It may seem impossible to dress for days like these, but it's not. Our fall cycling apparel guide lists exactly what you need to survive the swing seasons.
Prepping for Cool Weather Cycling2 of 8
Photo courtesy of Massachusetts Tourism
When planning what to wear, check the weather forecast for points along your route, as well as predicted conditions for later in your ride. Consider elevation changes, and the fact that urban areas can be several degrees warmer than rural ones. Lastly, check for any chance of precipitation along the route.
It's OK if you're a bit cool at the start. You'll warm up quickly, especially on clear, calm days. Dressing in layers is never a bad idea, and full-zip tops allow for effective heat regulation. But if you naturally run a little cool, it's never a bad idea to take a conservative approach. And, for all weather conditions, the right cycling socks can make the difference between a successful few hours in the saddle and total misery.
Crisp and Dry Weather Conditions3 of 8
On days when the weather forecast indicates temperatures below 50 degrees, with no chance of rain, plan on wearing the same gear from start to finish.
The Giro Chrono Expert LS thermal jersey ($149), with a soft, high-loft interior, is among the most comfortable jerseys we've tried. We're especially fond of the tape-like cuffs, and it's water repellent, which is great when you're starting in a bit of fog. The men's race-cut fit runs true to size, and a women's cut of the Chrono Expert thermal long sleeve jersey is also available.
Match your Chrono Expert jersey with the Giro Chrono Expert thermal bib tight ($179). These bibs kept us warm, even when temps dipped below 40 degrees. The chamois is form-fitting, and we could hardly feel it once we got rolling. However, the most appreciated features are the three lower back pockets, which are great for keeping cycling nutrition at body temperature while riding. Giro also makes the Chrono Expert bib for women, with a three-quarter length leg.
Moderate Weather Conditions4 of 8
When the outside temperature will be above 50 degrees throughout your ride, we suggest starting with a lighter-weight long sleeve top and maybe even a lightweight base layer. Anticipate warming up quickly, with a goal of staying comfortable without overheating later in your ride.
To achieve this goal, we like Rapha's Tricolor Long Sleeve Jersey ($170). The fit is just right: not race-fit snug, but it won't ever billow in the wind. A unique feature places grippers on the inside of the right rear pocket, which prevents loss of contents when fishing around for a snack. The Rapha three-quarter length Bib Shorts ($275) are worth every penny, as well. Their chamois is oh-so-comfortable during longer rides (even on bumpy gravel roads), and the bib straps keep the lightly compressive body and leg panels in place without tugging or shifting.
Varying Weather Conditions5 of 8
On days when you'll be riding in a variety of temperatures, plan on layering. A base layer will wick sweat, which will keep you warm and dry. Full-zip tops are great for precisely regulating your temperature. Arm and knee warmers are easily stripped, and gloves and shoe covers can also be stowed in pockets.
On blustery, overcast days, we found ourselves reaching for the Gore Windstopper collection. The Gore Windstopper base layer short sleeve shirt ($49) kept us dry and snug, and didn't chafe under the Windstopper short sleeve jersey ($179). The jersey is form-fitting (choose a size larger if in doubt), with near-elbow-length sleeves. It also features a tall collar with a soft interior to kept out the chill. The matching Windstopper arm warmers ($59) disappear under the jersey sleeves, and include a silicone grip strip to keep them in place inside the Windstopper gloves ($59). The combination kept our forearms and fingers warm, even as the mercury barely inched above 40 degrees.
Completing our layers, the Gore Windstopper leg warmers ($69) are another essential addition. They zip nearly to the knee, with a band at the top that lies flat under our Gore Windstopper bib shorts ($249). The ultra-breathable vest-like top of the bib shorts offers additional protection on windy days, without any extra volume. Gore's Windstopper cycling gear, which is also water repellent, will continue to serve as the perfect go-to pieces for early spring rides when there's almost always a chance of precipitation.
Cold Weather Start, Moderate Weather Finish6 of 8
If you'll be riding in constantly changing temperatures, we advise layering pieces that easily accommodate a variety of weather conditions.
The Louis Garneau Spire Convertible Jacket ($180) pulls double-duty as a jacket or a vest. Its easy-zip sleeves with breathable panels are great for cool rides. Worn as a vest, it keeps us warm, even on breezy days. Plus, Louis Garneau offers a women's version of the Spire jacket, with all of the same Polartec and Power Shield Pro fabrics and features as the men's version.
If we knew we wouldn't get strange looks, we'd sport the matching Louis Garneau Enduro 3 bib knickers ($105) as street wear. Their contoured chamois interior is that comfortable. Lastly, we completed the ensemble with the Louis Garneau H2O II shoe covers ($50), which are easy-on and easy-off, as well as the Louis Garneau Rafale 2 gel gloves ($40). These gloves run true to size, and provide excellent comfort and protection from the cool weather.
Bike Commute in Cool and Dry Weather7 of 8
For shorter rides and bike commutes, you'll want to stay warm from start to finish. Multiple layers aren't as great a concern as on longer rides, and it's nice to wear casual cycling clothes without having to kit up in full-on cycling apparel.
The Pearl Izumi Versa Quilted Hoodie ($225) quickly became our favorite for bike commuting, running (or cycling) errands, walking to the coffee shop and pretty much any other daily task. Its sleeves and back panel are long enough to keep out the breeze, and Pearl Izumi's Primaloft fill kept us plenty cozy. The full-width rear pocket adds great extra storage space, and reflective detailing on the cuffs, chest pocket, low back and hood draw strings are a key safety element for low light conditions. Pearl Izumi also offers a women's Versa Quilted Hoodie with similar styling and features.