Skills & Techniques

Don’t Sweat the Fall Stuff: 3 Bike Tips for Autumn Riding

Michael Taylor - September 28, 2021

What goes “Crunch, crunch — whoosh?” 

Knobby tires cruising on fallen foliage, of course! In many places, autumn is the premier season for mountain biking. To help maximize your smiles while minimizing your impacts, here are some Leave No Trace-friendly tips that you might not have heard before. 


Mudslide Slim

It’s been, once again, a rough season for wildfires and flooding. For trail users, this means that riding spots you’ve enjoyed in the past could be much more vulnerable to erosion than the last time you visited. After a fire, even a small amount of rain may result in mudslides and trail washouts because vegetation that normally stabilizes the soil has been burned away. Check trail conditions before heading out and keep a close eye on the weather, using extra caution if precipitation is forecast for fire-affected areas. For road riders, be aware when biking near burn areas that can experience flash flooding events and mudslides which can wash out roads and make terrain difficult or unpassable for slim tires. Pro tip: Even popular mountain bike spots, like South Lake Tahoe, may not want you to visit until conditions have stabilized (which could be months or years away in some cases). 


Freeze Frame

Fall kicks off with summerlike temperatures that gradually — or sometimes rapidly — dip toward winter. When the cold closes in, beware of a freeze/thaw cycle that often leads to unintended trail damage. It works like this: You head out for a morning ride on a trail that’s frosty and firm. When you check your tracks they show minimal disturbance to the trail surface so you continue pedaling, feeling good that this durable surface won’t be damaged. As the day goes by and the sun rises a bit higher in the sky, the temperature warms and suddenly the now-thawed trail is a muddy mess. More than likely your return trip to the trailhead will be a mini-disaster for your bike, your clothes and, most disturbingly, to the trail itself. Pro tip: If you are caught out like this, stay in the middle of the trail surface instead of riding on the edges. Trails can be repaired more easily than vegetation can be restored. 


It’s Not All About the Bike – Really

Before deciding that you need the latest and greatest bike, consider the 3 R’s—reducing, reusing, and recycling. Salvaging a few more miles from your current bike, reusing parts or donating old bikes to new users are all important Leave No Trace practices to consider. If you’re not a confident mechanic try riding, pushing or carrying it to a bike shop to extend the life of your ride. Often a small investment in things like new inner tubes, chain lube and a brake or shifter adjustment will see you through a great season of riding. Pro tip: Bike repairs may be in high demand — call ahead.


Like biking? Consider giving to Leave No Trace today and you’ll be entered into the Thule Fall Giveaway where you could win a Thule hitch bike rack. 

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