Autumn conditions can best be described as mixed. If you’re out riding for any decent amount of time during Autumn, chances are you’ll experience warmth, rain, chills, breezes, low sun and dinge.
Deciding what to wear can become troublesome. You probably won’t be able to find an outfit that works – unadjusted – from the start of your ride all the way through until the end of your ride. So first of all you need to accept that your clothing for the day can be easily tweaked and tailored to the permanently changing conditions.
The key word here is layers.
Rather than risking a single layer and having it turn out to be too cold or too hot at different points in the ride, wearing two or three different layers of thinnish garments is the solution for the vagaries of Autumnal cycling.
The idea being that you can remove (or add) layers as and when the changeable conditions dictate. If you’re starting off at the crack of dawn it’ll be chilly but then once the days warms up you’ll need to strip off a bit. Or if you’re on an evening ride it may start sunny and warm but the temperature will soon drop as sundown approaches so you’ll need to pause and throw on an extra layer.
The outer layer needs to be easy to unzip or be removed entirely in a quick way. They also need to be made of a material that can be scrumpled up and stowed away either in your backpack if you’re a mountain biker or into the rear pockets of your jersey if you’re a road cyclist.
Generally speaking the less-featured an outer layer is the better it will be during Autumn riding. Fewer zips and fewer pockets etc make for less bulk, increased breathability and a comfier garment all round.
Starting with the head and working our way down to the toes, here’s our guide to what works well in Autumn.
Little cloth peak caps worn under a helmet aren’t just for exuding a retro vibe. They perform a few useful tasks. Namely, keeping the wind-chill off your bonce and shading your eyes from the blinding end-of-day low-sun.
If you’re a mountain biker and the thought of wearing something so “roadie” doesn’t sit right with you, then you could think about getting a thin skull cap (obviously your helmet peak can
do the low-sun duties).
The Castelli Cycling Head Thingy can also be worn around your neck to keep away the collar drafts.
Sunglasses aren’t just for sun. Whether you’re a road cyclist looking to prevent watering eyes or a mountain biker looking to stop filth being flung in your eyes, you always need some eyewear.
The changing light and weather of Autumn makes it incredibly difficult to choose the correct lens tint. A great innovation are glasses that have lenses that automatically change darkness/lightness according to the light levels.
Known informally by a lot of people as “reactalite lenses” (which is a trade name) they go by other names such as “photochromic” or “variomatic”. Such glasses change from dark-to-light within a few seconds whenever the surrounding light changes due to cloud cover or entering trees etc.
You probably have a full-on waterproof cycling jacket. You probably have experienced “boiling in the bag” during Autumn rides. A thin wind-proof and water-resistant jacket is a great thing to own during this season.
They aren’t that expensive either. Keep one in your backpack or in your back pocket. Sorted. Never regretted.
Long sleeve jersey
You could go for a short sleeve jersey and a set of arm warmers but we think that’s a bit faffy and bunchy. A long sleeve jersey is the better bet for Autumn.
You can either go for wearing a base layer – there are some that don’t look too odd when worn with nothing over them – or you can opt for a regular long sleeve cycling jersey.
Try to avoid jerseys that have full zips; a half-zip jersey always fits better across the stomach.
Mountain bikers can usually get away with just using their regular full-finger gloves but any mitt-wearing road cyclists should switch to full-finger gloves for Autumn. It’s not nice having chilly fingers and once they’ve gone chilly they’re really difficult to warm up again aren’t they?
3/4 bib shorts
Unlike the mountain bike scene, 3/4 bib shorts are a surprisingly rare sight in road cycling but they shouldn’t be.
They keep your knees warm which prevents significant chill from entering the rest of your legs. Comfier and better looking than knee warmers.
3/4 baggy overshorts are becoming less of a common sight on mountain bikers.
This is because more and more riders are using knee pads which do the knee warming job nicely!
Having said that, some riders will always prefer the adaptability of knee warmers.
It’s worth paying a bit more for knee warmers – the better quality ones tend to stay in place better during pedalling.
Long, warm socks
A good pair of relatively high top socks can make all the difference. The general trend in recent years is for socks to get longer and longer and we think that’s a good thing. Go for a mid-calf length at least, made from a warm material.
One for road cyclists really – overshoes just get destroyed instantly if you take them out mountain biking. Yes, warm or even waterproof socks are all well and good but there’s still nothing that keeps foot dampness and chill at bay better than the infamous overshoe.
Thankfully the modern day overshoe is a much nicer looking thing than it used to be. Improvements in materials and construction have made overshoes fit better and look better.
And if you don’t want to wrestle with an overshoe, you could always just get quick-on-quick-off toe covers that do a surprisingly good job too.
Not technically clothing admittedly but keeping a dinky rear LED in your pack or pocket can often be a lifesaver. We’ve all been on rides that went on unexpectedly too long either due to enthusiasm or bike malfunction!
Don’t get caught out – and run over – get a small rear light.
p.s. here’s how not to take a jacket off whilst cycling along…