Bike tips for autumn
By Laurel Borrowman, Life & Style Editor
Option 1: Wrap your neck in a scarf, clad your hands in wool mittens, pull out the insulated boots that you haven’t seen since last February, and shake out your fluffy toque. Do whatever it takes to keep warm as the temperature drops.
Option 2: Don’t do any of those things! Get your blood pumping from your insides instead, and thwart the falling temperature outside with a bike ride. It’s fast, it’s fun, it’s efficient, and it’s going to keep you toastier than any layering job you’ll attempt all season. And contrary to belief—popular or unpopular—it’s not a life-threatening activity of dare-devil proportions, as long as you take a few precautions and consider these tips before mounting your trusty steed any time in the next eight months.
Clothing: Don’t dress like a ninja. It’s cool for Halloween, it’s cool for hanging with your pals when you’re bored on a Saturday night, but it’s not cool when you’re biking from the Douglas Campus back home after dark. You don’t have to wear a construction-site grade visi-vest that blinds anyone in a five-kilometre radius of you. A reflective Velcro strap around your ankle and a strip of reflective tape on your jacket are both cheap and effective and aren’t permanent (i.e. no, you don’t have to roll through the concourse decked out in Mountain Equipment Co-Op gear, if that’s not your bag).
Also, dress warmly, but not like you would for a slow stroll. Ditch your Patagonia parka and snow pants. After riding for about 10 minutes in any direction, your internal oven is going to heat you up and you’re just going to get sweaty. Most of the time, I just wear jeans, a light jacket, some light gloves, and a toque under my helmet, which also does double-duty for saving my hair.
If it’s raining, throw on a light shell and bring an extra shirt on your journey.
Necessary accessories: In late July, you can ride well past 10 o’clock at night and still have the luxury of a dusky sky to light your way. It’s not July anymore. Pretty soon it will be dark when you get to class, and dark when you get out of class, so get a few lights for your bike. For about $20, you can buy a low-profile light for both the front and back of your bike, and you’ll be like a disco dance party on wheels (that’s a good thing; motor vehicles want nothing to do with a biker that looks like that).
Also, with fewer hours of light during the day comes more hours of rain during the day. I was amazed and bedazzled at the difference a pair of fenders on a bike can make, and recommend you do the same. The gravel/puddle skunk-stripe up your back and dirt-spattered face will be your problems, no more.
Helmet: This should go without saying, but I’ll hammer it home again anyways. Wear a helmet that fits your head and wear it every single time you go bike riding. Invest in a helmet that you think looks decent, and you’ll be more inclined to wear it. Think you are the safest, most skilled cyclist in town? Maybe you are, but that doesn’t make you invincible. Motor vehicles are still bigger than you. Also, you know what looks way more lame than helmet hair? Your brains all over the sidewalk. Protect your head.
There’s no need to stop cycling just because daylight is scarcer, or because blue skies are few and far between. Taking a bike ride is a great way to thwart winter blues, and when spring rolls around you’ll also be the kid in class sans muffin top and back problems.