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The last days of summer are here. Embrace them

As a cyclist in this part of the world keeping tabs on the weather is an almost daily ritual. It's no wonder the most visited website on my computer is the BBC's weather channel. Such is the impact of the weather on us cyclists that no decision on clothing can be undertaken without first seeing if the BBC are using yellow sunshine or grey cloud with rain drop icons (and how many) to illustrate the forecast.

I'm visiting the website more frequently these past few weeks as summer gradually gives over to autumn. The temperature has dipped noticeably, that much is true. And the wind, it's stronger and an ever present force out on the roads. And of couse, the most visual indication of the changing of seasons, the light is fading, ebbing away in the evenings ever earlier. It's been a good couple of weeks though, summer isn't going down without a fight, that much is clear.

However that all makes it the trickiest time of year to dress for. Conditions change from one day to the next, which draws on your judgement and expereince to the full. With more cycling years under your belt it does get easier, but choosing the right combination of clothing can still be hard. I've been on one ride in the past couple of weeks in which I misjudged the temperature and paid the price an hour into the ride. And an hour from home.

Soon though, with practise, you get to know the outfit you need. Soon it's second nature when you'll need knee warmers. When it's a day for an emergency jacket rolled up in a jersey pocket. When to wear a cotton cap under the helmet. When it's the day for mitts and not bare hands. A brighter lens shade on your glasses. With experience, it gets easier. And then winter slaps you in the face and and it's time for a complete change of outfit.

Despite the challenges to clothing, this is my favourite time of year. I love the spring and knowing we're out of the winter, but autumn holds a special place for me. When it's bright and sunny, the wind is buffeting the country lane hedgerows and the temperature is just the right side of chilled, I'm in my element. I just love the freshness in the air. I love summer putting on a last hoorah before autumn really grips. I love the sense of making the most of this nice weather, before it's rudely taken away from us.

Importantly, there's still much time to enjoy the race bike, before the weather inevitably demands a switch to the steel winter bike with its mudguards. Until that change happens, I'm heading out for another quick ride in the sunshine, see you out on the road.

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

15 comments

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ragtimecyclist [158 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree, if you can get the kit right (easier said than done)autumn can be great for riding. Arm and leg warmers are surely de-riguer to cope with the weather changing from hour to hour. The tricky bit is digging out all the kit that's been redundant all summer, and re-learning how to layer up (too hot can be as bad as too cold!)

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Simon E [2851 posts] 3 years ago
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A thermometer helps - outside, of course.

Below 15ºC the knees are covered - kneewarmers if it's due to warm up, tights if not. Less than 10º means proper gloves and a windproof and a merino base layer as it drops further.

I picked up a Craft gilet from ebay recently, it was just the ticket for the first few miles and during descents on yesterday's morning ride. I didn't even have to stop to take it off (show-off!) and it fitted easily into a jersey pocket.

Gloves can be a tricky one - cosy full-finger ones get too hot after half an hour but mitts leave my digits unresponsive on days like today - it was 9º and drizzling on the way to work, I could even see my breath!
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ade [74 posts] 3 years ago
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Simon E wrote:

Gloves can be a tricky one - cosy full-finger ones get too hot after half an hour but mitts leave my digits unresponsive on days like today - it was 9º and drizzling on the way to work, I could even see my breath!

I like Specialized full-finger MTB gloves for this season - same weight and padding as summer mitts, but just warm enough to see you down to 10 degrees or so without getting sweaty. Plus, I've got some Wiretap ones that let you still prod your iPhone.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 3 years ago
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"It's no wonder the most visited website on my computer is the BBC's weather channel" - either the BBC weather is better at forecasting in your area than mine, or you must go out with the wrong clothes VERY often! The "local" university weather station forecast is much more accurate, despite being 50 miles away and lots further inland.

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Low Speed Wobble [156 posts] 3 years ago
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Nice piece David.

Autumn is all too short a season now. Where summer used to drift slowly in to winter, it now appears to descend far more rapidly as the years roll by. Or maybe I'm just getting old.

