Gear Up for Fall

Even experienced, tough veterans can find this matter of dressing properly for fall rides vexing. Head out early on a late-October morning and temps can soon warm by 25 degrees or more. Other times, the mercury suddenly plummets, showers roll through and breezes morph into gales.

Showing up at a ride smartly dressed doesn’t only ensure a comfortable outing and add to your enjoyment–it also marks you as a smart rider. Being able to calmly and smoothly respond to the fickle skies of autumn is as impressive and satisfying in its own way as perfectly executing a town-line sprint. Here’s a what-to-wear guide, plus four simple rules that should guide all clothing decisions.

Rule 1: Value Versatility
Have several wardrobe items that can perform under a variety of circumstances: Combining a thermal undershirt, arm warmers and a short-sleeved jersey beats a long-sleeved jersey, because the warmers can come off when the day heats up. Same goes for warmers, a base layer, a wind vest and embrocation.

Rule 2: Look To Layer
Once you’ve acquired a versatile wardrobe of fall and spring gear, start experimenting with different combinations to find the ideal mix for a variety of conditions. Think in layers–the last thing you put on should be the first thing you’ll want to take off.

Rule 3: Use Breathable Fabrics
Make sure whatever you buy is made of a material that won’t trap moisture. Any base layer’s primary job is to wick sweat and moisture from your skin. Consider starting with two: one made from mesh or CoolMax for warmer days and one constructed from thermal micropolyester for cold, wet rides. Experiment with these to find the best combinations for different conditions.

Rule 4: Remember Your Extremities
Many newer helmets accommodate a cycling cap or headband–often all you need to keep your head warm. A good rule of thumb: If it’s cold enough to make you wonder if you’ll need a cap, put one into your pocket. For hands, begin with a thin glove or liner made from wool or CoolMax, then add a thicker, more waterproof glove as needed. The same logic applies with feet: Socks made from fabrics like wool are light, comfortable and breathable; add a weather-resistant overshoe or bootie when temps drop.