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, this has been the longest, hottest summer in a long time, if not ever. Day after day, the sun has blazed down on a parched landscape, with record-breaking temperatures and hot, humid cycling conditions. Whether you're a hot weather person or not, it's surely a relief to have a little respite from the endless heat and dust and a return to more usual conditions for the time of year - perhaps you've even been happy to experience a little rain on your rides for a change?! Along with the fresher feel in the air, there's a lot to enjoy as autumn approaches. Rides can be punctuated by the chance to stop and pick blackberries - they seem particularly abundant this year - or collect bags of free windfalls left out for passersby at the roadside. Soon, there will also be chestnuts and beech nuts. 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 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. 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-departed flocks of birds. A sense of things coming to a close pervades the atmosphere and the smell of wood smoke enhances the feeling that the Northern Hemisphere is beginning to tilt into darkness 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 formations? In my opinion, even food tastes better as your need for a 'winter fat store' means your appetite 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 in 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 2018 remaining, including the Gridiron on Sunday 14 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 28 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 28 October, when you can indulge in some spooky riding across the moors in advance of Hallowe'en, and South West London CTC's Hilly 50km from the iconic Box HIll in Surrey on Saturday 8 September.
If Challenge Rides aren't your thing, there's plenty of other rides and events every week put on by our amazing volunteers throughout the country, including bike maintenance sessions, weekly social rides, women-only events, inclusive rides and much more listed in our UK Cycling Events Guide. The Big Bike Revival project will be running a series of short Celebration Rides throughout October in England and Scotland - keep an eye on our website for details of those.
Be inspired by our 140 handpicked routes to celebrate our 140th anniversary. They have been 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.
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 slideshows, talks on cycling and meals out to name just a few.
Nationally, there's the Cycle Show at the NEC in Birmingham to look forward to on the weekend of 28-30 September - Cycling UK members can get discounts on tickets - while our Big Bike Celebration in Harrogate on Saturday 6 October is free and a chance to hear from inspirational cyclists and congratulate our Volunteers of the Year 2018.
There are still at the time of writing, places available on CTC Holidays' tour to Mallorca from 1 to 11 October - but hurry as there won't be for long as our tours are incredibly popular. If that's too soon, it's never too early to start thinking about your dream holiday for next year and book one before they sell out!
Whatever you do this autumn, you'll be sure to have an awesome time with Cycling UK!