But once September rolls around, everything changes. The rain arrives, in what seems like an incessant nature. The small potholes that you would occasionally skirt round now fill with water and seem to grow every day. The dark mornings mean you don’t always see them, despite knowing this route like the back of your hand. Is that a new pot hole?!
Your once thriving commute seems less appealing as time goes on. Is that it for the year? But wait! Don’t give up yet! Without getting too spiritual, there are so many ways you can embrace the change and maintain your love for the cycle commute throughout autumn.
Embrace the CX season
Being a roadie commuter is easy in the summer. But once the leaves begin to fall, the combination with rain and mud creates a near-treacherous route on slick tyres. You’re right to be a little cautious, so instead of banishing your bike to the garage for the next 6 months, embrace your new persona as a cyclo-cross rider and switch things up.
Switch your tyres
As part of embracing your inner-cyclocross racer, you’ll want to switch up your tyres. If you’re converting a road frameset, then you’ll want to consider tyres that are as narrow as possible – say 30 mm, but that are knobbly for the autumnal change in road surface. Though if you’ve got slacker geometry, like that of a touring frameset, then you’ll have a little more clearance for a slightly wider tyre. Whatever you switch your tyres for, you’ll likely feel much more stable when you’re slicing through piles of muddy leaves on your way to a 9 am meeting.
Lower the pressure
If you’ve only ever ridden a road bike on your commute to work, then you’re likely used to pumping your tyres up to the max. But if you want the added benefit of those knobbly tyres, then you’ll want to drop the pressure.
Autumn brings damp road surfaces, and other potential hazards, with possibly even the first frost of the year, so having softer tyres enables those bumpy bits of your tyre to grip to every small on the ground, reducing your risk of injury and speeding you up on those rushed mornings.
Change your route
With your fresh new tyres, and an acceptance that you might get a bit damp and muddy on your commute, it might be time to change up your route.
Riding roads in the sunshine is a blissful sport in its own right, but come the wetter months, and the spray that comes from passing traffic can make those dark mornings miserable. Have you discovered any off-road sections between your home and work? Try breaking out of your routine and incorporate the odd bridleway into your commute, you’ll get away from traffic and add a bit of added nature to your day. You’ll be surprised at how many there are even in urban areas too.
Be sure to check your routes out in advance of an early start, so you’re not panicking on your way to work when you accidentally end up on a path not exactly suited to bikes.
Whilst you can blame passing cars for road spray all you like, it’s possible that the majority of the wet is coming from your own tyres, if not from the sky of course. Getting wet on your way to work is less than ideal, especially if it’s preventable.
If that’s the case, then it’s mudguard season!
The world of mudguards can be an overwhelming one, so we’ve a couple of suggestions for a range of requirements, or you can read our more comprehensive guide here.
First consider how wet it actually is, if you’re encountering the odd muddy puddle then an ass-saver could be a quick, easy win. They’re super light, and you can keep them in your commuting bag in times of need. However, they do have their limitations and offer no protection to your legs or bike components.
If you’re in a damper climate, then a slightly larger clip-on mudguard could be a better option, but still suitable for a quick and easy installation. This pair of front and back mudguards from Planet X are an affordable option for all-round coverage.
Full coverage mudguards are available for those long, damp months when you’ll be commuting daily and want to avoid getting any wetter than you need to.
Peeling off your tights every day when you’ve arrived at the officer but it’s not actually rained can be quite demoralising. German brand SKS offer a great variety of mudguards suited to every bike and tyre. It’s worth bearing in mind that if you’ve swapped out your tyres for bigger CX tyres, then make sure you’ve got enough clearance for full mudguards, and SKS have the range of sizes to get the perfect fit.
Be bold, start cold (but don’t forget your waterproofs)
Autumn is that tricky time between hot and cold, where the weather doesn’t quite know what it’s doing, and you’ve not acclimatised either way. So when the temperature dips below 10 C (50 F), you’re likely to reach for your thermals a little bit sooner than is necessary.
Instead, you should hold off on the thermals and hold on to your summer layers a little longer. It’s possible your commute will be wet, so you could layer up with just your waterproofs, or a splash-resistant windproof and leggings. You may feel a little cold once you first step out of the door, but with waterproofs, you soon create a little micro-climate once you start pedalling hard. Warm up, and then be sure to ventilate so you don’t sweat too much and begin to cool down. This way, you can save all your warmest layers for the genuinely cold months, and feel comfortable in the knowledge that you’ve acclimatised slowly.
There are plenty of tips we could offer to improve your daily commute, but over time you will work out what works best for you. You might even just opt to cycle less, commuting by bike 3 days a week and driving the rest. But know that you should absolutely still feel smug on those days you do cycle in, and if you truly embrace your inner-CX, then you’ll have even had an adventure before the day has begun!