Today we continue with our Real Advice series – hard-earned practical knowledge from real riders here at our home office. This week we hear from a team member who has a special fondness for some late season riding.
My favorite days to ride are October or November days when I wake up, look outside and see grey skies. Of course I love getting in some good riding in warm, sunny weather, but there’s something about the solitude of those overcast days that really makes me remember why I love this sport. Maybe it’s the loneliness of the road, maybe I ride better in lower temperatures, maybe I just really look forward to that post-ride pumpkin-flavored carbohydrate recovery beverage that’s only available at this particular time of year. Who knows. What is for certain though is that without dressing right for the weather, those rides would not be nearly so enjoyable.
When it comes to dressing for the fall, there are two things to keep in mind: layers and versatility. Dressing in layers not only helps keep you warmer by trapping air between the layers, but it also lets you more effectively manage exactly how hot you get by allowing you to remove layers as the day warms up. It also helps if your clothing options are versatile, and able to be combined in different ways to adapt to the conditions. It’s not unusual for me to start off a fall ride at 6AM dressed in several layers of clothes, only to return home at 2 in the afternoon in shorts and jersey with my pockets stuffed with warmers and jackets.
So, if you’re ready to get on the fall riding gravy train (with carbon fiber wheels, of course), then follow this handy dandy guide to dressing for the fall.
DRESSING FOR THE FALL
1. FALL ESSENTIALS:
- Shorts and Jersey: I continue to ride in my usual bib shorts and short sleeve jerseys well into the fall. When combined with the below listed items, this is the foundation of a versatile riding kit that can adapt to almost any weather condition.
- Base Layer: invest in a long and a short sleeve or sleeveless base layer. Base layers are worn under the jersey (and under bib straps, if you wear bib shorts) and add an extra light layer that can help keep you warm, while moving sweat away from your skin—essential for hot or cold weather. I personally prefer merino wool base layers for fall riding, since they keep you warm, but won’t make you overheat if the day ends up warmer than you think.
- Arm and Knee/Leg warmers: warmers are usually a better option this time of year than long sleeve jerseys or tights. Good ones are usually just as effective as tights or a long jersey, but they have the added advantage of being removable as the day warms up—plus they roll up small enough to be stuffed into a jersey pocket for storage
- Vest: a good wind vest is essential for this time of year. It helps keep your core warm, and most of them will block the wind pretty well. If you’re really pushing it hard, you can always unzip a bit to get more air moving. Like warmers, these have the advantage of being removable and low bulk, so they can be easily stored in a pocket if necessary.
- Long Finger Gloves: For most riders, long finger gloves are essential. Cold fingers become stiff and lethargic, which is bad news since as cyclists we depend on our fingers to operate the brakes and shift mechanisms, so keeping them warm is essential. Don’t go for heavy insulated gloves or ones with WindStopper material though, as these are usually too warm for this time of year, and you’ll just end up with sweat-soaked gloves that may chill your fingers even more.
- Headband: On very cold mornings I like to start off wearing a headband. The headband keeps your ears and forehead warm, while still allowing heat to escape through the top of your head. As an added benefit, when it’s time to remove it, the headband is so small you almost won’t notice it in your pocket.
- Toe Warmers: I reserve these for only the coldest mornings. As the name implies, these are little half booties that go over the ends of your shoes to help add insulation to your toes. Again, once these are no longer needed, they can removed and stowed in a pocket. If you’re like me and have toes that, once cold, will never warm up no matter what, you may want to try oversocks, which are just like normal regular socks, but tougher, that you wear over your shoes to help them hold in some extra warmth.
2. PAY ATTENTION TO THE WEATHER: Remember that cloudy days will be colder than sunny ones, and windy days will be colder than calm ones. It’s also a good idea to check the entire forecast for the day—or at least the next few hours. Dress appropriately for the weather, but if you’re unsure what to for given conditions, then check out this cool app from Bicycling Magazine.
3. PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY: After I get dressed for a ride, I like to go stand in my driveway in an area exposed to the wind for a minute or two and see how I feel. On a cold morning you should start off feeling slightly chilled, but not cold. If you’re shivering, then you don’t have enough clothes on, so go back inside and add a layer. If you feel nice and toasty warm, that’s pretty much a guarantee you’ll be roasting within the next 20 minutes, so you could probably stand to drop a layer or two. During your ride it can sometimes be tough to know when it’s time to pull over and take off a layer or two. Surprisingly, your ears will generally be the best indicator of how hot you’re getting. If your ears start to feel warm or hot, then it’s time to either unzip or shed a layer.
4. BRIGHTEN IT UP: My favorite kit color is black, and I make no apologies for it. During the fall though, I realize that just isn’t practical or safe. The days are shorter, and drivers are more distracted with leaves and stuff, so it’s more important than ever to stand out while on the road. I personally opt for a fluoro yellow wind vest, and leg and arm warmers with plenty of reflective accents on them. You don’t necessarily have to go fluoro, but choosing a bright color like red, blue or yellow will help you be more visible to passing cars.
5. ROLL WELL STOCKED: Speaking of shorter days, you need to roll prepared when you ride in the fall—especially if you’re going solo. I always stuff a set of safety lights in my jersey pocket, even if I plan on being back before dark. A good set, like the Blackburn Flea 2.0 combo are lightweight and very bright. Also remember that there are fewer cyclists on the road, so there are fewer people who can help you if you are having mechanical problems. Make sure you have a flat repair kit and multi-tool, and you know how to use them.