For a lot of cyclists in Boston, or anywhere in Massachusetts or New England, fall is the best season for cycling trips, since it's neither too hot nor too cold, the scenery is beautiful, and if you're prepared to ride through the autumn, you don't have to go into hibernation until the spring. That said, fall presents some unique challenges to casual and dedicated cyclists alike, so we've prepared this guide for those of you who haven't been fall riders before, but are interested in giving it a try. If you remember our advice, you'll be ready to enjoy fall cycling in the New England region.
1. Know the weather before you leave.
Once the fall begins, even if the morning looks clear, the weather can turn very quickly. Checking the weather can be the difference between enjoying the ride (or calling it off if a storm's about to hit) and slogging out an unpleasant trip.
2. At 60° or below, you want windproof and/or waterproof gear; at 40° or below, you need it.
Depending on your cold tolerance, you may want heavier clothes, including tights, a jacket, hat, shoe covers, and gloves, when the temperature is between 40° and 60°. If, however, you're riding at 40° or colder, you'll definitely need windproof and waterproof gear. At 40° or below, the weather is a lot like Domino's, except instead of hot pizza, it'll bring you frostbite in 30 minutes or less if you're not protected. Fortunately, protection is pretty easy to come by. Click here for suggestions on clothing for the cold and rain.
3. Keep your bike and yourself clean.
A clean bike is a happy bike. $25 worth of bicycle-formulated lubricant and degreaser, when used properly after a messy ride or every two weeks, whichever comes first, will keep your bike's drivetrain, wheels, and other parts operating a lot better and for longer before needing to be replaced. If you put fenders on your bike, meanwhile, not only will the bicycle stay cleaner, less grit and dirt will get onto you as well, keeping you more comfortable and healthier, and your cycling clothes intact for longer. Fenders start at $50, and come in permanent and removable styles for all kinds of bikes.
4. Watch the road, especially on the Boston area's bike paths.
With the change of the season comes overnight freezing and higher winds, which bring out two things you'll need to watch for on the road: potholes and tree debris. It's still too warm (usually) for ice to be a problem during the day, but slippery leaves can be just as slick as a patch of black ice, and an unexpected branch or major pothole can end your ride in the worst possible way. Which means...
5. If drivers have to have their lights on, so do you.
We can't stress the above point enough. If you're out when it's dark or cloudy outside, you need to not only be visible to drivers, but also able to see where you're going and any hazards with enough time to avoid them. If you're on the Minuteman Bikeway, or any other bicycle path in the greater Boston area, you'll need a good front light even more than if you ride on the streets, because most bike paths in eastern Massachusetts are partially or completely unlit, as well as being lined by trees. A pair of lights with which you can see and be seen on the bike path can cost as little as $120 for the pair, and they can save you from much more expensive bike shop - or hospital - bills. For more information on light combinations, click here.