Layering is essential for happy shoulder season cycling.
Choose moisture-wicking layers that can be easily removed and added in variable weather conditions.
Choose versatile layers that work in different temperatures.
Don’t forget your hands, feet, neck, and ears!
Dressing for fall rides can be vexing, even for experienced cyclists. In our hometown of Vancouver, British Columbia, temperatures may fluctuate by as much as twenty degrees in a single day in the spring and fall.
In the fall early morning rides usually start out chilly and the cyclist needs to be fully layered up. Once they've been riding for a while they soon start sweating and layers come off. Climbing hills from sea level to mountain top also poses challenges with significant changes in air temperature and body heat as you climb and descend.
We’ve learned, the hard way on occasion, that planning ahead for fickle fall weather will make your rides more rewarding and fun. So in the spirit of joyful cycling, here are our tips for creating the ideal fall cycling kit.
Layers are essential for happy cycling in the shoulder seasons. Trapping your body heat between layered clothing is the secret to staying warm in cool, damp, and unpredictable weather. The right layers will wick away sweat while preventing rain and drizzle from reaching your skin and this is the key to remaining dry and comfortable in uncertain conditions.
We like layers that are easy to take on and off and have several uses in unforeseeable conditions. We also like pieces that can easily be tucked into a jersey pocket or handlebar bag. A rule of thumb for planning your layers is the last thing you put on will be the first thing you'll want to take off.
When building your fall kit, start with the base layer. Its job is to keep you warm and dry from your ankles to your neck. Choosing the right fabric is critical because this is the layer that holds that precious warmth close to your skin on chilly days.
Moisture wicking is key when it comes to base layers. Whatever you do, do not wear cotton. It soaks up and stores moisture like a sponge, leaving you with a heavy, cold shirt against your skin. Wet fabric against your skin is a sure recipe for suffering.
Start by choosing between a long-sleeve and short-sleeve jersey depending on how chilly you expect it to be. Our rule of thumb is that when the temperatures start approaching 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit), it's time for long sleeves.
Then choose your tights or shorts. We apply the same rule of thumb to this decision. When the temperatures start to dip below 5 degrees, it's time for tights.
We don’t recommend wearing underwear in bike shorts or cotton bras. The chamois in our shorts are made using bacteriostatic fabrics which help prevent chafing. Cotton underwear and bras soak up moisture and make you cold. Samsara power bras wick away moisture and are made with antibacterial fabrics.
Next up is your mid-layer. The mid-layer helps your base layer wick away sweat and provides extra insulation for your torso. When it's cooler, choose a long sleeve zip-up jersey, and when it's warmer or unpredictable, a short-sleeved jersey with arm warmers is best.
Your mid-layers should fit more loosely. Cycling clothes are naturally snug, but this layer needs breathing room to trap air and retain warmth.
Finish up your fall kit with a top layer. Your top layers provide wind and weatherproofing and should be lightweight and water-repellant. We recommend a light nylon jacket or vest. Stay tuned for Samsara jackets and vests in upcoming new releases!
Versatility is Key
Versatility is indispensable when it comes to layering. The more versatile the pieces you choose for your fall cycling kit are, the more comfortable you’ll be in uncertain weather. We recommend choosing items that perform well in different conditions and are easily added and removed. The best mid and top layers can be easily stashed in a handlebar bag or back jersey pocket.
For instance, combining a short-sleeve jersey with arm warmers is often better than a long-sleeved jersey because the arms can come off when you're warm and be put back on when it gets chilly. On days when the weather is variable and unpredictable, you can tuck them in your back pocket or push them up and down as needed. The same goes for neck warmers.
Once you acquire a versatile fall kit, experiment with combinations to find out what works best for you!
Take Care of Your Extremities
Our rule of thumb is if you are wondering if it is cold enough to bring your gloves, arm warmers, neck warmer, vest, or jacket, then just stuff them in your pockets. Nobody's happy when their extremities are cold.
For hands, we recommend a thin glove or liner, then add a thicker, more waterproof glove as needed.
Don't neglect your feet! High-performance cycling socks make a big difference, especially in shoulder seasons. Samsara high-performance socks are made from a soft, premium, technical moisture-wicking fabric that keeps your feet warm and comfortable. You may want to add a weather-resistant overshoe or bootie when the temps start to drop.
We also recommend our lightweight, moisture-wicking neck warmers. These double as a headband you can pull up under your helmet if the weather gets unexpectedly frigid.
Finally, as always, just because you ride with the guys doesn’t mean you have to dress like them. All Samsara layers come in pretty prints and beautiful solid colours you can mix and match to express your best self out on the road.