When I started bicycling seriously in 1989, a lawn-sale 3-speed purchase in late August kicked off my adult phase in the sport. Back then, two decades had passed since my last time on a bicycle — a two-day road and biking trip around Acadia. My bicycling mechanics were still there, though.

I cannot remember if it were in 1989 or the next year, when late September and October offered perfect pedaling weather with sun-splashed, unseasonably warm days and often little wind. This experience made a fall biker out of me that has lasted 25 years, even in cold falls.

In my youth, no one talked biking safety, so in the beginning, I knew no better and occasionally pedaled Augusta’s city streets after dark with no lights other than from street lamps — and wore no helmet!

Those memories and other ignorant mistakes make me cringe now. Beginners with bicycles should hook up with a knowledgeable friend or riding group for a safer introduction.

In the early 1990s, I bought an L.L. Bean cross bike, the Acadia with a green, steel frame. That purchase included bicycling info from a salesman, who also sold me a helmet, night lights, mirror, bicycling book etc. Jolie, my intrepid companion, still uses the Acadia instead of a Specialized road bike with 25mm tires that I own as backup to a Felt with 23mm rubber.

Most years, bicycling from now through November and maybe early December has everything to recommend it — cooler temperatures, brilliant foliage and less traffic except during leaf-peeping time. Then later, landscapes turn somber browns, grays, blacks and blue-greens (conifers), a good setting for contemplation — and contemplate I do in the cool silence.

Folks may pedal all winter, and I occasionally get out, too. However, the real enemy of winter bicycling isn’t always cold weather, but rather, thick sand layers on road edges that remains there for days after winter storms.

Now, back to fall.

Many years ago, a tidbit from a bicycle mag stuck in my mind — important for fall bicyclists. The author cited research and said when the temperature drops below 65 degrees Fahrenheit, bicyclists (or runners) should wear long pants or tights to cover legs. Without that precaution, folks can get leg cramps, and I mostly obey that rule.

One morning earlier the month, it was 52 degrees, and I figured the air would warm to 65 by 9 a.m. so decided to wear shorts. I knew better, and that morning, a cold northwest wind made my legs indeed try to cramp.

In summer and fall, bedroom communities have less tourist-season traffic than a vacation mecca such as Belgrade Lakes, where I live. Even on side roads here, I often wonder, “Where’s all this traffic coming from?”

So, in midweek, I occasionally bicycle in bedroom towns such as Windsor, Somerville and Whitefield. I’ll pedal 20 miles, and road stretches between busy Routes 17, 32 and 105 attract me — byways such as the Choate Road between Windsor Neck and Route 32 or the Coopers Mills Road from Coopers Mills village to a four-corner on Route 105 by the Sheepscot’s West Branch. In mid-morning, I’ve pedaled this last 6- or 7-mile section and often seen one or two vehicles — and once in a while none.

I’ve said this here before, but new bicyclists who are nervous about narrow-tired bikes might consider a new or even secondhand model with wider tires — say touring bikes with 28mm, cross bikes with 33mm or wider or mountain bikes with really wide rubber — which feel more stable and offer physical and psychological comfort.

Once newcomers get used to riding wide tires, they might try a road bike with 23mm to 25mm tires, the former the diameter of a man’s thumb. Before my 23mm tires, I started with 33mm tires and then 28mm and 25mm.

(By the way, I just looked at the new line of Specialized road bikes, and all the Tarmac models come from the factory with 25mm tires. For years, most of its road bikes came with 23mm choices.)

Wide tires on pavement create more friction, but narrow tires have less resistance and roll noticeably easier. If folks have bought a cross or mountain bike before purchasing a road bike — that’s versatility plus — a bike for woodland jaunts and gravel roads and one for road riding on pavement.

Bicycling offers one huge plus as folks get older. Adults who exercise little may have trouble sleeping well at night, a problem that increases with age. From late March and into early December, though, I bicycle most days that it doesn’t rain, which relaxes and tires me enough to sleep well.

In fact, two days before writing this, I bicycled one morning and again in evening, which tired me so much that I slept from 9 p.m. until 6:15 a.m. without waking. In winter without a hard pedaling regimen, I sleep five or six hours a night — if that. Lots of older folks appreciate long sleeping times.

Before finishing this column on bicycling, here’s a grand quote from H.G. Wells: “When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.”

Amen to that notion.

Ken Allen, of Belgrade Lakes, a writer, editor and photographer, may be reached at

[email protected]

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