Fall weather is upon us, and it’s time to start thinking about fall weather cycling gear. With the proper clothing, you can ride every season of the year and stay comfortable. Whether you just need to dig your gear out of the garage, or you need to update your cold weather wardrobe, here’s a list I put together that will help get you prepared.
10 Recommended Items for Fall Cycling
- Wind Vest – The wind vest is one of my most used pieces of cool weather gear. It keeps your core body protected from frontal winds, but vents in the rear to keep you from overheating. The wind vest is also very versatile. I add my vest to different clothing combinations, using it with regular jerseys, winter jerseys, and arm warmers. It’s also easily stowed in a pack or shirt pocket.
- Wind / Rain Jacket – A windbreaker is usually too hot for recreational/sport riding. I don’t wear one mountain biking until temperatures drop to the 30s. They do however work great for chilly early morning commutes when your pace is slower and the riding is less strenuous. Keep a water resistant jacket handy when rain is in the forecast. In almost all cases, an insulated ski parka will be too hot…keep it light. Look for jackets with good ventilation, either mesh on the back or zippers under the arms. This will help prevent you from overheating. Some jackets even have zip-off sleeves, so it can double as a vest.
- Arm Warmers – I always have arm warmers with me this time of year. They don’t take up much room, and are great for temperature control. Just slide them up or down to adjust your comfort level. Additionally, they stow easily in any pack.
- Insulated Jersey – For days when the temperatures are down in the 30s, an insulated cycling jersey will keep you dry and warm. Another feature of a winter cycling jersey is that it overlaps your pants when seated on the bicycle. This way, no skin is exposed to the elements. I really like the brushed fleece jerseys from Pearl Izumi.
- Full Finger / Windproof Gloves – I like my full fingered gloves for temperatures in the 50s and 60s, but prefer my wind stopper gloves for temperatures the 30s and 40s. Look for something waterproof if you’ll be getting wet. Cold hands are miserable!
- Knickers, Knee Warmers, and Pants – When the temperature starts dropping below 50 degrees, it’s a good idea to cover your knees. There are several options in this area. Cycling pants are available as tights, loose fitting tights, with or without windstopper, or even as rain pants that go over your regular pants. Knickers allow more airflow over the legs, and are good for those in-between days. I’ve never had good luck with knee warmers staying in place, but they work pretty good in a pinch. They’re also good for multiple hour rides with changing temperatures. I prefer pants without a sewn-in chamois that you can wear over bicycle shorts. This way you can use your collection of summer shorts with one pair of pants. My current favorite fall pants are loose fitting tights, with windstopper in the front. They’re great for all but the coldest days.
- Head Band or Skull Cap – Thin micro-fleece head coverings keep your ears and forehead warm, but they still fit easily under your helmet. Headbands are nice when you need to vent more heat out the top of the helmet.
- Wool Socks – Keeping your feet dry and warm can be a challenge in the cold weather, but nice wool socks are your best bet. Wool insulates even when wet. In fact, wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in moisture without becoming damp or clammy. Wool also does a good job at managing odor. My favorite wool socks right now are from SmartWool. I wear them year-round, and they’re the most comfortable I’ve tried. They are definitely worth the extra money. Another tip for warmth is to make sure your shoes aren’t too tight when wearing a bigger sock. A shoe that’s too tight will decrease circulation and decrease the size of the warm air pocket around your foot.
- Shoe Covers – If you’ll be using cycling shoes, you’ll want to get some shoe covers. Cycling shoes are heavily vented for warm weather use, and let in too much cold air. Shoe covers come in small slip-on toe covers, thin booties that cover the whole foot, and even thick insulated neoprene booties for really cold days. Shoe covers slide over your cycling shoes, and have cutouts on the bottom to allow the use of clipless pedals. Because of this, they don’t work well with flat pedals. If you’re using flat pedals, simply switch to a warmer shoe such as an insulated hiking boot.
- Lights – It’s starting to get dark early these days. Don’t get caught in the dark if you aren’t going straight home after work! Plan accordingly. Get a red blinker for the rear that mounts to the bike or your pack, and a decent headlight for the front. A good headlight will light your way, not merely warn oncoming cars of your approach. Don’t forget to check the batteries if they haven’t been used for a while.
Anything I left out? What would you add to this list?
Further Reading – Previous Bike Carson Articles about Fall Cycling: