The inevitable turn of the seasons brings a whole host of hazards for people commuting by bicycle to work and school. The turn of foliage into autumn’s gentle hues also means leaves will soon start piling up in the bike lane, sticking to rainy streets and generally making a nuisance out of themselves.
Add this hazard to oily streets, rainy conditions, and darker times during the commute, and you’ve got quite the gauntlet to run on the way to and from your destination. While some of this can’t be avoided, there are a few things you can do to increase safety during your ride.
Here are the top five tips for attacking fall with both wheels flying:
1. Be aware – Increased road hazards — from water, leaves, and dropped branches, coupled with lower visibility due to shortened days, means you need to ride with full attention. Keep an eye out for potential hazards and take steps to avoid them. Pro tip: Own the road. Don’t be afraid to ride further out in the lane. This not only brings you into better view of drivers, it also keeps you out of the side of the road where puddles and leaves can build up forming potentially dangerous cycling conditions.
2. Be Bright! – Make sure both you, and your ride, can be seen from all sides. Put new batteries in your headlamps, blinkers, spoke lights, or whatever you have, and make sure you light up like a slot machine jackpot! Pro tip: Using a headlamp attached to your helmet allows you to light up the direction of intended travel and increase your visibility to people driving cars.
3. Slow your roll – Give yourself some extra time to arrive at your destination. Wait a few more seconds at stoplights and go slower down hills. Increased water on the road means increased stopping distance, for you and cars.
4. Keep it frosty – Make sure your ride is crisp and clean. Keeping your drivetrain well lubricated will keep your bicycle running smoothly. Don’t be afraid to blast your ride with a hose when you get home. Road grit can take its toll on components. Keeping your ride clean will also keep it safe and working properly.
5. Replace or repair worn parts – Rims starting to cave from years of wear? Brakes running thin? Tire side-walls starting to thread? Don’t let them go another season, replace or repair them to stay safe on fall & winter roads. Pro tip: Go to your local bike shop and have them give everything a thorough tune-up, noting anything that might need some extra love and replace what is becoming worn out.
Whether you’re a first time fall commuter or a seasoned all-weather cyclist, you can follow these five things that will help you avoid a fall this fall. And when the weather clears and we get one of those amazing bluebird days, you’ll be all set to ride carefree and car-free!