It’s a funny old season, autumn. You never know what to wear when you get up in the morning – is it a day for the full-length thermals, or can you chance a pair of bare knees and just stick a pair of arm warmers on? The fact that the sun is shining brightly outside means next to nothing – it could just as easily be 2°C as 12°C out there; the only way to find out is to actually get out the front door. More often than not your wardrobe choices will be wrong – just be sure to pad the time it takes you to get to the meeting point with enough extra minutes to nip back in the house and add or remove a layer.
But getting out there, though fraught with peril, is good for you too. Suck down that tingling cold air and taste how much fresher it feels than the humid, sticky atmosphere of summer. Is it really purer, or does it just feel that way because of the icy metallic feeling it leaves in the back of your throat? A good, determined autumn paves the way to winter, and another spring and summer filled with smiles.
With autumn comes the seasonal pre-occupation, nay obsession, with kit. Are your gloves good enough for December in Durham? Will those overshoes withstand the rainfall of Frome in February? And how many buffs is too many for one person to own? Can there ever be a compromise between looking good and feeling warm? Autumn is the time to test out combinations, for winter will be too late for experimentation.
Autumn also sees perhaps the least enjoyable day of the cyclist’s calendar, the day the clocks go back and we lose an entire hour of evening daylight as a result. If you can get past that portentous day and keep on riding you’ll have achieved something special.
Naturally, there’s a good deal of fellowship on autumn rides. The numbers of cyclists out on the roads falls roughly at the same rate as the mercury in your thermometer. But being part of the hardy few is always more unifying than just one in a crowd. In autumn you can expect riders to enter the cafe, cheerfully rubbing their hands together at the prospect of a hot beverage and maybe two slices of cake (well, it is the ‘off-season’, after all), with a gracious hello to all already inside.
There’ll be more nodders as the year dwindles to its darkest days too. We who endure are a family. While some might shrink from the onset of the dark, cold months, we say keep going, and embrace the rides of the falling leaves.What about you? Are you a seasoned all-season cyclist, or a newbie who doesn’t much fancy six long months of riding in the near-darkness? Or will you be fleeing the British winter altogether and heading off for warmer climes until spring has fully sprung?