Autumn weather is difficult to dress for – it can feel like a lovely summer’s day one minute and plunge into winter the next. With evenings drawing in, your warm afternoon ride can start to feel chilly sooner than you expect. Choosing the right clothing for a ride when the weather is unpredictable is tricky, but with a few mix and match items you can stay warm, dry and comfortable.
Autumn is a much tougher proposition to dress for than winter when the temperature doesn’t fluctuate as much throughout the day. In autumn the temperature can hit summer-like highs at mid-day but cool down rapidly as the day goes on. With huge temperature variations possible throughout your ride the key to comfort is layering; having items of clothing that you can put on or take off as the weather changes. We’ve come up with a kit-list of items to add to your basic shorts and jersey combo that will see you through autumn until the real cold of winter arrives.
Knee and arm warmers
Transform your shorts into full-length cover and add sleeves to your jersey with these simple, but indispensable, pieces of kit. Knee and arm warmers come in different fabrics for different conditions – windproof, thermal, shower resistant and even SPF sun-protection –but you can’t go wrong with a basic pair of fleece lined warmers. Perfect for chilly mornings, you can start your ride wearing them but slip them off as the day warms up as they are light enough to roll up and store in a pocket. Merino knit ones like these are a good choice, or soft and cosy fleece lined ones like these are great on cold days.
Every rider needs a thin yet protective lightweight jacket that can be balled-up to put in a pocket yet provides enough coverage to keep the wind out and warmth in. This style of jacket is useful for keeping warm in the first 30 minutes of a chilly morning ride but can be slipped off and stowed as you start to heat up. Thin jackets are great for slipping on while sitting in the café, or an extra layer if the weather gets worse unexpectedly. If you commute, keep one permanently in your work bag. Described here as a race cape this jacket has plenty of protection for when the weather turns bad but is still small enough to keep in a pocket or pack. It’s a daily essential in every season.
Gilet for core protection
Similar to an emergency jacket but minus the sleeves, a gilet is designed to offer protection for your core against wind and rain. Your chest takes the brunt of wind and rain as you ride along and by keeping your chest and stomach protected it can help your whole body feel a lot cosier. A gilet is enough to keep you warm, but not too warm, when there is a light breeze or shower on an otherwise pleasant autumnal day. A very thin layer like this one is perfect for when it’s just a touch too cool to be comfortable in a jersey.
Versatile base layers
Your next-to-skin layer is the foundation of your outfit, changing your base layers for different conditions is just as important as your choice of outer layers. Stocking up your cycling wardrobe with a few different base-layers is also a cheaper way to adapt your clothing to different seasons. For example, swapping a short-sleeve mesh vest for a long-sleeve merino base layer can allow you to comfortably wear the same long sleeve jersey right through to winter.
Thin long finger gloves
Keeping your hands warm is important for you to be able to feel the brakes and control your bike. Many riders really struggle with keeping their hands warm while cycling, mainly because your hands are sat on the bars cutting through the cold wind the whole time you are riding. Thin long fingered gloves are useful especially when cycling in cool mornings or evenings. A pair like these are easy to carry with you, ready to slip on if your fingertips start to feel a bit icy. With a bit of good weather, we can hopefully leave the thick cumbersome winter gloves in the drawer for a bit longer.
A few extra items will add versatility to your cycling wardrobe so you can ride comfortably in a wider range of temperatures and conditions, keeping you going until it’s time to dig your big jacket and bib-tights out.
What is your favourite piece of autumn cycling kit?