The end of summer is often a time of sadness for cyclists with the cooler months of the year threatening to turn the sunlit dusty gravel trails into thick, muddy paths. Riding gravel in autumn and winter brings with it a few extra challenges when it comes to getting your kit right both for you and your gravel bike, but the changing colours of the seasons and crisp bluebird days will create great riding memories as long as you're prepared.
Can I use my mountain bike or road kit?
Gravel riding is attractive because it bridges the gap between rocky trails and smooth tarmac. Depending on how you came to gravel, you may have kit that’s good enough to use already. That said, a gravel ride will be muddier than your average ride on your road bike and less gnarly than a downhill track on your mountain bike, so you’ll need to adapt your setup.
Layers, layers and, well, more layers
The hills and mountains aren’t seasonal, so while the air temperature is cooler, you’ll still work up a sweat getting to the top. Layers allow you to regulate your body temperature in line with the gradient, effort or time of the day.
No matter what time of year you choose to ride, we always advise wearing a base layer to help wick the sweat away from your body enabling you to keep cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
If you want to get more use out of your summer kit before stashing it at the back of the cupboard for the next six months, ride with arm warmers and leg warmers. As you progress through your gravel ride, they’re easy enough to take off if the sun eventually comes out. Likewise, a lightweight wind jacket or a gilet will keep the breeze out yet are easy to stow in your jersey pocket or frame bag if you start to warm up a bit later on.
Hands are always first to feel the cold, and they’re one of the most important contact points on the bike. You’ll soon find mitts won’t last very long as the season gets underway, so get yourself a set of longfinger gloves to stave off the elements.
There’s no hiding from the cold in deepest, darkest winter and for extra warmth and wind-resistance, we recommend a softshell jacket. Although it is water repellent, if you hit a persistent downpour of rain, you’ll need to reach for your best waterproof.
Light the way
In October, most countries in the northern hemisphere turn their clocks back an hour for the winter season and while we’re generally excited for the extra hour in bed, we know it signals the need for lights on our bikes. If you ride among traffic between gravel trails, you may also want to keep your eyes peeled for reflective details on kit, too.
Don’t get stranded
Unfortunately, you’re more likely to puncture when the weather turns sour. Debris gets washed on to the roads and trails, and water acts as a lubricant between sharp objects and your tyres. It’s advisable to check your tyres regularly and if they need replacing, find a set of tyres that are suitable for gravel riding. Sometimes no amount of foresight will prevent the puncture fairy paying you a visit, so we recommend you take at least a multi-tool, pump, spare tube and, if you ride tubeless, a Dynaplug tool.
We know there’s no better feeling than riding a bike, so get out there and enjoy those crisp autumn and winter days, and layer up for if the weather is a little less ideal on your next gravel ride.
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