What to wear in all weathers

DURING a recent club-run, the topic of conversation changed to what to wear on the bike when the weather is all over the place and can’t really decide what to settle on.

Usually it’s a case of it starting off cold and damp first thing in the morning – generally with a few light showers – before quickly shifting to drier conditions and then, just for good measure, throwing sunny and warm into the mix so that you’re soon stripping off your extra thick winter kit.

Knowing what to wear and when for a particular weather type only comes with experience. You can consult a multitude of weather apps as much as you like, but sooner or later you’re going to have to dress for all weathers.

Layers is generally the best rule of thumb, but even this creates some issues. For instance, if you ‘layer-up’ as they say in these parts, you can end up with bulky-looking jersey pockets as the various layers get stripped off and stored in you back pockets.

To make life easier, here’s our handy guide of what to wear from head-to-toe for autumn and winter:

HEAD: Keep it simple – a cotton cap or casquette is the way to go. Not only are these super-light, but they’re also great for warm and hot weather alike. When the heavens open, there is nothing worse than rain dripping down from your lid [a.k.a. helmet] and into your eyes. Plus, they’re cheap as chips.Β 

NECK: When the temperature begins to drop, it’s time for the neck warmer. These can be purchased from a range of place, but they’re fantastic for keeping the cold wind from going down your neck and, when you get hit by an unexpected hailstorm, it can be pulled right over your face – although not covering your eyes, as that would be daft.

JACKET: Now this is where it can start to get complicated and, more importantly, expensive. You really do need the right jacket for the right conditions. Nowadays, the choice in fabrics has moved on substantially, so you can get away with just a jacket and base-layer combo. There are a multitude of breathable soft-shell fabrics like the infamous Gabba jersey/jackets that not only keep you warm, but also keep you dry should you get caught out in light showers. However, I’d always recommend taking out a small rain jacket that can be packed away in your rear pocket for when the heavens really open. Two soft-shell products that I can highly recommend are the Castelli Alpha (Β£190) for when it’s really cold but dry and Le Col’s HC (Β£210) for when it’s a bit of everything.

BASE-LAYER: Anything goes for this one. You can wear whatever your budget suits. Merino wool is the best, as it wicks away the sweat, keeps you cool when it’s warm and warm when its cool. Plus, thanks to the natural fibres, you won’t smell when you arrive at the cafe. Personally, I just buy the cheap thermals from any sports store – both short and long sleeved. During the winter months, if you can carry a spare base-layer on you, swapping into a fresh one at the cafe stop midway through the ride is a God-send.

SHORTS: Bib-shorts or tights? It’s a battle as old as the Shimano versus Campagnolo. Again, it all depends on personal preference. Me? I prefer opting for thermal bib-shorts and pairing them up with good leggings – it just looks better. With tights, I always feel like I am auditioning for some amateur dramatic ballet performance or dressed like a really crap 80’s wrestler. Various brands offer different choices, but the go-to material has to be Roubaix – the soft-fleecy material on the inside, not the town. One brand that I can highly recommend is Kalas. They do thermal shorts that are bomb-proof, but even DHB do some nice thermal shorts.

THERMOSUIT: A bit of a wildcard to throw into the mix, Castelli’s San Remo Thermosuit is an all-in-one body suit that combines a jacket and tights in one package, so you’ve no garment seams or gaps letting cold air in. Okay, you’ll feel a bit like a downhill ski-jumper when you put it on – and it’s a bit pricey at around Β£200 – but you’ll only need a decent base-layer to go with this and you can ride comfortable in temperatures hoovering around zero.

SOCKS: Sadly, we now enter an area that I have had little success in over the years. During the winter months, I always have cold or numb feet regardless of what I wear. Even the subject of sock length during the colder seasons is up for debate. Some riders like longer socks on the pretence that it somehow keeps your blood warmer, while others stick with the traditional sock length. One material that does seem to rule the roost is merino wool. Having experimented with so many different variations over the years, I have finally settled on a bog-standard normal length merino wool socks. Not only do they keep your feet warm when they get a bit wet, they also don’t stink as much when you get home.

SHOES & SHOE COVERS: For the autumn/winter months, just use an old comfortable pair of road shoes. Having a bit of extra room in them is ideal, as merino socks can be a bit bulky. Personally, I wouldn’t bother with the deep winter shows that you can buy. In all honesty, if it’s that cold, then you shouldn’t ride for risk of falling off and injuring yourself. In terms of shoe covers, one product stands head-and-shoulders above the rest – Velotoez. Sure, they’re super thin but they offer one of the best protection against the wet and cold. They’re a bit of a faff to put on – due to them being so tight-fitting – but they keep a lot of the surface water and rainfall out. More importantly, if your feet are dry, then they’ll stay warmer longer.

EMBROCATION: My secret weapon against winter. As I mentioned earlier, I have always suffered from cold toes during the winter. After years of experimenting, I went back to my football roots and decided to try embrocation. Well, it worked wonders. There are plenty of different options on the market, but any cheap version of tiger balm will do. You see, applying a thin layer of oil or balm on your legs and feet gives them an extra barrier against the cold. If money is no option, the check out Rapha’s various lines of embrocation – although I will warn you now, the deep winter stuff burns like you’ve never felt before. Getting a hot or even slightly warm shower afterwards is like torture. I won’t go into detail about how much my legs burned when I got a sauna once after a long winter ride while using their product. Ouch.

About james 65 Articles
Editor of Spin Cycle Magazine

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