Whether you prefer to do your fall biking in the woods or on the road, pedaling into November gives you access to sights, smells, and sensations that fair-weather biking can’t offer. Here are a few key adaptations to your cycling wardrobe that will keep you cranking while you wait for the first snowfall of winter.
- BIKING JACKETS
Okay, the temperature is 40°F and your first thought as you head out is to bundle up. Don’t do it. After 10 minutes of hard riding, your body will start generating heat like a blast furnace. Avoid the common mistake of dressing too warmly-go with a lightweight, wind-resistant shell as your outer layer. Make sure it has a full-zip front for venting, plus a drop tail for coverage in the back.
- BIKING JERSEYS AND TOPS
Wearing multiple light layers helps trap insulating air between layers of clothing. Start with a thin polyester base layer that will quickly wick moisture away from your skin to keep you dry. On colder days, add an easy-to-shed midlayer such as a synthetic long-sleeve shirt or bike jersey. A vest is another good option, as it warms your core while leaving your arms free to move.
- BIKING PANTS & TIGHTS
The rule of thumb is to keep the knees covered at 50°F or lower, so time to trade in your cycling shorts for knickers or capris. If it’s colder than that, opt for full-length tights instead. Breathable tights that have wind-resistant fronts are best. If the tights you select don’t have padded bottoms (they often don’t), wear them over your bike shorts.
- BIKING HEADWEAR
The vents in your helmet that are such an asset during the scorching summer months become a major liability when the mercury dips and you’re hauling at 30 mph. To prevent your scalp from going numb, be sure to wear a thin synthetic skullcap or headband under the helmet. If it’s especially cold, choose a skullcap with earflaps, or better yet, a thin balaclava (the thing that looks like a ninja mask) to cover your mouth and neck.
- BIKING SOCKS
Cycling socks with merino wool will add needed warmth. Also include thin liner socks against the skin. Just be sure to pay close attention to how these thicker socks affect the fit of your shoes. Bike shoes tend to be snug anyway, and too many socks might create constriction, which can inhibit blood flow and cause even colder feet.
- BIKE SHOE COVERS
Cycling covers (or booties) cover the exterior of your shoes and protect from cold and wind. These are often made of neoprene, but remember that neoprene does not breathe well and can increase clamminess. Other options include toe covers, chemical heat pads, and even electrically heated shoe insoles. Those who are committed to riding through the winter will sometimes buy extra bike shoes that are a size larger to accommodate additional (or heavier) socks.
- ARM & LEG WARMERS
Perfect for semi-cold conditions, arm and leg warmers provide good insulation and can be rolled up or removed entirely if the weather warms.
- BIKE GLOVES
It’s tough to shift when your thumbs are numb. And when you combine colder air temperatures with a strong headwind, your hands are going to notice. Leave the fingerless gloves at home and go for full-fingered gloves. In frigid conditions, consider bike mittens or even bike pogies that fit over the handlebars.
- BIKE LIGHTING
With the colorful trees comes reduced daylight. Place a white light on the front of your bike and a red one (usually a flasher) in the rear. Lights are often sold in sets. They should be visible from 500 feet.
- BIKE REFLECTION
A reflector vest worn over your clothing makes you more visible to oncoming cars and indiscriminate hunters, while also helping to block wind. Reflectors can also come in the form of tape, stickers, and plastic pieces that mount to your bike. White reflectors are more visible than amber or red ones. In any event, be sure to avoid dark clothing.
Photo Credit B Taylor – Coos Cycling Club