How to have an awesome autumn with Cycling UK
How to have an awesome autumn with Cycling UK
A moveable feast
For much of the UK, 2019 has been another dry, sunny and warm year, especially in the south and east of England, where there hasn't been a lot of rain for most of the year. As we move into more seasonal climes, many people might start to think of putting their bikes back in the shed and mothballing them for the winter. But, despite the fresher feel in the air, there's a lot to enjoy as autumn kicks in. Rides can be punctuated by the chance to stop and pick blackberries - or collect bags of apple and plum windfalls left out for passersby at the roadside. Soon, there will also be chestnuts and beech nuts. Roadside larders such as the one below are abundant with produce in return for a contribution to the honesty box. One of the many joys of being on a bike is being able to spot and stop spontaneously for such delights, as long as you are forearmed with something to carry them home in without their being squashed!
Sights, smells and sounds of the changing seasons
In some areas, the leaves are starting to change colour, heralding the spectacular displays of foliage we'll be admiring in the days ahead. Familiar scenery is transformed by autumn tints, while areas that are normally too boggy and damp for riding off-road might still be dry. Harvests are already being gathered in, gigantic machines suddenly roaring into life above the hedgerows, leaving massive hay bales in their wake and easy pickings for the soon-to-be-departing flocks of birds. A sense of things coming to a close pervades the atmosphere and the smell of woodsmoke enhances the feeling that the Northern Hemisphere is beginning to tilt into the shadow of the sun again. For cyclists and mountain bikers, who are closely attuned to the seasons and the changing landscapes, autumn is a truly special time of year: sights, sounds and smells are intensified against the backdrop of darkening skies.
Can there be a better feeling than crunching your tyres through piles of golden leaves or a better sight and sound than a skein of geese honking overhead in Red Arrow formation? In my opinion, even food tastes better as your need for a 'winter fat store' means your appetite for cake increases - well at least that's what I tell myself!
In autumn, while the weather is also still relatively clement, it's a good idea to carry an extra layer just in case. Daytime temperatures might still be quite high, but early mornings and evenings can be suddenly chilly. A gilet or lightweight jacket might be all you need until winter really kicks in or, if you can be bothered with the faff, arm and leg warmers are lightweight enough to slip into a deep pocket. You could also treat yourself to a Cycling UK wool top or neck tube for a cosy feel without too many layers.
It's time to dust off your lights as well, with 'mists' alongside the 'mellow fruitfulness' a distinct autumnal possibility. And, of course, a quick pub stop on the way home from work or an early start in the morning could mean it's a lot darker than you've been used to, especially if the skies are a bit overcast. Mudguards are also very useful if you want to avoid a muddy back or bottom.
Rides and events
There's plenty of great rides ahead as we move into late summer and autumn. For a start, there's two rides in Cycling UK's Challenge Rides Series 2019 remaining, including the Gridiron 100 on Sunday 13 October, which takes in 'pannage' season in the New Forest where you can expect to see ponies, horses, donkeys and even pigs roaming freely on the roads and tracks around the route, and secondly, Emitremmus on Sunday 29 October, when summertime is 'reversed' and the darker evenings are well and truly upon us.
There's also Devon CTC's 110km Dartmoor Devil on Sunday 3 November, when you can indulge in some spooky riding across the moors post Halloween!
If Challenge Rides aren't your thing, there's plenty of other rides and events every week put on by our wonderful volunteers throughout the country, including bike maintenance sessions, weekly social rides, women-only events, inclusive rides and much more listed in our Cycling UK Events Guide. Our Big Bike Revival project continues into the autumn with lots of celebration rides and activities in England and Scotland. How about a bike repair and maintenance workshop on the Isle of Jura on 25 September or MOTHERLOAD, a film about cargo bikes being shown in Southampton on 27 September?
Routes and challenges
Be inspired by the 140 handpicked routes we gathered together to celebrate our 140th anniversary last year. They were supplied by our members, supporters and celebrities to showcase their favourite rides in the UK Any of them would make a fantastic ride this autumn. If they don't pique your interest, find something else in Cycle A-way, a listing of all published route guides available in the UK, compiled and kept up-to-date by one of our amazing volunteers, Heather Evans. Check out our comprehensive County Guides for more information on each area, plus a list of all the local Cycling UK groups and clubs to ride with.
You could also take on the brand new Great North Trail and join the Cape Wrath Fellowship while you're at it (weather permitting!) or notch up some checkpoints in the British Cycle Quest, a treasure hunt covering the whole of Britain. September and October are also fantastic months to finally take on LEJoG (Lands End to John O' Groats) - the weather can still be pretty good, the crowds and midgies should have gone but the landscape is still gorgeous and there's still a lot of daylight until the clocks go back. If you've been taking part in Cycle September and register that ride, you could be in line for some amazing prizes!
The shortening daylight hours are by no means a reason to curtail your riding and stay indoors curled up with the latest box sets or that tricky wheel build you've been meaning to attempt. With a decent set of lights, you can stay active after dark and enjoy the thrill of having the trails and lanes largely to yourself, apart from the odd badger or owl. Cycling UK's Julie Rand explains just why she loves night riding while our comprehensive guide shows you how to do it.
If the darker evenings just make you want to stay in and hibernate, there are plenty of indoor events to tempt you out the door and mingle with your fellow cycle enthusiasts. For example, all our Member Groups have an AGM on a date between 15 October and 15 November. They are a great chance to meet up with local members, find out what they've been up to and learn how you can get involved. Some take place during the day while most are held in the evening. Some of them have social evenings too, such as slide shows, talks on cycling and meals out to name just a few.
Whatever you do this autumn, you'll be sure to have an awesome time with Cycling UK!