Summer is over. It's time to pack away your beach shorts, sunglasses and finally accept that the end of season BBQ you've been planning is now going to have to be indoors. You don't have to pack away your mountain bike just yet, though.
While weather forecasts suggest the late months of the year are more suited to being indoors, there are many reasons why your local trails can be even more enjoyable in the autumn and winter. Here are 10 reasons to get stoked for the less traditional months on a mountain bike.
1. Questionable weather is the best weather
No matter what the season, getting out for a ride on your bike is fun. It's relaxing, it's a good detox, and it helps you forget the stresses of everyday life.
And riding after summer? It's even better. The adrenaline that kicks in as you have an unforeseen skid on a frosty patch of trail. The over-the-bars crash you just about save when you get caught up in the mud. The puddles. Oh, the puddles. The day that screaming through a puddle so deep it's known as a swimming pool by local wildlife isn't fun is the day we give up mountain biking. You're never too old to enjoy getting unnecessarily wet by plunging yourself into a big puddle of mud.
2. Group riding presents new opportunities
If you ride with a local group of mountain bikers, then the latter half of the year is the perfect chance to test out exactly how strong your bonds of friendship really are.
Do you have an "I can definitely get away with covering you with water on this corner" relationship? How about an 'It's acceptable for me to hysterically laugh when you fall off your bike' kind of relationship?
If the answer is yes to the above, then any group trip into the wet will be wildly entertaining. And if not, don’t worry. Get involved in a group ride and the bonds that'll form as you descend through apocalyptic darkness will get you there in no time.
3. Bike lights will transform your world
The fact the sun seems to set an hour earlier each day after October 1 is something of obvious concern to the outdoor enthusiast, but in mountain biking we're lucky enough that we can just strap a light to the front of the bike and get on with it.
On top of that, when the sun has fully set, and you're riding with only the guidance of your front and back blinkers, it's a hell of an experience. You could have been on those same trails 100 times before, but it'll be like riding an entirely new route at night, and there's something deeply satisfying about seeing the trail extend out the darkness after every turn you make. It can also get a bit creepy if you're on your own so just make sure you bring spare inner tubes and know your way back home.
4. Changing scenery
Bike lights aren't the only reason the trails will be looking a bit different in winter. Summer is great for weather and all, but it can get a bit samey. You can almost guarantee that even before the sun has set in autumn or winter, the trail will look different every day you ride it.
You'll be there as the leaves turn golden and fall from the trees, as the forests turn from green to brown to white. Sure, on the trail itself that change probably means the route will be soaked in mud at certain places and dusted with frost in others, but all of that just presents new challenges. And it means that even on the same day, no two rides will be the same.
5. You'll become a better rider
If you're going to ride over wet roots, frosty rocks, and through unpredictable mud berms and turns every other day, then you're probably going to fall off your bike a bit more. But you're also going to learn how to handle yourself through each of these over a duration of time, and by the end of the season you'll come out a much better bike handler than you were before. This is particularly useful if you're a rider in the UK, where summer is a very loosely-used term.
6. Less people on trails
Even if you ride the busiest trails in the UK during the summer months, the rider ratio on those same routes is going to plummet come autumn and winter, leaving you with less worries over what other people are doing on the trails and time to just focus on yourself.
This means you can ride and re-ride certain sections at your will, work on your technique on a certain patch of terrain, do a bit of trail work or just sit in a puddle eating your lunch, if that's your thing.
7. You get to ride cosy
The colder and rainier months are the chance to finally get out all that riding gear you've got sitting about in your cupboard and put it to use.
Gloves are more important than ever, not just for keeping off the wind, but for keeping your grip on the bike. Thermals, both upper and lower, are additions that will keep you cosy on the bike and intensely smug if you're riding with a group where others are lacking them. Waterproof jackets and fleeces are sure to be put to good use, too.
8. It will keep away the SAD
A lot of people are in the habit of tucking their mountain bike away as soon as it gets cold, and not bringing it back out until next summer. Don't be one of those people. Do you want to make your bike sad? Don't make your bike sad. Ride it.
Doing so will also stop you from being SAD too. Riding your bike, and exercise in general, has been proven by various studies to stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder. It's all too easy to sit inside on the cold days and binge watch Netflix. Beat the initial reluctance; get yourself outside and you won't regret it.
9. A hot shower on return
You've done it. You’ve been out on your bike for a couple of hours, you've braved the conditions, and though your gear has kept you warm, your nose is tingling and you can feel your fingertips through your gloves. You've even washed your bike, indisputably the worst part of any autumn or winter ride.
Now for the best bit. The hot shower afterwards. Dump the muddy clothes, ignore your flatmate shouting about there being a dripping wet bike in the kitchen, and get in the shower. Oh yeah, that's the good stuff.
10. Sense of accomplishment
There's no doubt that after a ride in savage weather you're going to feel a lot more fulfilled than you would in clear conditions. This is because of all of the above. It's because you've been riding something a little different to the norm, something possibly outside your comfort zone. It's because you've felt like some kind of crazed survivalist riding in the dark. You've almost definitely learned a few things about your abilities on a bike. You’ve gone out on a day when not many will have, when you had to push yourself to have the motivation to go riding. What's more, you've enjoyed it.
Now it’s time to wear your duvet like a poncho, drink hot chocolate, and then get ready to do it all again tomorrow.