Fall Commuting!

Whether walking or bicycling, Fall weather changes the game. I think of it as “options.” In other words, what apparel and equipment creates more options for me to walk or ride. The saying goes, “There is not bad weather, just bad clothing choices!” Take a light for instance. With the onset of daylight savings time, light becomes scarce. Purchasing a headlamp creates more options to ride. Getting a good enough light to see where you are going really makes a difference. Some of the best landscape scenes can be found in October and November. November sun sets take some planning as you need to make sure you beat it out of work to get to a decent location before the sun light disappears. November sunsets over water can not be beat for color and beauty. Deep satisfaction can be found when dressed appropriately, you can defy nature to stay warm and dry while being active out of doors!

Keep in mind that a good light is not just about seeing but BEING SEEN! It is not uncommon to see someone duct tape a flashlight to a bike or be carried while walking. These can work for seeing where you walk but do nothing to help you be seen.  According to Popular Mechanics’ article on Best Commuter Lights, “…whereas bike lights are designed to do both. Flashlights disperse light in long, narrow streams, from a source that is mostly stationary, in order to create a pinpoint of light. Headlights are made to illuminate a wider path to help you see and be seen. And they also have blinking patterns for better visibility. Some flashlights will have blinking modes, but they won’t have blink-and-illuminate modes that keep you visible and illuminating the road ahead. Ultimately, it’s possible that a flashlight could do a decent job of helping you see and making you visible, but a good bike light—particularly one that we recommend—absolutely will exceed in both respects.” You can read more on what makes for a good headlight in that same article.

Adding lights on your jacket, belt, backpack, will also help to keep you safer. Your apparel makes a difference. Purchase yourself a laminated vest, runners belt, or other high vis outer garment. The simplest one I found is like the old badge belts the student patrols wore who worked the intersections near school in fifth grade to help walkers navigate the streets when leaving school. These high vis belts can be worn for any activity at any time of day or night. Read more about running belts at “Visibility| Running belts.” The worst color to wear during the day is white and the worst at night is black. You can remedy avoiding a wardrobe rebuild by just purchasing a belt or vest to cover what you have chosen for your active wear.

With Fall weather, expect rain. While an umbrella can easily remedy an active walk, bicycling can prove a bit more of a challenge. I experienced this riding for 4.5 out of 5 days along a trek to traverse the Mississippi River a few years ago. I did pretty well, but my hands and feet were left out of being provided for and I vowed never again. I purchased a low cost helmet cover. They are worth the price. IF you google “cycling helmet covers” you can access a variety of brands and prices. Next I used a Showers Pass jacket. I have others over the years, but none as dry and durable as Showers Pass. Check out your local bike shop or check them out online at https://www.showerspass.com.  Ponchos can be very useful if you use a backpack to transport your “stuff” around. They work well with short trips. They can cut costs and help you create more options to ride.

Fenders not only help with rain and wet snow, but they also keep dirt and debris from kicking up off the road or trail. Basic fenders  such as Planet Bike Hardcore Fenders, that include a mudflap, work great. Made  from lightweight, durable Superflex polycarbonate  material that can take a good bit of abuse. You can also add steel or aluminum fenders. Longboard fenders reach further down to the road to keep more wet and debris from kicking up onto the rider. The only draw back for longboards that I am aware of comes when you ride in places with lots of loose leaves or twigs. They tend to kick up and get caught between the wheel and fender causing you to stop and pull them out. The other alternatives include mudflap type fenders that clip on to the seat post and hang out over the wheel to deflect mud and water. Portland Designs sells a metal fender that run closer to $100 or more. Velo Orange sells a stainless steel fender. You can go all out with fenders or get something basic. For the thrifty, take a regular poly fender with mudflap extensions using plastic placemats or cutting sheets that can be purchased cheaply at a local Goodwill and then cut to shape and size to be zip tied to the bottom of the fender and VOILA! longboards!

For versatility, rain pants really go a long way to help with commuting. Craft, Shows Pass, and others make acceptable quality rain pants. Be sure to include a clasp of some sort at the ankle that can cover enough so as not to allow water to run down into your socks or shoes. Rain pants can be worn four seasons. They work well in winter to cut down on snow, cold, and keep dress pants clean. I have ridden down to -15 F with just dress pants and rain pants over top for short commutes.

Gloves protect your hands from both cold and water/rain. Check out Gore fabric gloves. Keeping your hands clean, dry, and warm makes a huge difference in the commuting efforts.

Footwear opens up lots of options. You can use a quality boot such as Redwings from early Fall to early Spring. Use a good water proofing on the leather and you can withstand most conditions. Purchasing a boot for covering your bike shoes also works. Showers Pass makes a waterproof bootie. These are a little harder to find, as people tend more to opt out of rain commutes and thus the market is not to big. Yet, its about options right?! You can easily cover your work shoes, dress shoes, or cycling shoes and go, no matter the precipitation!

I recommend adding 100 polar fleece to your commuting gear. The material is lightweight, wicking, and thermal enough to help you stay comfortable in cool morning rides. Add one in the morning under a lightweight wind breaker and remove it for the armer afternoon commute home. Easy to pack, easy to maintain, and can even act as a “sweater” at work.

If you don’t have budget for quality rain pants, check out shops like TJ Max, Old Navy, or other department stores for wind pants. I use a $10 pair of wind pants form Old Navy for a few years now. Gear does not have to cost an arm and a log, you just have to pay your shopping dues to keep an eye out for possibilities.

Carrying your necessities on a bike poses a bit of a problem. I swear by a good waterproof pannier bag with a strong clipping mechanism for your rack, whether front or back. I definitely recommend Ortliebs. While expensive, they are workhorses. after wrestling with cheap[er bags that would consistently fall off during commutes when I hit bumps, I will not go back from Ortlieb’s great locking mechanism. They easily adjust to different rack sizes. They also have a locked, removable rack bag that is both waterproof and easy to carry with a shoulder strap. I used them to carry a six pack for a picnic, with ice they kept beverages cold for 3 hours in high summer temps!

Keep in mind that BEING VISIBLE is an important motto for commuting, whether walking or riding. It is all about OPTIONS to do what you would like when the weather and nature does not cooperate!