The humid, dogs days of summer have left us for the beautiful days and crisp nights of fall. As we prepare for cooler days ahead, cycling guide Christian Vande Velde shares his advice for evaluating your cold weather clothes and preparing for the chilly rides to come.
The clocks have fallen back, signalling the cooler, darker days of fall and winter are on their way.
As you prepare for cold weather, know your clothes, your body and your ride. What temperature is this jersey or baselayer designed for? Do my hands, feet or ears get cold easily? Where am I riding today and what are the conditions? Ask yourself each of these questions before you head out.
Autumn is pretty easy to plan for. Almost without fail the temperature will change (for the better!) about ten degrees over the course of a two hour ride. Obviously, this is a luxury that we have here in the Carolinas — in my home city of Chicago? Not so much!
For fall riding in these varying temperatures, I recommend light layers that can easily be taken off and stashed in back pockets to avoid overheating.
In addition to your standard shorts and jersey, my go-to list of fall cycling gear includes:
- A thin headband that doesn’t disrupt the way my helmet fits and is easy to take off when the temp goes up.
- I like to have a few different base layers at my disposal that differ in thickness and arm length: Vest, short sleeve and long sleeve. Keeping your core warm — and, most importantly, dry — is the key to staying comfortable. Additionally, base layers with wicking properties keep the perspiration off your skin and breathe with you. Stay away from cotton in favor of merino wool.
- After the base layer, the vest is the most important piece of clothing that you will have. Wear it on the way out on your ride to protect you from the wind and remember to take it off and before you get too sweaty. Then, have it at the ready to put on after a coffee stop or at the top of a descent.
- Easy on, easy off arm warmers are a great addition to your wardrobe in autumn. Slide them down around your wrists on a climb and pull them back up when you descend or get cool again.
- I have poor circulation in my hands and a pair of thin gloves really helps to even out my body temp. Like arm warmers, gloves are easy to take off and stow in my pocket when they’re no longer needed.
- For moderate temperatures, I prefer knee warmers over full leg warmers. They’ll keep you warm as you begin your ride, and are easy to remove if you get too warm.
- Toe warmers go over your shoe and around your cleat, covering about half of your shoe with (usually) a neoprene fabric, keeping your feet warm and not restricting your pedaling as much as a full shoe cover will. They are inexpensive and again, easy to take off if needed.
You can find these items and more from Hincapie Sportswear or your favorite cycling supplier. Gear up, and I’ll see you on the road!
Christian Vande Velde retired from racing in 2013. His many accomplishments include: 2008 Team Time Trial victory at the Giro d’Italia, where he became only the second American ever to don the coveted maglia rosa; 2011 Tour de France Team Time Trial win and Best Team victory; two-time top 10 Overall Tour de France finisher (2008 and 2009); 2012 overall win at the USA Pro Cycling Challenge.