The arrival of September means that, unfortunately, it is definitely autumn.
[related_articles]Initially, we were feeling a bit sad about this, then we remembered three things:
- Autumn brings with it some breathtakingly beautiful crisp morning rides,
- Climbing sometimes feels a smidge easier when your body temperature isn't reaching boiling point,
- We can leave our legs to get hairier for longer under leg warmers.
Dressing for autumn bike rides can be tricky, however. Weather is changeable, rain is often on the cards but not in the forecast, and though we sometimes feel a biting chill in the first minutes of a ride, we usually find within a couple of miles we're far too hot in heavy winter gear.
A few simple pieces of kit, however, can help to make walking the tight rope between 'too hot' and 'too cold' easier - we've rounded up some of the essentials you won't want to be without this autumn...
Arm and Leg Warmers
We'd be willing to argue that arm and leg warmers are the most useful accessories a cyclist can own during spring and autumn.
Remember when you were a pre-teen and it was cool to wear tights on your arms, with the toes cut off (no, just us?!)? Arm and leg warmers are similar, but you don't need to get the scissors out and the material is a lot more breathable.
Arm and leg warmers slip onto your arms and legs, and transform short sleeved jerseys and summer shorts into more autumn ready items. Not only that, should you find after five miles that actually, you're much warmer, you can simply slip them off and put them into your pocket.
The Trusty Gilet
A persistent breeze is a common unwelcome companion on autumn rides. Continual pummeling isn't just annoying when it slows you down - it can cause you to feel colder than the temperature should warrant - which is why the 'feels like' temperature is usually significantly lower than the actual reading.
Usually, it's not cool enough for you to want or need a full on jacket - but a light gilet keeps the worst of the chill off. Not only that, but (sensing a theme here?!) if you you find you warm up, most gilets can be packed into a backpocket when no longer needed.
A bright gilet is also a helpful addition in low light - and many come in bright flouro colours. What you go for will come down to personal preference, but something bright can act as a versatile high viz accessory you can pull on in when the dusk begins to set in.
Though you can generally be certain to have a brisk breeze as your companion during the autumn, rain is less easy to predict. In fact, it's a common joke among cyclists that the best way to be sure of rain is to forget your packable.
Packable jackets can be slipped into a back pocket, but will keep the worst off in a shower. If you are unfortunate enough to be cycling in a real downpour, a packable won't keep you dry, but it will provide some restbite.
You could pick up a packable for as little as £30 - however, the more you spend, the more breathable the material is likely to be thanks to extra features such as underarm vents or hidden zips.
We reviewed Fierlan's packable (pictured) here.
Long fingered gloves
Your fingers can really suffer when there's a little chill - they're not moving like your legs, which are busy pumping the pedals, but it's absolutely necessary to your comfort and safety that they maintain movement and feeling.
Mitts are great for the summer months, and there are lots of heavy duty long fingured gloves available for the winter - but what you want from September until the end of October (and March through May) is really a light long figured pair.
Admittedly, an extra pair of gloves to fill the gap might seem extravagant - but they make a big difference to your comfort, and you can always use them as liner gloves (underneath a second pair) come proper winter, and they can be good for day-to-day wear (for that time you spend, you know, not riding, if such a time exists..).
Oversocks and Overshoes
It's generally the body parts that are not moving that suffer the most and feet are definitely eligible for autumn chill.
Shoe manufacturers put a lot of effort into making cycling shoes breathable for summer - with vents and venting material on the upper to allow for air flow.
When the weather is cooler, these features can become your worst enemy, unless you invest in a pair of oversocks or overshoes.
Oversocks provide a light extra layer, and are often knitted, unless they're also made to aid performance by being aerodynamic, in which case you'll be looking at shinier, slipperier fabrics. You can usually get a pair for less than £20, but they are lightweight, and often become worn due to frequent contact with the ground.
Made of much sturdier stuff, but perhaps too sturdy for autumn if you're prone to getting hot and sweaty - overshoes are the next step up. These are often waterproof, thanks to neoprene material, and much more substantial. Castelli's Diluvio overshoes are a firm favourite, though we also loves these Sealskinz Halo overshoes with a built in light.
Unfortunately, extra rain in autumn can mean that there's a lot more gravel on the roads - here's out advice for riding safely over gravel.