Choosing the best autumn cycling clothing
Britain’s weather is anything but predictable at this time of year and that presents really rather difficult clothing decisions for us mountain bikers.
Ranging from dry and cold to wet,windy and humid and everything else between those extremes, knowing just what to wear can be a harder task than figuring out the square root of 75. You can find yourself rifling through your wardrobe for ages before a ride, poking your head out the front door, rushing back in to make a last minute change. Only to have to strip everything off 30 minutes into the ride when you realise you’re wearing too much by the vast amount of sweat pouring off your face.
So to help you battle this difficult season, here’s some of the advice we live by.
You’ve probably heard it before, but it’s all about layers. Wearing several light and thin layers in preference to one chunky jacket will allow you to regulate your temperature and beat the elements.
The weather never stays the same for too long, and neither should your clothing. In one ride it is perfectly possible to experience all manner of weather, from rain to sunshine to wind. By using the layers approach you can adjust what you’re wearing to keep your temperature at a happy level. The beauty of this approach is that you can easily adapt your clothing mid-ride by removing one or several layers to better suit whatever the weather is throwing your way.
The aim with layering is to ensure you’re always wearing the right combination of clothing at all times, and adding or taking away layers is the ideal way to do this. You want to keep yourself warm, but not too warm. Wear too much and you can be soaked in sweat too soon, and you’ll chill when you stop riding or the temperature drops.
Start with a suitable base layer, we always go with a short sleeve Merino wool type for most of the autumn. On top of this a thin technical jersey, long or short sleeve. Which type you choose depends on the weather and temperature range. Ensure you get one that boasts good wicking properties, as it needs to remove the sweat from your base layer and carry upwards.
Over the top of this you can throw a lightweight fleece, a thin waterproof or windproof jacket, or a gilet (sleeveless jersey). There’s a lot of choice, from waterproof jacket to soft shells, which are great for the insulation properties.
Which top layer you choose depends on many factors, from personal preference, where you’re riding, how long you’re riding for and what features you want from a jacket. Some people get cold more easily than others.Looking for features like ventilation ports and removable sleeves for added versatility.
No we’re not talking about bracelets and jangles. Thin Lyrca arm, knee and leg warmers are other staples of our wardrobe that help to manage the temperature as it rises and falls. They allow you to adapt to any conditions you might ride through.
For example, our regular weekend rides usually start early in the morning before the sun has had a chance to fully rise and lift the temperature up. Here knee warmers and arm warmers, an approach borrowed from our road cycling cousins, keep the cold tongue of the dawn off the limbs and when it’s warmed up sufficiently, can be removed and stashed in the hydration pack.
Often you can continue to wear the same gloves as you’ve worn all summer, but if the temperature drops enough that you start to experience cold fingers, it’s time to invest in some warmer mitts. Look for long finger-style gloves with a some sort of insulation material, and longer cuffs to fit over the sleeves of a jacket.
Light is the operative word when it comes to jackets at this time of year. It’s still too warm for that big and heavy winter jacket you invested in during the snow storms last winter, so leave that in the kit bag.
Instead, you want a highly breathable and wind and rain resistant shell (it doesn’t need to be 100% waterproof, as you’re most likely to get brief showers at this time of year), so err on the side of lightness.
It might spend most of the time curled up in your backpack, but it’s always there if you need some additional protection. We would eschew fancy features and go for a simple jacket made from a good quality technical fabric backed by good reviews. A full length zip is a good thing to look for, as it can help you control your temperature, particularly on climbs. Sleeves that can be zipped off hike the price up but can be another option to consider.
It’s good to keep the knees covered up when the temperature drops, as they’re vulnerable to injury when cold. They also like to operate at warmer temperatures so do them a favour and keep them wrapped up.
There’s several ways you can do this. The first is to simply invest in some inexpensive knee warmers, as we’ve mentioned already.
The other is to buy some three-quarter length shorts. These can, depending on your style preference, big Lyrcra or baggy shorts. Longer baggy shorts that reach below the new are a very simple way to keep more of your legs protected from the wind, rain and cold, and because they’re covered up they’ll perform better.
This a great item to add to your arsenal. It might seem odd to remove the sleeves, but a gilet adds just enough extra protection from the elements where you need it most.
Adding a windproof layer over your torso keeps your core temperature stable, and stops your arms from overheating.
So you’re more comfortable.And as they’re small they can easily be packed away when not needed.
The air is cooling and starting to nip at the toes in your highly ventilated race shoes, so now is the time to bring out the warmer socks.
Our favourites are, as with base layers, those made from natural Merino wool.
Other things you might want to invest in include a neck warmer, like the ever-popular Buff. They can also double up as head warmers under the helmet too.
Do you have any top tips that we’ve missed? Feel free to add your essential autumn clothing advice in the forum thread here.