Clothing tips for your autumn rides

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:

Baselayer

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.

A baselayer is a good place to start

A baselayer is a good place to start

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.

Racing in my favourite combo: arm warmers and ¾ lengths. Credit: London Cycle Sport

Racing in my favourite combo: arm warmers and ¾ lengths. Credit: London Cycle Sport.

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

An array of packable jackets and gilets at the top of a big climb (not England, admittedly)

An array of packable jackets and gilets at the top of a big climb (not England, admittedly)

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.

Shoe covers take the edge off the chill

Shoe covers take the edge off the chill

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.

A product shot of Mavic Oversocks

My favourite oversocks by Mavic

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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6 Responses to Clothing tips for your autumn rides

  1. humancyclist 08/10/2013 at 8:46 pm #

    I think you can balance quality with cheap – quality for jackets, outer gloves and shoes covers. Cheap for base layers and glove liners. Oh and get a Buff or something similar too. Good for the ears, head and neck.

    And remember – don’t wear too much. If you overheat and sweat you’ll be very uncomfortable. Dress for how warm you’ll be ten minutes into the ride not the beginning.

    • Michelle 14/10/2013 at 6:27 am #

      Good point – certainly worth spending on the key components, jackets, gloves etc – but a couple of cheaper bits will really help – cheap buff/underhat cap make a world of difference when real winter sets in!

  2. george debono 11/10/2013 at 2:45 pm #

    But………you cannot possibly go to work in such fancy dress ?

    I had an executive job which meant wearing suit, tie etc and always wore normal clothes. I always bought my suits with two pairs of trousers and rotate laundry for the trousers which tend to suffer on a bike & left matching suit jackets (& a blazer) hanging in my office. I used an anorak (ie ‘wind-cheater’) and zip-up pullover underneath for the road (the thickness of pullover depending on temperatures (usually sub zero in DK) . The point is that It only took me about 30 seconds to be seated at my desk after arriving by bike – basically as long as it took to unzip my anorak and pullover.

    I really don’t understand this ritualistic obsession with Lycra ! When I used to cycle to work in Denmark I shared the roads with millions of Danes. Over 5 of cycling to work there I don’t remember ever, ever seeing any commuters wearing lycra ! (or a helmet for that matter) You’d probably freeze to death in Lycra anyway. And I cannot really remember seeing any lycra in Switzerland & Germany either. Some weeks ago Richard Caseby (Sunday Times) said of the danes “..they’d rather change a tyre with their teeth than wear the Lycra and fluorescence favoured by Brits. The Danes just look normal.” Quite !

    • Ross 12/10/2013 at 8:32 am #

      I totally agree george.
      I will never understand what possesses grown men (some seriously overweight) to dress up like they are competing in the tour de france just to go to work. I need to wear a suit and have to travel across 3 different locatins in london. I carry waterproofs, a laptop and lunch. Lycra should be saved for the bedroom. Walking around with your package clearly visible under your overhang in front of women and chikdren is just wrong, makes you look like an idiot and will not get you there any quicker.

  3. Michelle 14/10/2013 at 6:24 am #

    Hi guys

    I suppose it depends how long your ride is, or if perhaps you might like to ride on the weekend for leisure. I know a few people who commute about 20-30 miles each way (from London), and I’m not sure they would be comfortable in a suit!

    My work caters for cyclists, with about 8 showers at the office, and a drying room for hanging wet clothing, plus lockers for storing work clothes – so we can ride in comfort, then change ready for the professional day. Of course, not everyone has that – and I’ve worked at places where it wasn’t the case and done ok with a sink and a backpack to carry work clothes – perhaps the best way to seamlessly get from soggy cyclist to working professional in 10 minutes could be my next post!

    As for visible packages and overhang… well – I suppose the former isn’t an issue for me, and for those riding to lose weight – it’s great to see they’re getting fit, hopefully the overhang will diminish in time :-)

    Michelle

  4. george debono 14/10/2013 at 2:55 pm #

    REPLY

    You query “comfortable in a suit” ? – Well, not quite a ‘suit’ – I’d wear only the trousers and a normal shirt which were perfectly comfy on a bike even for longish distances – the (matching ) suit jacket was left hanging at the office

    As for leisure – again I always found ordinary clothes comfortable enough .

    And in my experience of almost 30 years of cycling to work in 5 countries, I never needed a shower – all it need is to allow 10 -15% more time for the journey and taking it at an easy pace & carefully matching clothes to weather conditions.

    There are those who prefer Lycra etc and I must confess I never tried it – so who am I to advise otherwise ?

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