10 Tips for Cycling Safety in Autumn

October 18, 2023

cycling safely

With the crisp air and colorful foliage, autumn is an excellent time to enjoy the great outdoors on your bicycle. Still, it’s important to remember that the fall season can bring some unique challenges for cyclists. From navigating cooler temperatures and fewer daylight hours to steering clear of slippery leaves, our sports medicine specialists are sharing 10 tips for cycling safety in autumn so you can pedal more, worry less, and enjoy all the beauty of the season.

Timing: Dawn to Dusk

One of the most important aspects of cycling safely in the fall is timing your rides. With increasingly shorter days, planning rides during daylight hours is essential. Riding between dawn and dusk ensures better visibility, reducing the chances of accidents.

It’s always smart to equip your bike with appropriate lights and reflectors so you can see and be seen. But it’s especially helpful for early morning and late evening rides when the sun is lower on the horizon.

Watch Out for Slippery Conditions (Wet Leaves)

Autumn’s hallmark is its beautiful falling leaves, but they can pose a hazard for cyclists. Wet leaves on the road can become incredibly slippery, leading to potential accidents and injuries. Be extra cautious when riding over leaf-strewn paths, slow down, and avoid sudden turns or braking. Of course, the best choice is to choose routes with clear paths whenever possible.

Depending on your preference, you can also purchase tires with wider treads, which offer better grip or traction. Still, it’s best to ride cautiously on slippery terrain and avoid sudden braking, accelerating, and turning.

What to Wear When Cycling in Autumn

Layered Clothing

Layering allows you to adapt to changing weather conditions throughout your ride, and with temperatures fluctuating significantly in the fall, it’s key to staying comfortable.

Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep sweat away from your body. Add an insulating layer for warmth and finish with a windproof and waterproof outer layer to protect against chilly winds and unexpected rain.

Grippy Shoes

A quality pair of cycling shoes with grippy soles is essential in autumn. Wet leaves and slippery roads demand the extra traction this footwear provides, helping you maintain control over your bike and pedals, especially when you encounter unexpected hazards like wet patches or loose gravel.

Some cyclists prefer cycling cleats or sneakers that “clip in” to the pedal. Not only do they provide greater efficiency, allowing you to push the pedal down and pull it up, but they also allow you to maintain control of the pedal. If you’re new to cycling cleats, it’s best to practice clipping in and out before going for a ride. Many people try one cleat at a time, so they have one free foot at all times until they’re comfortable using both.

Tune Up Your Bike

Before embarking on autumn cycling adventures, ensure your bike is in top condition, which in turn ensures your safety. Check the brakes before every ride, as well as your bike’s tire pressure and gears. Make sure your chain is well lubricated, and consider packing a tire patch kit so you’re prepared to repair potential flats during your ride.

Stay Visible

Autumn days can be overcast, making it crucial to enhance your visibility. Equip your bike with lights and reflectors in the front and rear. Wear reflective clothing or accessories to make yourself more noticeable to other road users.

Wear Protective Gear

Wearing the right protective gear can significantly improve your safety while cycling. Don’t forget your helmet, and consider investing in gloves and knee or elbow pads for added protection. These items can minimize the risk of injury in case of a fall.

Related reading: Six common cycling injuries and how to avoid them.

Ride in a Higher Gear

When cycling on slippery autumn roads, riding in a higher gear can help you maintain better control. It reduces the chances of spinning your wheels and offers improved stability when cycling over wet terrain. Lower your cadence, or revolutions per minute (RPM), and focus on smooth, controlled pedaling.

Go Slow

Autumn cycling might not be the best time to top your personal speed record. Going slow and taking your time is the safest approach, especially if you’re uncertain about road conditions. Stay within your comfort zone and be prepared to stop or slow down as needed.

Stretching Before & After Your Ride

Warming up before your ride can help prevent injuries. Stretch your legs, back, and arms to prepare your body for physical activity.

After your ride, stretch again to cool down and help muscles recover. Stretching can improve your flexibility and reduce the risk of strains and muscle cramps.

Have Fun & Enjoy the Foliage

While safety is a top priority, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the stunning fall foliage. Cycling in the fall offers unique opportunities to blend the beauty of nature with an invigorating workout, a concept known as green exercise, which can transform and revitalize your exercise routine.

Ready to incorporate cycling into your fall workout plan? We’ve got specialists for that, and with the most Castle Connolly Top Doctors® on Long Island, Orlin & Cohen’s team features some of the nation’s best orthopedic specialists who can help you live a healthier, more active life. Request an appointment.