Dangers of the Fall

Sunset in Autumn is a beautiful thing. But like poisonous flowers, animals, and women, they can be also be dangerous.
Sunset in Autumn is a beautiful thing. But like poisonous flowers, sports cars, and women, beauty and danger often walk hand in hand.

The heat of Summer has finally broken. Days aren’t starting at 80°. You can ride in the afternoon without looking like a small water delivery truck. Autumn is probably the best time of the year to ride – it’s like Spring without the rain, and the wind is crisp without being cold (until late Autumn, that is).

But, it’s not all changing leaves and colorful skies. Autumn brings with it its own challenges, and like riding in any other season, it’s best to be ready for them.

About the biggest issue is the sun. No, not the heat (for once), but the fact that it seems to linger at eye-level for about 5 hours in the morning, pops straight up at noon, and then stays again at eye-level for another 5 hours before finally falling out of the sky. This means that if you’re heading into the sun, even with the best riding glasses, it’s pretty hard to see jack. Worse, if you are between the sun and a car, even with the brightest of lights and reflective gear, you’ll be hard to spot.

After the sun dips below the horizon, things get better… for a bit. Then night starts to set in fast. It’s not like in full summer where the sun sets at 8:00 but it’s bright until 9:00. When the sun goes down, it basically goes out. It’s take maybe 15 minutes to get to a point where a bike light would not go amiss.

Also be wary of temperature variations. The temp can drop like a rock after the sun disappears, so check ahead to see what the temps will be around the time you’ll be returning. This way, you can pack appropriately.

My advice:

  • Use bright, flashing head and tail lights, especially near sunrise/sunset. This isn’t for you to see so much as to be seen.
  • Even if you aren’t using a helmet-mounted light, bring one with you for after the sun sets. Two headlights are always better than one, and the ability to point your headlight where you want to go is a huge bonus.
  • Reflective ankle/wrist straps and gloves are a big help (I recommend the ankle straps for street riding at all times).
  • If you can, avoid heading east/west on streets during the 30-45 minutes where the sun is right above the horizon.
  • If you are rolling at sunrise, sundown, or night, ride with a friend, and use verbal cues as hand signals may not be visible.
  • That dark-colored jersey might be comfortable, but unless it’s got very bright stripes or reflective material, consider a light-colored jersey.
  • As the highs for the day start to dip, remember to pack a light vest or arm warmers as the temp drops quick once the sun goes away.

Semper Equitare.