Beware of the fallen leaves
Autumn is colourful, gleeful, and extremely slippery. If you’ve ridden some mountain trails in the fall, you’d already know they are cosily covered with a beautiful carpet of fallen leaves. Beneath this gorgeous carpet, there are a ton of things that are just waiting to swipe you off the trail.
For starters, leaves themselves can be slippery when wet. However, what makes them more dangerous is what they are hiding below. Roots are the bane of any ride, as they are the feature that will most likely lead to you crashing. They are terrible enough even when dry and visible. When wet and covered with leaves, they are landmines, waiting for your front wheel to step on them and get swiped away. The same goes for larger rocks, wet stones and, of course, mud.
So, when riding on a new trail, be mindful of these dangers. Moreover, be sure to take some protection and a second pair of clothes for the ride home. It’s not fun riding covered in mud, and mud is the ground’s default condition during autumn.
The temperature fluctuations
When riding during autumn, you must be aware of the temperature fluctuations. In mountainous regions, the day could rock some summer temperatures, while the thermometer may go even below 0 in the mornings and evenings. That’s not ideal if you are not prepared. On the one hand, if you are ready only for the cold weather, you will feel somewhat uncomfortable on climbs. On the other hand, if you are lightly dressed, you will freeze once you get high enough.
Moreover, the days are getting shorter, so make sure you have lights if darkness catches you in the mountains. Then you will definitely need some warmer clothes.
But the fluctuations are based on altitude as well. If you climb 1,000 meters, the weather there will be much colder. If the temperature in the city is 25 degrees, it will be around 12 degrees up there. So make sure to bring some warm clothes for your ride and the descent.
Look out for the wildlife
With autumn here, fewer and fewer people will go up the mountains. Naturally, this is great news for you. No people means much more fun, higher speeds, and fewer conflicts. However, it also means that the wildlife will take advantage of the human absence, and they will start moving around much more frequently.
For instance, autumn is the breeding season for deer, commonly known as the rut. Male deer, or bucks, can be more aggressive and less cautious during this time as they seek out potential mates. Be aware of the possibility of encountering deer on the trail, especially near dawn or dusk when they are most active. Use caution and try to avoid startling them, as they may bolt across the trail unexpectedly.
Depending on your geographic location, bears might be active during the fall, especially if they are preparing for hibernation. Make noise as you ride to alert bears to your presence and reduce the chance of surprising them. Carry bear spray and know how to use it in case of a close encounter.
Squirrels, raccoons, and other small mammals are active in the fall, gathering food and preparing nests. They might dart across the trail or be near trailheads looking for discarded food. Watch for these smaller animals and try to avoid them to prevent collisions. Caution and being loud are key here, as they will alert the animals way before you get near.
The weather tantrums
Autumn is also famous for its weather tantrums. One moment, the sun is scourging the skin on your face, while the next moment, cold rain is soaking you like a wet cloth. Higher in the mountains, the weather changes even faster. So, be aware of the weather changes. Snowfall is not out of the question, especially in higher mountainous regions. Getting caught in a snowstorm on your bike will definitely not be the highlight of your ride. So, it’s best to head back to civilization at the first sign of trouble. Remember that winter rides have much to offer but you must be ready with different types of tyres, clothing, and a bike setup.
On the other end of the spectrum, warmer autumns may even bring thunderstorms. And as you know pretty well, getting hit by lightning is not something you’d want to experience. So, be mindful of the weather forecast, but also pay close attention to the changing weather yourself. Have an escape route, and be sure to always have a plan C – some shelter along the way where you can hide if push comes to shove.
Make sure your bike is up to the task
Finally, before exploring the beauty of the autumn mountains, ensure your bike is up to the task. Start by giving your bike a thorough cleaning. Remove any dirt, mud or debris from your frame, drivetrain, and components. Clean the chain, cassette, and derailleurs. Most importantly, it’s time to put the winter tyres on. Mud is almost inevitable, so be sure to put some tyres with more prominent knobs.
Make sure to lube your bike with a wet-weather lube and check if your brakes are up to the task. You will need them for sure. Do this, and you’re ready to go. It’s not much different than your usual summer preparation, just a tiny bit of autumn vibes on top. So, let’s go have fun.