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Dress for Success this Fall!

October 27, 2010

Fall and winter are fast approaching.  In fact, there have been a handful of early mornings this past month where the temperatures have been downright cool, requiring deviation from Summer’s cycling attire of bibs, jersey, shoes and helmet.

But as the weather starts to change and thoughts of dressing appropriately start to creep into our conversations with fellow riders, the question remains: what’s right for a given temperature?  We’ve all heard that the right way to dress for comfort on the bike is layers, but what does that mean in Central Texas?

A very general rule of thumb that works fairly well in the Winter here is to dress as if it is 10 degrees cooler than it really is.  While your body will produce heat during exercise, ambient temperature as well as wind chill (coming from the breeze in the air as well as your riding) will work against your body’s heat production giving the sense that it is colder than the thermostat indicates, at least until you truly get warmed up and into your ride.  And that sensation can be amplified when you ride earlier in the morning or later in the evening.

Regardless of time of day, to regulate the discrepancy between your body temperature and the air temperature, particularly as you start to work on the bike more and increase your body temperature, clothing that controls moisture (both sweat and precipitation) and that is easy to take off and put on is key.  Base layers perform the first function, and arm, knee, and leg warmers perform the second function.

The Sugoi Carbon Base Layer, in long sleeve

Base layers such as an undershirt perform the task of pulling sweat off your body and trapping warm air against the skin.  A sports-specific undershirt also serves to keep your core warm, which helps regulate overall body temperature.  Sugoi makes a Carbon base layer that not only regulates moisture and temperature, but because of the fabric material utilized it repels odors and odor causing bacteria.  Paired with such a high-tech fabric are good common-sense features like anatomic cuts, and short sleeve, long sleeve, and long sleeve with zipper versions at great prices considering the performance of these pieces ($39.99 to $59.99).

Specialized's anatomic knee warmers.

Arm, knee, and leg warmers are similar in function to base layers, regulating body temperature and managing moisture transfer, but they have the added feature of being easily removable if the temperature rises too far for your riding comfort.  Arm warmers are simply the sleeves off your long sleeves shirts, while leg warmers are what would separate a pair of pants from a pair of shorts, with knee warmers being like knickers in length.  Typically warmers stay in place through the use of elastic bands.  Specialized’s warmers ($34.99 to $49.99) are a great choice since they are anatomically cut not only making it easier for them to stay in place, but also easier to move in.  And since they slide off as easy as they slide on, you can simply stuff them in a jersey pocket.

Peal Izumi's Women's Barrier Elite convertible jacket

Sometimes, even in sunny Austin, the skies turn grey and the rain starts to fall, and that means a common sense outerwear piece is needed.  Many choose vests to keep their chest dry and warm, while some prefer jackets for their greater coverage.  Why choose?  A convertible jacket, one whose sleeves zip, snap, or Velcro off to become a vest are a great choice.  Like a base layer, a convertible jacket easily adjusts to changing conditions and relative comfort.  Two top choices would be the Pearl Izumi Barrier Elite ($99.99) or the Specialized Defelect ($119.99).  Each of these pieces offers the rider two great articles of clothing in one that re also light weight and easily packable.

There are a host of clothing options available to cyclists today, each with a purpose.  The best bet is to pair items for complimentary use through layering and then remove and re-apply as the ride conditions require.



RELATED POSTS: The Art of Layering

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim Summers permalink
    October 29, 2010 4:54 pm

    These are good ideas. I bought a Showers Pass MTB rain jacket at BSS after frustration with several other rain jackets that only kept you dry in light rains or in rains that did not last very long. If you are riding an hour or more in the rain then this is really excellent, but it is expensive. I carry it along for training for tours and on tours. I also liked the Sugio wool sweater I got at BSS. It is so nice I wear it even if not biking.

    I did not see anything about keeping your hands warm and dry in long lasting rains in 40 to 50 degree weather. I finally had to get some BarMitts after numerous attempts to find gloves or mittens that would keep me dry and warm failed. These BarMitts completely enclose the end of the handlebar such that you stick your hand in them and operate the brakes, gears, etc. This way I avoid the bulky gloves or mitts needed for several hours of riding in cold and/or wet weather. You can easily slip your hand in and out, but they stay dry and warm. Like a sleeping bag for the hands. This is only for someone really wanting protection and riding a long time in cold or cold rainy weather. They have road and mtb versions. I have both and they work fine on either type.

    BSS also has shoe covers. If it is raining those are essential. Wool socks are nice on cool days. For really cold weather you need winter boots. There are cleated ones I own (two types) that work well, but I have already gone on too long so I won’t describe them.

    Jim Summers

    • djcurtin permalink
      October 29, 2010 6:25 pm

      Jim:Thanks for the thoughtful and informative comment!  You’ve taken it to the net level, and next fall in temperatures with your thorough follow-up!See you on the road!Daniel J. Curtin, Jr.Bicycle Sport Shop517 S. Lamar Blvd.Austin, Texas 78704p. 512.477.3472 x5202f. 512.477.5312www.bicyclesportshop.comFollow Us On Facebook! Us On Twitter! @BSS_Austin

  2. October 31, 2010 7:06 pm

    My layers include a T-shirt, long-sleeve T, long-sleeve sweater and a light-duty windbreaker to keep the cold wind outside where it belongs. This combination gets me through the entire winter. The coldest morning I can remember last year was 19 degrees F. It’s a short ride from Georgetown to Round Rock…a longer commute would likely require more bike-specific gear.

    • djcurtin permalink
      October 31, 2010 10:49 pm

      Joe, thanks for the comment!  I remember that particularly cold day/cold spell last year.  I was marthon training and ran in shorts!You’re right that a longer ride would benefit from cycling-specific gear, but short rides do too!  Smart wool baselayers are particularly nice.  Unlike cotton tees, they don’t hold moisture and really serve to keep the warmth in.Happy riding!Daniel J. Curtin, Jr.Bicycle Sport Shop517 S. Lamar Blvd.Austin, Texas 78704p. 512.477.3472 x5202f. 512.477.5312www.bicyclesportshop.comFollow Us On Facebook! Us On Twitter! @BSS_Austin

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