I must confess I do look forward to winter, even if for no other reason than multiple layers of clothing are somewhat more flattering to my (average) cyclist's body.

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notfastenough [3715 posts] 3 years ago
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My favourite part of the year is the dry, bright, cold, sunny days in december. About 4 degrees, all wrapped up in winter gear, can see your breath, lovely.

However, this is the first year that I've had a different bike for summer, so perhaps being out on the hack will persuade me that Autumn is indeed superior.

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Simon E [2851 posts] 3 years ago
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a.jumper wrote:

"It's no wonder the most visited website on my computer is the BBC's weather channel" - either the BBC weather is better at forecasting in your area than mine, or you must go out with the wrong clothes VERY often! The "local" university weather station forecast is much more accurate, despite being 50 miles away and lots further inland.

IME the BBC website forecast is unreliable, I never use it.

Met Office predictions for an individual station (in my case Shawbury) are far better, and consulted in tandem with xcweather.co.uk

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zam [13 posts] 3 years ago
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I love getting layered up on a cold (but not icy) Autumn/Winter day and seeing your breath before you as you ride. Feeling the crisp inhalation of air as you get up to temp is one of the best feelings - as long as you've got the right kit and are nice and snug.

As far as weather forecast, the local airport is always a good bet.

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sm [392 posts] 3 years ago
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Can't say I'm with you cold seekers. Sunshine, sweat drying on the skin before it drips, the breeze of movement cooling you and that moment when you stop and feel the full blast of the furnace. Summer, nothing like it. Rising at 4am with the sun, warming with the sky. Brilliant.

Each season holds its own pleasures but I certainly don't enjoy cold hands and feet in the winter (no matter how many layers I wear!).

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Saint Mark [38 posts] 3 years ago
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Nice piece, sums up how I'm feeling right now too.

+1 for Specialized full finger gloves.

BBC weather is totally unreliable where I live in fact it's often completely wrong. The Met Office site is better but my solid gold tip is to check the rain radar at www.raintoday.co.uk before setting out. This site is brilliant for cycling, really accurate and has saved me from more than one soaking.

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a.jumper [846 posts] 3 years ago
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Saint Mark wrote:

The Met Office site is better but my solid gold tip is to check the rain radar at www.raintoday.co.uk before setting out. This site is brilliant for cycling, really accurate and has saved me from more than one soaking.

RainToday is full of adverts, cookies and the radar image is a grey square (probably because its javascripts are doing something that my security software blocks). Weather Underground's smartphone site http://i.wund.com/ is better and it includes satellite images, but I'm still wondering if there's a good one with rain radar.

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Mrs. Pranita Ag... [5 posts] 3 years ago
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Autumn is a tricky weather. Cannot decide what to wear, which route to ride on, etc.
But no, I don't hate it.  4
and yup, never-ever leave without checking the weather forecast for the day!

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KiwiMike [1239 posts] 3 years ago
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The Met Service's iPhone app includes a 'map' page that has a weather radar on it - have used it to dodge bands of rain when out on ~100k rides, as you can see them coming 30-60 mins out.

Can I pimp the Shutt Performance jacket once more? way too big to pack up, but if it's going to be under 10 degrees and no sun, just the thing down to sub-zero temps.

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Speedy Gilby [6 posts] 3 years ago
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It was brilliant yesterday in the warm weather wasn't it?

The biggest trouble I had during an early(ish) ride was the sun. It was so bright and low that I could barely see in places. It made me worry about what drivers would have been seeing driving behind me!

I put my back light on in the end to try to become more visible!

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David Arthur @d... [717 posts] 3 years ago
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Warm? Not round my way it wasn't, particularly chilly!

Since I've moved to the Cotswolds, I've taken to switching on a small rear LED of all but the clearest days, especially in the very low sunlight you describe Speedy

Thanks for the weather forecast tips, I'll check out that RainToday. The BBC has been less than accurate recently. Like yesterday, it was meant to be clear and sunny, it was cloudy all day