Cycling In The Fall: Short, Windy Days

04 Nov
Because cycling is cheaper than therapy (and more effective)

Because cycling is cheaper than therapy (and more effective)

Seven months ago every bike shop in the Upper Midwest was as busy as a Chicago “slip and fall” attorney the day after an ice storm. Back in the spring the bike trails were full of new cyclists with shiny bikes, gaudy jerseys, and fresh saddle sores. By the middle of summer some of those bikes were abandoned and some the of new cyclists became former cyclists. However, a lot of those newbies persevered, lost weight, gained muscle and were in great shape—until Labor Day. Unfortunately, at the first sign of cool weather most of these folks hung their bikes up till next spring and will gain back all the weight they lost before Christmas. However, on New Year’s Eve they will resolve to “hang in there longer next year.” Folks, it doesn’t have to be this way! There is absolutely no reason you can’t ride your bike outside all year long! As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

I live between Chicago and Milwaukee and during an average winter the temperature rarely drops below -10 degrees Fahrenheit (the record is -27F). When people ask how I can possibly enjoy riding in such temperatures I tell them two things: First, the crazy (or dedicated) folks up in Minnesota ride in temperatures below -50 degrees (or worse), so -10 or -20 degrees in Chicago is actually not all that bad. Second, as I tell people all the time, the hardest part of riding in the winter is the first 500 feet after you leave your house.

Riding in the fall and winter does require an extra layer of clothing (or two), and because the days are shorter you will probably need a headlight and taillight as well. However, the advantages of cycling year-round far outweigh the disadvantages. First, you won’t gain back the weight you lost during the summer. Second, spending time outdoors will definitely improve your mood. Third, next spring you won’t have to reintroduce your butt to your bike saddle—they will already be old friends and get along well. Fourth, you will impress all your wimpy friends who spend winter in their basement on their training wheels, I mean, on their trainers. And last, you will never have to worry about overcrowding on the off-road trails.


Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Life On Two Wheels


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50 responses to “Cycling In The Fall: Short, Windy Days

  1. billgncs

    November 4, 2013 at 9:29 PM

    the solitary rides on the trail now are special…. once in a while you come across some like minded crazy… and pass with a nod and secret, inner smile.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 4, 2013 at 9:34 PM

      Truer words have never been spoken! I don’t see many other people on the trails at this time of the year — and after the first snowfall I’ll pretty much be by myself until spring!

  2. sedge808

    November 4, 2013 at 9:37 PM

    below -50 degrees (or worse). Yikes !!!

  3. Jason Pearlman

    November 4, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    Autumn is always my favorite time to ride. Aside from cyclocross, I grew up thrashing any bike I could through any trail I could find, enjoying the baring trees, crunch of leaves, raw skies, raw air, and all sorts of wonderful Long Island dirt and mud.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 4, 2013 at 10:20 PM

      I really enjoy the crunching of the leaves. However, in the past two weeks I’ve run over (and killed) at least a dozen small snakes — they blend into the scenery perfectly and by the time I see them it’s too late to avoid them.

      • TdF

        November 5, 2013 at 3:46 AM

        …you are the famous snake-killer from milwaukee?

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          November 5, 2013 at 5:09 PM

          Snakes and now chipmunks — one of the little guys ran right out in front of my Fat Bike the other day — smashed him flatter than a pancake!

  4. Joy

    November 4, 2013 at 11:08 PM

    You are awesome! Great post!!

  5. brendaintheboro

    November 5, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    So true. I said this just yesterday – just need to sort the right clothing. There’s a tendancy to overdress so you get wet with sweat and condensation makes you cold. The main problem here in the UK is rain

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 5:08 PM

      We have had a lot of days recently when the humidity was 95 to 100%, but it wasn’t raining — it is so easy to overheat on those days!

  6. foodbod

    November 5, 2013 at 1:06 AM

    I love cycling in the Autumn, the cold and wet just keeps me cool and the leaves on the ground are like a special carpet full of beautiful colours just for you 🍁 and I also love that it’s quieter out there 😀 I don’t however love all of the punctures I’ve had (my husband has enjoyed it even less – 6 punctures in one ride recently!) so as well as get the right clothing, I’m looking forward to getting the right tyres!!!!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 5:10 PM

      Six punctures in one ride??? WOW! I don’t even carry that many patches with me! Sounds liek he needs to get a set of Gatorskins tires!

      • foodbod

        November 6, 2013 at 12:33 AM

        Amazingly I completed my whole ride and the tyres didn’t actually deflate until later that day so I actually rode home with all of those thorns stuck in the tyres!!!!

  7. Karen

    November 5, 2013 at 8:12 AM

    Riding year round is a must! It makes your spring so much easier, so much less work to do, and your abilities go much further into the summer and fall. Cycling is definitely cumulative!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 5:11 PM

      There is a to to be said for that cumulative effect — in the fall and winter I really am not concerned about my average speed, just the amount of time I get in the saddle.

  8. jessicawylie

    November 5, 2013 at 8:54 AM

    I ride year round but not during the days that are slippery. What tires do you recommend I look for solely to make sure I don’t slip? Is it just my tires that could be the problem? I know you’ve written about tires before and may have missed it.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 5:13 PM

      The Michelin Pilot Sport HD tires are great for most weather conditions (see the review at: If you are looking for steel studded snow tires, I like Nokian Hakka WXC 300 Studded Tires (reviewed at: Ride safely!

      • jessicawylie

        November 5, 2013 at 5:55 PM

        I will. Thanks! Good luck on your book!

  9. Mountainstroh (Tony)

    November 5, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    People think I am nuts I am still commuting home by bike, but another advantage is fewer bikes or people on the trail!

