As autumn and winter approaches in the northern hemisphere, like many people I'm starting to find it a little chilly and darker, especially when it comes to riding my bicycle. To be honest, I have not always been the greatest fan of the colder months. But in recent years I have decided to embrace it and get out there. What I have found is that it is really enjoyable to be out on my bicycle when everyone else is tucked up indoors. It feels like I have the roads to myself at times and I get to see areas near and afar from a different perspective.
This year will be no different. I have already dug out my warmer cycling gear and given it the smell test, serviced all my bicycles (especially the single speed commuting bicycle I ride to work every day) and made sure my lights are working. Getting these boring jobs out the way early will get you ready to take on the world and the horrible weather! Finding out the gear you stuffed away last year has seen better days and needs replacing is a job to get out of the way early. It may even save you money. Maybe it is me, but items like lights and clothing always seem to be cheaper out of season before the latest and greatest is released. So now I'm all set and have everything ready. Now it's time to plan some adventures :-)
Just because it is colder, darker, blowing a gale force wind, and dare I say it, raining, it doesn't mean you have to become a hermit. I find you need be ready to go at short notice. Maybe it has rained all week and you didn't quite fancy the idea of getting soaked, but there is a break in the weather later in the evening when it is cold and dark, and you planned to watch TV and eat pizza. Quickly changing plans, grovelling to the other half and getting out with your lights blazing is a great feeling. There have been many times when I have done this and have had some of the best rides. Getting all dressed up warm and heading off into the night is a joy. I love pedalling down country lanes with the lights full beam, listening to the wind, knowing I'm wrapped up warm in my multiple layers. Arriving home feeling great and still having time to watch TV and eat the pizza!
When it comes down to longer trips, I don't think colder weather should be a restriction. Cycle touring is fun whatever the weather. What it does come down to how prepared you are. Be honest with yourself. Is the equipment you have going to with stand the conditions you will meet? If it is below zero and you plan to camp. Will your kit keep you warm? That kind of thing. I myself have been cold when camping in late winter/very early spring. Waking up every hour shivering wasn't fun and I'm surprised it didn't put me off for life! If you suspect your kit isn't man enough, look at alternatives. Hotels, hostels, etc.. always have deals on during the out of season months. And if you turn up at a hotel without a booking, have a look on-line to find the best deals before walking in. Ask the reception for the best price. If they have empty rooms, they will always do a deal rather than leave them empty. And you may even end up with a great breakfast to set you on your way the following morning. Just avoid what I did once and bring a dripping wet and dirty bicycle into a clean reception area! Save that until after you have sorted out a room :-) If hotels are not for you, then there are always hostels and reciprocal hosting services like Warmshowers and Couch Surfing.
So, what am I planning this year? Lots of short, probably long weekend trips. And maybe one longer tour or two. I always try to camp if the weather allows. If not, then into a hotel for me. The one trip I really want to complete very soon is an endurance ride I have wanted to do for a long time. It is a 24 hour challenge to myself to ride from St Malo to Paris. Roughly 240 miles of cycling to reach the capital. This trip has been inspired by reading about people riding from London to Paris. Not living in the UK any more made it a pain to do this ride, so thought I could adapt and do my own version. St Malo is a short ferry crossing, so makes perfect sense. Originally I planned to complete this ride back in the summer, but for many reasons, with the main one being man flu, it didn't happen. I'm now feeling refreshed and raring to go. Will tackle this later this month/early November. I would love for people to join me for all or part of the ride. Register Now.
Another little cycle tour I'm thinking about is in Northern Spain. Have been looking at catching the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander or Bilbao. Then ride in that area for a few days before riding the length of France and back to the Channel Islands. I have not ridden a bicycle in Spain since I lived there as a child and the thought of riding in the Pyrenees is making me dream of this trip. This is maybe a ride for towards the end of winter/early spring.
There will be many other shorter trips for me. Visiting friends in the UK, day trips to new places and many other little excursions to feed my addiction to cycling! And I always get in some one night away trips to Brittany, France. See what is available nearby to you and see where you could end up.
I hope I have given you all some ideas for Autumn/Winter cycling. Don't become a stranger to your bicycle. Maximise the opportunities. You are guaranteed to have fun :-)
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