Five tips for preparing yourself and your bike for autumn
After a wonderful, long summer of cycling, many people put their bikes away as autumn approaches. But not you. This does you credit. It is good for both your health and the environment to carry on cycling when the forces of nature are against you. However, the new season places different demands on your equipment from when you glide around in the summer warmth. Rain, wind, ice and snow mean it is high time to service your bike and prepare yourself for what is ahead. Here are five simple tips.
1. Wash off the summer
The dusty gravel roads of the summer leave their mark, so start by rinsing and washing your bike with lukewarm water. Use a brush to remove any dirt. Use a toothbrush to get into every nook and cranny. Rinse it off and let it dry. Then lubricate the chain and other moving parts, if necessary, and wipe off any surplus lubricant. Check also that the chain has the right tension by pulling it (it should move no more than 1 cm up and down) and tightening any nuts and screws that may have come loose during your summer cycling adventures. If you don’t have any mudguards on your bike, it might be time to invest in some, both front and rear. Autumn and winter involve a lot of water, spray and slush, and you don’t want it on your clothes.
Use a toothbrush to get into every nook and cranny.
2. Check your brakes and lights
Safety is extremely important in the winter. So check that your brakes work properly. Rim brakes have a tendency to work worse in wet conditions and the cold may also affect the rubber in the brake blocks. As the nights start drawing in, it is also important that you can be seen properly, at whatever time of day you are cycling. So check that your bike lights work properly. The front light should have a white or yellow beam and should be powerful enough to be visible at 300 metres. The red rear light should have the same power. You also need reflectors, white at the front, red at the rear and orange/white side reflectors on the spokes. Switch on your lights at dusk to ensure you can be seen.
3. Bikes need winter tyres too
When autumn turns into winter and you want to carry on cycling, it may be worth switching to safer winter tyres (all car owners switch to winter tyres every year for good reason). With winter tyres on your bike, you will be more stable on snowy, slushy roads and you will be generally safer. It is mainly the front wheel that needs to grip well, so prioritise that one if necessary. Studded tyres are not always necessary. You can also get winter tyres without studs that are like summer tyres but have softer rubber and a deeper tread. It is a good idea to switch to winter tyres before it snows for the first time. This will give you time to run them in, especially if they are new.
With winter tyres on your bike, you will be more stable on snowy, slushy roads.
4. There is no such thing as bad weather
Autumn means wind and colder weather, so you need to think about what to wear when cycling. The temperature may still vary a lot over the day, so wear layers, with a windproof outer jacket. Remember also to wear clothes that make you visible in traffic. Avoid entirely black clothes and use a jacket with reflectors. It may also be a good idea to invest in rainwear or a poncho to have in your bag if rain takes you by surprise. Into the winter, you may want a warming saddle cover and a warm hat and gloves. If you use a Hövding, you can wear a really thick hat and avoid the hassle of having a hat under your cycle helmet.
5. Cycle safely
Ice is your worst enemy on the roads in autumn and winter. In the autumn, wet stone and wood surfaces, leaves and frost may rapidly alter your tyres’ grip on the ground, making you lose balance and fall over. In the winter, snow and ice are obvious risk factors. So adapt your speed to the surface, particularly if you are riding an e-bike. Keep your distance from other road users ahead of you, just as you would if you were driving. You should also avoid sudden manoeuvres and always brake in good time. Last but not least, wear a cycle helmet. Or even better, a Hövding, which will protect you better than anything else if you skid on the ice. You can read here about one of all the tests in which we have been best in test.