It’s a very British stereotype to start by talking about the weather. However – it’s also unavoidable when we live in a country where the weather plays tricks on us. A typical autumn day might begin with fog and a slightly dampening mist, giving way to bright shining sun, which soon disappears to be replaced by downpour.
Here are a few of the essential items you’ll be pleased not to be without:
A baselayer is the foundation from which you build your riding attire. A good quality layer next to your skin will be breathable, and will wick sweat away from your body. This will come into its own if you stop for a coffee or need to mend a puncture. Cooling, sweaty skin can make you feel very cold – and your baselayer will prevent this from happening.
My favourite is the Dry Original from Helly Hansen – but there are plenty of good brands out there.
Arm and Leg Warmers
These are the most cost effective and versatile items in a cyclist’s wardrobe. Slip them on when it’s chilly, tuck them away when it’s not.
When buying arm warmers – one thing to look for is the elastic at the top of the arm. It needs to be snug. If it’s not, they’ll roll down leaving an annoying gap and get on your nerves. I’ve got a pair of ‘Specialized Arm Warmers’ I more than recommend.
Leg warmers are great – but women beware. I once believed it was only me who got ‘muffin top’ leg wearing leg warmers, till I had a chat with my female riding friends and discovered it’s an unfortunate truth that this affects many women. Tight elastic holding them up often results in a little bulge. If this annoys you, ¾ lengths are a great option.
Packable Jacket and/or Gilet
We all know at some point during a ride you will get rained on. A packable jacket will roll up to a tiny ball you can pop into your pocket, and pull out when needed. I have a Castelli Sottile jacket and I love it.
The gilet is sleeveless and not really waterproof, and designed more to keep the wind off your chest on those blustery days.
The packable will make you more comfortable when a downpour comes your way, but you will probably need it less often. The gilet is highly versatile, but it won’t save your skin like a jacket. Ideally, have one of each.
Remember to slip on a gilet or packable when you stop. You might not feel cold immediately, but your body temperature will drop quickly.
When it comes time to look for a heavier duty winter jacket, our London Cyclist guide to buying a winter jacket might come in handy.
Overshoes and gloves
A pair of overshoes will cover up all those little vents in your shoes which you appreciate so much during the summer.
There are quite a few options here. The toe or shoe ‘cover’ slips over the front of the shoe. I usually find it’s my toes that really feel the chill, and these just make the right amount of difference.
You can also go for a thin pair of oversocks – they take the edge off the chill, but aren’t so winterised you find your feet feel like they’ve been deposited in some sort of foot-spa-come-sauna mid-ride. I like the Mavic Knit Socks – at around £12 they’re replaceable which is good because after time they will get dirty.
Finally, you can go all out and pick up a neoprene option to keep your feet dry on the miserable days. We talked more about overshoes on the London Cyclist once before.
When it comes to gloves – you’ll get away with mitts for a while, but long fingered options will creep in as the temperature dips. I’d suggest trying a couple of pairs on and imagine shifting gears whilst wearing them– even test it in the shop if you can. I remember riding with a friend once who loved his big bulky gloves, till he tried to change gear and couldn’t grasp the lever.
When faced with the task of kitting yourself out for the season, think quality. Cheap kit is a false economy if you intend to keep up your riding hobby for years to come.
Autumn is a beautiful time to ride, crisp mornings and clear skies clouded by the fluttering of turning leaves never gets old – and with the right kit, you can be out there enjoying it all day long.
Michelle began a beautiful relationship with cycling in 2010 and currently focus’ her efforts on riding down dual carriageways at 190bpm, or ‘time trialling’. She blogs about training, racing, products and everything else at ridewriterepeat.com and tweets from @MichelleArthurs.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.