As our temperatures begin to drop from summer highs, riding a bike in Tennessee becomes particularly delightful. Crisp mornings, tunnels of trees, and the beautiful blue skies in October – there’s no better way to experience these things than on your bike. If you are new to the bike, be sure to let us help you with some proven strategies to insure that changing temperatures don’t leave you shivering on your first early fall riding days.
Many new riders can be caught off guard by the difference that 15° can make when temperatures drop below 50°. Riding a bike introduces the factor of wind, coupled with the fact that hands and feet may be relatively immobile. Where a 50° hike will have you shedding a jacket almost immediately, 50° on a cloudy day can be downright cold on the bicycle.
Let’s help keep you completely comfortable with a simple run through of Layering 101. To encourage you to read on, remember that layering is the key to having what you need without breaking the bank. Be sure to check out Fall 2013 merchandise in the pics below this article – these pieces insure that you will look great, and be comfortable! All points are offered assuming you have made the investment in a cycling jersey, complete with multiple big pockets to hold all your items as the day warms up and the layers come off:
- Base Layer – Mom was right: you should wear an undershirt! You will be surprised how much better your core temperature will be regulated by the introduction of this one inexpensive accessory. While a technical fabric (moisture-wicking, fast drying, not 100% cotton) will protect you in the 50’s, you probably won’t think about its presence until temperatures rise above 70°. A base layer is great but never use a cotton T-shirt; cotton will be heavy and it’s almost impossible to dry. A wet layer against the skin on a fast descent would leave you miserable.
- Knee Warmers – Of course we are a little old and arthritic, but we generally cover the knees if temperatures are below 60° and will stay that way. Keeping the wind from directly touching the skin and keeping this key joint toasty is a must. Warmers begin at $24.99, but we’ve seen lots of times that we could have sold them for $100 a pair at a fall century ride. As with any warmer, it’s just a temporary extension of your shorts or sleeves, designed to be pushed down and removed during the ride. We also find that many women enjoy switching over to Capri length cycling shorts at this time of the year. This piece will also serve you well in the spring.
- Arm warmers or “sleeves” – We feel the arm warmer is the must-have accessory. This piece is the cheapest and most useful of the fall accessories. The ability to have long sleeves on at one moment and with a gentle shove, vent the top of the arms immediately is fantastic. Riding through a fall morning over hilly terrain, you may find yourself thankful for sleeves on every downhill and appreciative of the ability to push them down on several of your climbs.
- Wind Vest – A lightweight, foldable vest to keep the wind off the torso is a beautiful thing. A vest is an incredibly small piece, but it can keep you comfortable from the mid 40’s to 60°. These pieces also add additional protection as a cold weather layer over a long sleeve jersey or as light rain protection on a cloudy day. Picking up two or three extra pockets in a vest can also be handy.
- Lightweight Full Finger Gloves – Lightweight gloves with no liners are a must have on a frosty morning when your ride begins at temperatures in the 50’s. As the hands are stationary on the handlebars and subject to wind, a little protection goes a long way. Many of these gloves can be worn over your gel pad cycling gloves, once again ready to be removed on the go as temperatures rise.
- Cycling Specific Eyewear – New riders can ride through the summer possibly using their regular glasses or sunglasses for eye protection, but as temperatures drop, keeping wind from the eyes and face becomes more important. New riders may find it quite disorienting when cooler winds cause the eyes to water unexpectedly on a fast downhill and visibility is instantly limited. Inexpensive cycling glasses that cup against the face can protect a rider’s eyes and also offer interchangeable lenses for variance in cloudy and sunny days.
- Lightweight Foldable Rain Jacket – This piece can be used in addition to or in place of arm warmers and a vest, but the vest/warmer combo will give you the most versatility and value. Be on the lookout for jackets that ball up to the size of your fist as this piece will spend more time in your jersey pocket than on your back.
- Lightweight Shoe or Toe Covers – If the new rider has made the investment in those fabulous vented cycling shoes in the summer, it’s a bit of a bummer to realize that all that ventilation is a big negative on a cool day. Just adding enough fabric to stop the wind will keep you amazingly comfortable. Also remember that a change to light wool socks will keep the toes happy from 50° to 70° for very little cost.
Layering your cycling clothing can provide a way to keep you comfortable without breaking the bank. We also want to add that every item on this list is not required. We find that if you are particularly warm in one area, you can sort of average out to stay comfortable when you don’t have all your warmers in place – in fact, this is another effective strategy you will develop on your own over time. We hope you find this advice helpful and we can’t wait to see you on the road this fall!
Louis Garneau offers great lightweight vests, vented in the back, great pockets, reflective details… Choose a color that you like because you will be wearing this for the next 5 years – the zippers are tough and they never wear out.
We have great lightweight jackets with easily zipped off sleeves that give a rider the Two-for-One of a rain jacket and a vest. Small magnets across the back keep everything flush with the body when the sleeves are on, so there’s no noisy flapping!
Warmers as shown above enable riders to convert short sleeve jerseys to long and shorts to knickers or tights. Warmers starting at $24.99 can be a much less expensive proposition that buying new jerseys and shorts, not to mention the wider range of temperatures you can accommodate.
Base layer, full finger gloves and something to cover the vented shoes – must haves!!
These lightweight women’s pieces are great transitional items for rider who tends to get colder quicker due to her low body fat %.
At Gran fondo, we want to make sure that our men can earn some style points as well. Check out the great options above from Castelli .