  10. biking2work

    November 5, 2013 at 9:29 AM

    That’s just talked me into getting my butt on the bike to ride into work tomorrow-thanks

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 5:14 PM

      Sounds great! You won’t regret it!

      • biking2work

        November 6, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        Couldn’t do my full ride but was certainly motivated to get on and ride anyway. ..

  11. Joboo

    November 5, 2013 at 10:15 AM

    Well, I must confess, I live and play year round in northern Mn.
    I’m not alone up here in the woods, but darn close. I’ll take being called crazy any day, not like I’ve been worse or anything!! Ha Ha Ha
    Being thought of, or called crazy…… really does keep the riff-raff away!! 😉
    Also, it really does fit my loaner biking style.
    Pedal On!!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 5:16 PM

      I was wondering how many people ride during the winter in your area. I usually have all of the trails entirely to myself, and yet your weather is a LOT colder than mine! However, I am pretty much a “lone wolf” cyclist anyway, so it doesn’t bother me.

  12. Sandra

    November 5, 2013 at 11:58 AM

    one of my colleagues rides his bike to work every day (just 10 miles RT) throughout the entire summer/winter. He’s completely decked out–even rode in driving rain today. He bragged that only one day last year did he not ride due to the ice on the paths. And he just has a voodoo cross bike.
    It can be done. I am sadly more of a fair weather biker. I think I just have never had the right clothes.
    The coldest I’ve ridden is about 27 degrees with 15 mph winds (so technically they were at least 30 when we rode into them). My BAR MITTS and a super lightweight pair of fleece gloves had my hands sweating. At that time I still only had sandals, so I wore a pair of wool socks, put a plastic bag over my feet, then put them in my sandals. My feet were okay. It’s my thighs and knees that suffered 🙂 And face.

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 5:18 PM

      The coldest you’ve ridden in is about 27 degrees? That would make for a short cycling season up here. I hope you can get some better clothing this year — there really is no reason to be cold on a bike anymore.

      • Sandra

        November 5, 2013 at 5:19 PM

        No kidding. I never bought any cold weather cycling clothes–you should have seen how sad I looked in my plastic baggies 😉
        I will be going on a shopping spree for this season!

        • All Seasons Cyclist

          November 5, 2013 at 7:36 PM

          With the plastic baggies on your feet you might have been able to pass as a homeless person (or homeless cyclist). 🙂

        • Sandra

          November 5, 2013 at 9:22 PM


  13. shenrydafrankmann

    November 5, 2013 at 4:22 PM

    For two years I endured Computraining classes from November through February. I can’t say I hated them. It was still riding, involved some competition, gave me benchmarks, provided results. Then last year around September I glanced at that old green Trek mountain bike in the back of my garage, called a mountain bike fanatic friend who immediately had me on the trails at Palos Forest preserve, showed me the CAMBR web site. I was hooked, mountain biked until foot surgery mid-January prevented me from riding for a few months. Come January, I was way ahead in terms of fitness than I had ever been during those Computrainer winters.

    Now I can’t take a trip, can’t go a few days without singletrack. Just finished a weekend in Brown County and am planning another at Kettle Moraine soon. I have a spare mountain bike in my stead. Rented a full suspension Specialized last weekend…

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      I used to try to ride on a trainer, but I have the attention span of a 3-year old who has overdosed on Red Bull. If I don’t get outside every day I end up in a foul mood (at least that is what my wife says).

  14. QTRlifer

    November 5, 2013 at 6:15 PM

    I enjoyed reading your post. Believe it or not, I think this was the first time I heard this phrase: As the old saying goes, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 5, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      I don’t know who to give the credit to for that saying, but I think I read it on a cycling blog from up in Alaska.

  15. thehomeschoolingdoctor

    November 6, 2013 at 6:58 AM

    Motivating! Waiting on the e-book!

  16. Ed

    November 6, 2013 at 7:28 AM

    A great resource to help with what to wear, especially in the cool weather is

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 6, 2013 at 10:11 AM

      Thanks for the link, but I really don’t like their suggested clothing. For example, they suggest the same clothing for riding at 30 F as they do -5 F — there is NO WAY one set of winter clothing is going to cover a 35 degree temperature difference. In addition, they only go down to -5F — it gets a lot colder than that around here most winters.

      • Ed

        November 8, 2013 at 1:00 PM

        So far, I have not used it as a guide for extreme cold, but it has worked well so far this season.

  17. cdog781

    November 7, 2013 at 5:45 AM

    Hey hey hey, more effective than therapy?? Now you’re messing with my livelihood!;-)

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 7, 2013 at 4:27 PM

      But you know it’s true, right? 🙂

      • cdog781

        November 7, 2013 at 8:06 PM

        *clears throat* While there is currently a substantial amount of empirical evidence that regular exercise enhances mood and may reduce the risk for mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, there are no studies supporting the efficacy of exercise, alone, as more effective than therapy in treating mental illness. 😉

  18. cdog781

    November 7, 2013 at 5:48 AM

    On a more serious note, though, I’m being encouraged by my coach to do a lot of trainer rides. He says that I can get better training at times by riding indoors because, outdoors, I can slack off and take coast plus there are plenty of stop signs, etc. thoughts?

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 7, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Your coach is right about the trainer. However, I prefer being outside ANYTIME to being inside. Riding a trainer makes me feel like a hamster on a wheel!

      • cdog781

        November 7, 2013 at 8:06 PM

        Me too… :-/ BUT I hate being cold so… *sigh*

  19. Fred

    November 8, 2013 at 6:16 PM

    I love fall riding! Just watch those slippery leaves….they’ll getch ya!

    • All Seasons Cyclist

      November 8, 2013 at 6:21 PM

      It’s not just the leaves — it’s what is under them! During the past few weeks my bikes have turned into snake-killing machines!


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