Time to grab the mudguards and put the washing machine on standby
It was fun while it lasted, but like all good things, this amazing summer of dusty trails and sun burnt faces has finally sounded its death knell.
But what does that mean for us as riders? What have been the little tell-tale signs that it’s all about change with the seasons?
1. Dirt sticking to your bike
Probably the most obvious sign that all is not well with the seasons is the fact that at the end of your ride there’s all this stuff stuck to your bike. Yep, long gone are the days when a casual wipe off of the dust is all that’s needed before putting your MTB to bed. We’re back to scraping off mud and resigned to getting the hose out at the end of a ride.
2. Trails that bite back
We’ve all been there, your favourite trail has been running all-time and you’re at the point where you can’t physically go any faster. Life is good. But then the weather gods add a sprinkling of damp and that section of roots or rock garden you’ve practically forgotten about rear their ugly heads. The addition of a sheen of moisture combines perfectly with the layer of dust to create a surface more slippery than teflon, firing you off disconcertingly into the undergrowth. Suddenly the bond of trust you and the trail have shared all summer is lost for another year.
3. Getting a bit nippy in the mornings/evenings
Like the feeling of just wearing a short sleeve jersey and shorts until way into the evening? Well you can forget it now there’s a nip in the air that seemingly bites through to the bone. All of a sudden wardrobe choices become a nightmare.
4. Dude, where’s my lights?
It’s happened. Evening rides are now ‘night rides’ and any trails that involve being under trees after 7 pm have been cast into twilight. You can still just about get away with squinting your way around until after 8pm but inevitably one member of your riding group will prematurely fire off their two thousand lumen bike lights rendering all night vision useless. Like a sad Mexican wave of trail blindness.
5. Tyre choices
Stand down semi-slicks, it’s the return of the (insert favourite mud tyres here). As grip becomes a greater need than speed everyone is scrabbling to change tyres for something with sensible tread depth. And if you think you can still get away with your summer choice, just wait until you’re sliding the wrong way off a drop for your brain to realise that it might have been a ‘bad idea’ to wait.
Long sleeves and risk overheating, short sleeves and you could catch your death. Is it going to rain, is it raining? Dammit, it’s mild and wet…. Just what do you wear? You know it’s the end of the simple life when it takes you half an hour of staring intently out of the window or texting your mates to find out just what to wear and take with you on a ride.
7. ‘Ride’ time
Summer rides were all about how long you could eke out the hours, making the most of the warmth and the light. The upshot of this approach was a ride to pub ratio skewed firmly towards the ride. As the temperature drops and conditions become less favourable it’s amazing how quickly you can see that ratio start to slide in favour of fast n’ quick rides and cosy hours in the pub.
8. Where are all the riders?
Summer rides seemed like a whose who of local riders with everyone dusting off their bikes and getting out in the pristine conditions. As conditions start to become a touch inclement you can expect those epic fifty person rides to dwindle significantly. Soon it’ll be back to just the hardcore handful holding out to brave the weather.
9. Less ambitious rides
Summer is all about adventure. How far can you ride? Where does that trail go? I wonder if I can link those bits together? These are all questions that we flirt with when the summer is in full swing. If this is the mantra of summer riding then the phrase that pays at this time of year must be ‘stick to what you know’. Almost subconsciously we stick to the same familiar trails and our Strava global heatmap significantly reduces in size to that of a glowing pimple around your home.
10. Cleaning bikes
Did we mention bike cleaning? Well it’s so heinous it warrants a double mention. Forget the cursory wipe, cleaning time means proper cleaning. We’re talking degreaser and brushes, bike sprays and lube jobs.
When you just want to get in, get warm and get clean you’re faced with the obligatory half hour of MTB TLC. You can ignore it but the prospect of a rusty chain and wrecked parts is enough to scare you into the sacrifice.