Last Tuesday marked the fall equinox—an end to summer. But just because it isn’t sunny and 75 degrees everyday doesn’t mean you should start driving to work again. Commuting by bicycle can be a year round activity—excluding those that choose to dogsled—if properly prepared.
Let’s start with a helmet. If your helmet is older or has been beat around, it might be a good idea to pick up a new one. Helmets have expiration dates printed inside of them, and as the foam gets older it can’t withstand the same amount of impact. If you have any doubt, just replace it. There are many affordable helmet options.
Dress appropriately for your climate and layer up. Comfort on the commute is important; cycling jackets and tights will keep you warm and motivated on the way to work. A lot of winter weather wear also has built in reflectors or bright colors for added visibility at twilight hours.
Reflectors alone will not keep you safe in the evening hours; a quality commuter light is necessary for complete visibility. Pairing a front and rear light together is a popular option for most. Even if you are planning to start and end your ride during the daylight, plans change and you never know how long you’ll be out or how late you’ll be coming back. Keep a set of lights on your bike (if safe to do so) or throw a set in your bag just in case.
The daily commute can be hard on your shoulders and back if you have a lot of gear to haul. Investing in a bike rack will take the weight off and minimize back sweat on your work clothes for those times when you are trying to KOM your commute route. A lot of the popular rack manufacturers also have panniers designed to work in conjunction.
Adding fenders to your two-wheeled transport is an easy way to keep dry during heavy downpours or even through the odd puddle after the rain stops. Your tires have a tendency to pick up water and spray you in the face and back—fenders will keep dry and comfortable.
Speaking of tires, the proper commuting tire can make a world of difference. Commuting tires are designed with a purpose. The Michelin City Tire is built to shed water, provide traction on pavement and add an extra layer of protection from flats with an extra anti-puncture layer.
Always carry the necessary tools to repair a flat. A hand pump, a spare tube, and a tire lever are the bare minimum when commuting regularly. It is also smart to carry a multi-tool and maybe a tire boot for the larger road debris.
After investing in the perfect commuter bike, protect it with a lock. Although you may be able to store your bike with you at work, it is always a good idea to carry a bike lock in case you have to make an unexpected stop. We have a great video in our learning center on how to properly lock up your bike.
With plenty of ideas to keep safe, dry and warm on your daily commutes, you can stay healthy and fit as fall brings cooler temperatures. Also make sure to check out this helpful video on riding safely in traffic and using hand signals to keep others aware of your intentions.
Rubber Side Down is a weekly column dedicated to the fledgling cyclist in all of us. Art’s Cyclery Web Content Editor, Brett Murphy is not a professional cyclist, and doesn’t try to masquerade as one either, but he does love to ride bikes. Whether you are clipping in for the first time or counting down the days until your first race, read on, learn from his mistakes, and keep the rubber side down.