the road as you were in the summer? Lower your tyre pressure slightly, or switch to a thicker set?this allows your bicycle to contact more of the road surface, providing better grip. It may come at the expense of speed, but it will be safer and easier to navigate the fall conditions cyclists will encounter. Be sure to bring along your usual repair kit so you can quickly fix any problems that arise as well. The sooner you can get back in the saddle and on your way, the better.

Important road safety considerations to remember

We've already mentioned the need to place appropriate lights onto your bicycle, and to adjust your tyres to help grip the autumn roads. Fallen leaves pose more than just a hazard for the mechanical workings of your bike, though. They can also stop you dead in your tracks or cause you to lose control, especially if you skid through a thick mass of wet leaves near a gutter. Take care to avoid these new hazards on the road, or just stick to an off-road path designated for cycling. Is the weather going to be unusually wet and chilly? There's no shame in exercising indoors for a day or two until the worst of the weather blows past. Be aware of the possibility for reduced visibility. Fog often sets in during autumn mornings or early evenings; wear a reflective vest on top of your cycling clothing if you venture out in twilight hours. In combination with safe riding habits, you can enjoy the autumn without extra risk.

Make plans to maximise your opportunities

With the proper riding clothing back in your wardrobe, an eye on the weather, and safety on your mind, you're ready to take advantage of the season. Typically, we spend the winter cycling less, or transitioning to time spent on indoor spin machines. That can ultimately translate to less time spent training during the coldest months of the year. To help mitigate the potential decline in your fitness ability over the winter, you should consider training harder and longer while the outdoors remains pleasant. To that end, a good idea might be to sit down and work out a plan that takes the entire season into account. Look for races that take place near the end of autumn ? there are often community events and fun cycling races to sign up for at this time of the year. Providing yourself with a goal to work towards will make your weekly long rides much more bearable. When you know your hard work will pay off in the form of a personal achievement, it's easier to climb into the saddle even when the dark clouds appear on the horizon. Not only will harder training leave you feeling better, but you can pick up where you left off in the spring without too much trouble.

Enjoy your autumn adventures

With the way winters can shut down your regular cycling habits, it makes good sense to use as much as your time in the fall as possible. Even if that means braving some rainy weather, the results are well worth the effort. It's an excellent opportunity to refresh your memory on the most comfortable ways to layer your cycling clothing, too. When you do decide to hop in the saddle in the dead of winter, you'll be glad you had the opportunity to get back in practice. With the right care for your bike and a prepared mindset, you can get the most out of the fall as a cycling season.