It is that time of year when, not just the weather but road conditions can change very quickly so for our best chance of survival we need to adapt quickly to those changes, not by changing colour to blend into the background like a Chameleon but to be prepared to adapt our riding style to the current conditions.
I do not need to tell you how you will feel the cold when riding but before setting off consider the likely temperatures for the whole day especially as the sun sets early the temperature can drop very quickly if we have been sweating all day this will add to the effect of the cold.
Layering; This is the most effective way to keep warm.
- Base layer; Avoid cotton instead choose a well fitting garment containing moisture wicking fabric this will transfer the moisture from your skin to your outer garments.
- Insulating Layer; Wool, down or fleece have great insulating properties as your base layer will transfer moisture to this layer again avoid cotton.
- Outer layer; Depending on your chosen bike kit and the impending weather this may be suitable as your outer layer you could also consider a lightweight waterproof outer layer that can double up as a wind blocker.
Layering should be used for your whole body, not forgetting your feet the great advantage of layers is that they can be removed or added during the day to adapt to the conditions, take care not to bulk up with so much clothing that your movement or circulation is restricted.
The condition of the road constantly changes at this time of year so we need to constantly adapt to it.
- Where there are trees expect leaves these can also cover mud and can turn into a slippery mulch, the tree cover also prevents the road from drying so can remain wet and slippery even after surrounding roads have dried.
- Mud on the road; even those farms that do their absolute best to keep the road clear will still drag mud from the fields onto the road, this can also occur where vehicles drive too close to the verge spreading mud across the road, expect it plan for it avoid roads known for this issue where possible if you cant avoid it reduce your speed, keep the bike as upright as possible and avoid harsh braking or acceleration.
- Wet road surface; Check out my previous blog on riding in the wet, https://glosthinkbike.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/ride-to-survive-riding-in-the-wet/ clean wet roads can offer a greater level of grip than you might think.
- Fog; We know it reduces the distance we can see clearly but it can also cling to our visors, keeping your visor polished or coated with a suitable water repellent will help keep your visor clear.
- Wind; When the wind gusts this can make riding tricky but by being prepared for it and planning for it we can cope.
- Gaps in hedges, wall, buildings or even other vehicles are where you we can get hit by a gust, use clues such as trees and hedges to understand from which direction the wind is coming from.
- Sheltered spots may offer some relief from the wind but take care as you enter them as you and the bike are likely to be leant over to counter the wind direction causing you to turn as the wind drops.
- Head winds; if your bike doesn’t protect you consider dropping your head forward into the wind or even lowering your upper body to reduce the effects but be aware this could restrict your forward view.
- Tail winds; not so much of a problem but strong gusts could make the bike unstable and could increase our stopping distance.
- Its not all doom and gloom we do get clear, dry sunny days but even these can create their own unique issues.
- Low Sun; If we are riding into the sun this can make seeing where we are going difficult, tinted visors can help or a helmet with an internal sun shade the bigger issue is when the sun is behind us making us virtually invisible we are not big enough to create a shadow so we tend to completely disappear all you can do is be aware of this and be more prepared than usual for not being seen by others.
- As we started with an animal theme we shouldn’t forget about those larger animals that are on the move at this time of year especially around dusk, deer, boar, fox’s and badgers can cause issues for riders often the issue comes after a rider has swerved to avoid an animal in the road only to either collide with another vehicle or lose control and crash, the best action to take is to brake, braking progressively and hard to scrub off speed this can reduce the impact forces, give the animal time to get out of your way or once you have lost sufficient speed enable you to ride around the animal.
- Where You Look Is Where You Go (WYLIWYG); puddles, mud, leaves or animals if you focus on them you will ride into them so once spotted scan for a good bit of road or a gap behind or in front of an animal and your bike will follow your line of sight remembering to take your gaze back up to the view ahead once past the hazard so as not to miss the next one.