I’m lucky enough to live in a place with a temperate climate which means I can ride my bike outdoors all year round. But even in the mild Autumn and Spring mornings I wear a number of warmer clothing items to keep me comfortable on the bike.
The most important thing I’ve learnt about riding in cooler weather is you need to wear layers, so you can peel them off (and on) as required. It’s really awful to go riding and feel cold but it’s equally bad to get overheated on the bike.
So when the weather starts to cool you need to think about the following items of apparel:
Three quarter length knicks – I own several sets of three quarter length knicks, all of them are bib knicks but you can also buy regular knicks in three quarter length. The bib knick variety are a little hard to track down, so look out for Rapha and Specialized which are two brands in my cycling wardrobe.
Arm warmers – these are the best piece of cycling apparel you’ll ever purchase. I own several pairs and wear them often (probably too often). The best part about them is that you can take them on and off, and can even just peel them down to your wrists if you want to cool down quickly. I often take mine off and put them in my back pocket during a ride and then put them back on at the café. Don’t skimp on these. You can buy relatively cheap ones that are just cylinder-shaped or you can spend a little more and get ones that are shaped to your arms. Like me when I first started riding, you’ll be tempted to go with the cheap ones but don’t be fooled. Skip the cheap ones. A great benefit of both arm and knee/leg warmers is that you can continue to wear your short sleeve jerseys and short knicks when the weather starts to cool down.
Knee warmers/Leg warmers – Like arm warmers these are great because you can take them off and put them in your pocket when you get too warm. And again don’t go with the cheap ones because they’ll have no shape and will dig into your thighs making them very unattractive. I’ve heard this look called the ‘sausage effect’. You definitely want to avoid that. Unsurprisingly I have Specialized brand leg and knee warmers and I’d recommend them for avoiding the ‘sausage effect’.
Toe warmers – These are half shoe covers that cover your toes and more importantly block those great air vents in your shoes that work so well on a hot day but make your feet really cold in cooler weather. They are designed to cover your toes and part of you shoe and have a cut-out for cleats. They are also good for riding on wet roads for keeping your shoes clean.
Long finger gloves – You can buy gloves with full fingers that are very similar to the no finger variety in weight, so they allow you hands to keep warm rather than toasty. I have Specialized brand gloves but I’m sure there are many others out there. Mine even have a feature called ‘wire tap’ that allow you to text on your smart phone without taking your gloves off.
Head band – When the air is cool I tend to get ear aches when riding my bike so I wear a head band around my ears to keep them warm. You can buy a cycling brand one but I’m happy with the Lorna Jane (fitness clothing brand) ones that I’ve been using for a few years.
Gilet/vest – I discovered the benefits of a gilet a couple of years ago and have not ridden without one in Autumn and Spring since. I prefer a gilet with a windbreaker front and a mesh rear panel. That way you keep warm across the front but can cool down as you sweat. I now own a few gilets including my own Women Who Cycle edition that I recently offered for sale. A gilet should be light enough that it can be easily folded and put in your rear pocket (like I did on this morning’s ride).
Undershirt – I wear an undershirt all year round, even in summer but it really comes into its own when the weather cools. I like a sleeved undershirt at this time of year because I can then put my arm warmers over the top of the sleeve edges and put my short sleeve jersey over both items. That way you are sealed up and the jersey sleeves can’t creep up to expose your skin.
Above all else I recommend you look for these items in your local bike shop and if you can’t find what you’re looking for, mention it to the staff in the shop so they know to order them in the future. The biggest advantage of buying them in your local bike shop is that you can try them on, but don’t try them on in-store and then head for the internet to buy the ones you just tried on. You won’t win any friends that way. I’m a little biased on this subject because I work in a shop but there’s nothing more annoying. I had a customer quiz me the other day about this subject but he didn’t actually buy anything. He thanked me for the advice and headed for the door. I hope he returns one day to shop with us but that’s the risk I take every time I dispense advice on the shop floor.