Clothing for cycling in autumn
It can sometimes be difficult to decide on clothing for cycling in autumn; one day might be pouring with rain and the next can be blazing sunshine. It’s often too early for winter tights and jackets but you probably need more than just shorts and a jersey.
It may sound obvious, but the key to deciding what to wear is to check the weather beforehand. Many novice cyclists head out on long rides oblivious to what may be facing them further up the road. Even the best in the world occasionally get caught out as famously happened on a snowy Gavia in the 1988 Giro D’Italia. Andy Hampsten’s 7-Eleven team took note of the forecast and attempted to prepare their riders as best they could beforehand. Unfortunately other teams didn’t fare so well.
Cycling clothing design may seem peculiar to the casual observer but every item has been specifically designed to deal with a common weather issue. The trick with choosing clothing for cycling in autumn is to wear something suitable for the majority of the ride. Then you can carry additional items for further protection as and when the weather changes. This is relatively easy to do because cycling garments are lightweight and consequently can be stowed away in jersey pockets.
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Assuming you are starting with a base of cycling shorts and a vest, you have the option of wearing a short or long-sleeved jersey. If the day is chilly and the forecast is unlikely to change much, then a long-sleeved jersey is a sensible choice. It is warmer and less fiddly to put on than having separate arm warmers that can allow gaps to open up at the sleeves. If, on the other hand, the temperature is changeable, arm warmers can be easily put on and removed on the fly and take up little room in your back pocket. Prendas Merkalon arm warmers are an excellent, reasonably priced product.
A gilet is a must and it is surprising how much more comfortable a chilly morning can be with just a little wind protection for the chest. The Sportful Hot Pack folds up into its own stuff-sack, is water resistant and has strategically placed vents to improve ventilation.
Unless it is extremely cold in the autumn you are unlikely to wear winter bib tights. These can be bulky and lead to overheating as the day warms up. Similar to arm warmers, full leg warmers are easy to stow away in a jersey pocket. The ones with little zips at the ankles are great if you want to keep your shoes on when taking them on and off such as Nailini Nanodry.
If the weather isn’t too cold but you don’t want to chill your knees, then maybe wear a pair of knee warmers. It is advisable to buy some with a decent overlap with your shorts – this way they are less likely to slip down. Nailini Protector Knee Warmers are great as they have some additional wind protection.
Hands and feet
Cold fingers can make cycling utterly miserable, but very heavy sweat soaked gloves are unpleasant on a spring ride. Fortunately, gloves come in different weights and sizes. If you just need to keep the chill off, then Roubaix or woven gloves are often all that is needed. Prendas have the Super Roubaix and DeFeet make the superb Dura gloves in a range of colours.
Feet can suffer too so why not treat them to some mid-weight overshoes or overstocks. If you want that Northern Classics ‘pro’ look the Prendas Cordura oversock with cleat hole is a must!
Other clothing, just in case
Shivering increases metabolic rate from resting by 3-5 times, but exercise can increase it by up to 20-25 times. This means that on a chilly day wearing some wind protection and pressing-on the pedals a bit harder is all you need to do to keep warm. However, you may be forced to stop with a mechanical problem or puncture causing you to get cold very rapidly. For this reason you might want to carry some additional clothing for those unexpected interruptions. The Castelli Perfetto (previously known as Gabba) jacket is the benchmark with its superb breathability and water resistance.
Finally, however good the forecast, most experienced cyclists usually carry a rain jacket because ‘you never know’. Rain jackets will only keep you dry up to a point, so you have to decide how much more money you are prepared to spend just to get a few extra minutes of protection. Good jackets range in price from the cheap B’Twin 500 to the more expensive Gore Bike Wear One GTX Active.
A rain cover for your crash helmet might be a useful addition (such as the Sealskinz Halo), but it isn’t raining when you set out there is a limit to what you might want to carry. The good old cotton cap will offer a bit of protection and warmth and it is possible to find waterproof versions of these such as the Gore C7 Gore-Tex cap.
So there you have it, the key to enjoying autumn riding in the UK is to be prepared for all eventualities. Check the forecast before you depart and ensure your clothing for cycling in autumn is adaptable to changing conditions.