Get Out and Ride While the Leaves are Falling
While COVID-19 has limited some bicycle-related activities, the fine fall weather provides plenty of opportunities for socially distanced rides. Looking ahead, there is some nice riding in fall and winter whether for recreation/exercise or errands/work. Here are a few riding tips to encourage your riding and to keep you safe:
- Check your lights front and rear. “Too many lights” are just about right in the low light, fall and winter conditions. Your lights are to make you visible (both day and night), but also to avoid those hidden ruts, potholes, and bumps in the street. Road debris at night is another hazard which good front lighting will help you avoid.
- Add a helmet or head-mounted lamp to help see those potholes, debris, etc. at night. While a front light in blink mode makes people more aware of your presence, the headlamp helps you see obstacles. The advantage of a headlamp is that when you move your head, the light goes with you. When on trails with little or no street lighting, both the headlamp and front light (in steady mode) will light the path.
- Replace the batteries. Keep your re-chargeables charged.
- Have someone view your bicycle from behind in the dark with the lights “on.” Ensure that your gear or clothing does not block the light beams (front and rear) and that the rear light(s) aim toward following vehicles.
- Spoke lights or spoke reflectors are both fun and provide visibility from the side.
- Watch other people on bicycles and judge their visibility index as a guide to improving your own.
- Add an extra “blinky light” front and rear and use them both as nighttime supplements and as “daytime running lights.”
- Maybe shop for and use a helmet mounted rear-facing light.
- Be fair to people in cars – let them see you. Driving can be challenging at this time of year. Don’t join the “ghost bike” program.
- You will probably ride safer and smarter if you are comfortable – so plan your riding gear accordingly. Think layers.
- As you bundle up, look at your outer layer. If it is dark in color, either choose something that is not or pick up a reflective vest from your locally owned hardware or big box home center for around $20.00. You might add this vest to your year-around “kit.”
- Wet leaves and snow are slippery so anticipate your stops and turns.
- Pay special attention to puddles of water or clumps of leaves as they can mask the plentiful potholes, ruts, utility caps, and craters in the paved surface. City streets are worse than ever so watch for crevices, bumps, patches, and so on. Good front lighting will help here!
- Recall that some pavement markings can also be slippery when wet or extra slippery when covered with wet leaves, snow, or ice.
- Keep your chain clean and lubricated (especially after riding in melted slush).
- You might want to inspect your tires for wear. You might swap the front to the rear (since the rear takes the most weight and wears quicker). If planning to ride in snow, you might invest in wider, knobby tires for better traction (if your bike accepts them).
- Consider reducing tire pressures from max by 5 to 10 psi for better grip.
- Sunglasses are very important this time of year as well. With the days getting shorter, there is a greater chance you will finishing or starting a ride in low light conditions. Switch your tinted lenses to a rose or clear lens for better visibility in low light conditions.
- When riding into that low fall sun, remember that the people in cars behind may not see you, as they also will be blinded.
- Plan your braking and turns to avoid a spill.
- Be mindful of slippery metal surfaces (such as utility covers and grates).
- Fall and winter is a good time to get ready for next year’s riding with a tune up from one of our local bicycle shops. This is a good time to support your local shop and to help them over the slower winter season. November through March is good time to get that special attention from your bicycle mechanic. Find out where at – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/resources/
Other winter riding tips –
To plan for low stress, safe cycling, plan you route with the free, interactive CapitalNYBikeMap – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/albany_bike_map/
To find more bicycle-related events, go to – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/upcoming-events/