by Philippe Tremblay, Marketing & Communications Coordinator with Cycling Canada
Autumn is a transitional season; the foliage changes to spectacular colours, the temperature begins to cool, migrating birds begin to head south and many cyclists in Canada head out to take advantage of the remainder of the fair weather riding season. Fall is a spectacular season for riding and nothing is better than autumn adventure riding on gravel or on a bikepacking trip. More cyclists are better equipped than ever to take advantage of the fall season to explore on their gravel, cyclocross, touring or even road bikes. If you are heading out on an autumn bikepacking or gravel adventure, here are some tips to ensure you are prepared to have a fantastic time while taking advantage of some of the year’s best riding conditions.
Pack up a bar bag
Being well prepared for your adventure is important. Don’t limit yourself when it comes to what you can carry to your saddle bag and pockets, you won’t have enough space. You’ll want to load up on snacks, spare tubes and tools so you are prepared for an unexpected mechanical and the long day in the saddle. A bar bag is an efficient way to carry more on your bike and makes everything easily accessible when you are out on your adventure. You might even have space to pack a camera and take some amazing fall foliage photos.
Mount knobby tires
When you are heading off the beaten track, a set of the right tires can make a world of difference to ensure you have traction and grip on any surface you encounter. Slick road tires simply won’t be sufficient on some terrain so something with a bit of tread is best and can help you feel confident all day long. You will also want to go wide so check how much tire clearance your bike has and optimize you tire choice depending if you expect to encounter gravel, mud, sand or other surfaces out on your adventure.
Map out a route
Discovering the best roads and hidden tracks isn’t easy if you haven’t done a bit of research. Ask knowledgeable local riders for tips if you don’t know where to begin your adventuring. Having a well-planned route to refer to will also make sure you avoid busy roads and connect the sections of pavement, gravel and tracks into an absolutely unforgettable ride. Don’t forget to map out a route that will take you to places to refill your water bottles and maybe grab a coffee or snack! Use an app like Strava Route Builder, Kamoot or Map My Ride to create a route to put on your cycling head unit.
While there’s a time and a place for an epic solo adventure, why not invite some of your riding friends along to join you for your gravel ride or bikepacking adventure. Without many events on the 2020 calendar, getting a close-knit group together to hammer out an epic ride will make the day even more memorable. When an autumn chill is in the air, the warmth a fun group ride creates will help get through the ride and you’ll have company for your post ride brews.
Apply chamois cream
A long ride can take its toll on your energy levels and give you some aches or pains. These can’t always be avoided (though proper fueling and stretching can help) but pain on your rear end is usually pretty manageable if you are prepared. If you experience chafing when you spend long hours in the saddle, finding a chamois cream that helps alleviate the discomfort is key to enjoying a long adventure ride. Don’t take this for granted because even the slightest discomfort can really take away your enjoyment of the ride.
Bring extra tubes and sealant
You simply don’t want to be stranded with a flat tire on an adventure ride! To that end, make sure you have enough spare tubes to cover more flat tires than you’d usually expect. If you are running tubeless, having extra sealant and a tubeless tire repair kit will also help if you get a tear in your sidewall on a sharp rock.
Stop for lunch and real food
While gels, snacks and bars will sustain your energy levels, on a long and arduous adventure, stopping for a proper lunch can make a huge difference in how you feel on the bike. For bikepacking trips, this is even more important as numerous days out on the saddle without stops for proper meals will take its toll. Plan your route to go through towns where you’ll be able to find a quick lunch and stop for a well-deserved break to refuel.
Keep these tips in mind when preparing for your next ride and make the most of the beautiful autumn season on all sorts of great cycling adventures!