Knowledge Level: Intermediate
It is not unusual during autumn in Britain to experience all of the seasons in one ride. Getting your kit right can be hard, but follow these tips for more comfortable, safer and successful mixed conditions riding.
Comfort begins next to your skin with a quality wicking base layer. This will draw chilling sweat away from your skin and some materials, such as Merino wool, will continue to insulate even when wet but not cause you to overheat if the sun comes out. The fit should be tight to facilitate the wicking process. A short sleeved baselayer, when combined with arm warmers offer more flexibility than long sleeved. Some base layers also incorporate windproof front panels, increasing protection and reducing the need for additional layers on top.
With a quality base layer and a shell to put on and take off as the conditions dictate, you may find that a standard jersey is adequate in the autumn. However, for cooler early autumn conditions, a long sleeved winter weight jersey is a very versatile garment. Some manufacturers produce ones that blur the lines between jackets and jerseys, offering impressive protection against both the cold and wet. For hard riding in the autumn, these can be ideal.
No matter how breathable a waterproof claims to be, in milder autumn conditions and if you are riding fairly hard, you will soon be soaked through from the inside. A lightweight wind-resistant jacket that you can stash in your jersey pocket might not keep you dry in persistent rain but it will certainly take the edge off on long chilling descents or during showers.
Arm and leg/knee warmers
Autumn kit is all about versatility and adapting to changing conditions and, for that, removable arm and leg warmers are impossible to beat. Stick them on for cool starts and then simply peel them off and stash them in your pockets when it warms up. If you adhere to old school cycling thinking, you shouldn’t expose your knees in temperatures below 15⁰C. Insulation varies from fully fleece lined to simple lycra. Fit is crucial and it is essential for knee and leg warmers that they are well articulated around your knees and don’t restrict your pedalling.
Another super versatile piece of kit that will give you some insulation and protection in the cold and wet but also keep you cool if it warms up. The small peak helps to keep the rain out of your eyes and, if it gets really hot, you can just stow it in one of your jersey pockets.
Although you shouldn’t be battling cold feet in the same way as during the winter, lighter weight wind and water resistant overshoes are still advisable during the autumn. Even a simple lycra covering will keep the vents of your shoes covered and your feet warmer and drier. For warmer autumn days, when overshoes are just too much, toe covers give an easily removable and storable option.
If you suffer from cold hands, switching to mitts for mixed autumn days probably isn’t an option but your winter gauntlets are probably just a bit too bulky. As long as they are windproof, you can get away with fairly thin long fingered gloves in surprisingly low temperatures. Neoprene gloves can also be really effective in mixed conditions. Once wet, they retain an insulating layer of water next to your skin, so they don’t need to be excessively bulky.
Dress to the session
For shorter more intense sessions, such as intervals or hill reps, you can wear less and not worry about getting wet in the rain. Still take a gilet or lightweight windproof though to put on for warming up, cooling down and recovery intervals. The longer and less intense the ride, the more you need to think about long term comfort and layering flexibility.