Welcome, Autumn! This is my favorite season with the best cycling weather.
Incomprehensibly, when summer ends bike commuters begin dropping off as if they were flies and the crisp autumn air were infused with Raid. I’ll never understand why so many people think the best days to cycle are the insufferably hot ones. In light of this phenomenon, we’d like to discuss how to keep on cycling in the fall. The main trick is using light layers to combat the chill that you can remove easily if your body warms up. I am writing this from my point of view cycling in Chicago. If you live in an area with mild weather, consider this your how to dress in winter advice, or pick-and-choose what works for you.
- Gloves – Start carrying light gloves with you. Even if the weather’s not particularly cold, your hands will be cold exposed to the wind on the handlebars.
- Earmuffs – Like hands, ears get cold quickly. As soon as a chill is in the air, muffs are on my ears.
- Scarves – A scarf around your neck works to keep the chill away. If you get too hot, it’s easy to remove. Remember to wrap it well. If it is too long, it risks getting caught in your spokes or a passing car’s mirror!
- Socks – If you’ve been wearing sandals all summer, add some socks underneath or change your shoes completely. For the first few weeks of fall last year, I wore Smart Wool socks under my Keen cycling sandals for my work commute. Sure, you may look a bit dweeby, but your little piggies will thank you.
- Boots – Boot season is fun! Enjoy it. In Chicago, for longer rides I can wear my stylish boots only in the fall. By winter, I’m stuck with my sturdy and serious black leather boots from Russia.
- Jackets – A light button or zip down jacket should do the job admirably. Jean jackets are perfect, as long as you’re not wearing jeans on bottom :) If you need a bit more movement, a windbreaker or cardigan may be better. I don’t wear sweaters if I think I will warm up because I can’t take them off over my helmet. I’ve made that mistake before and entertained pedestrians by wiggling around while blinded by a sweater (luckily, I stopped riding first).
- Shorts, Skirts and Dresses – I wear shorts, skirts and dresses well into the fall. Remember that legs don’t get as cold and warm up quickly with pedaling. Unlike a sweater, you (usually) can’t easily take off your pants when you get hot. I’d much rather be a bit chilly on my legs for the first few minutes than be miserable and sweaty.
- Arm and Leg Warmers – These look really cool and are a good solution to cold legs. I’ve never tried them before, but they’re worth looking into.
- Tights – I get very excited about tight season. Have a ball wearing fun patterned and colored tights. This is a great way to stop worrying about your skirt staying in place.
- Leaves – As pretty as they are, watch out for fallen leaves. They are slippery when wet and mushy.
- Lights – You must use lights on your bike (white in the front, red in the rear). This is even more important in the fall, when it is darker longer.
That’s it. Most of the time you can simply wear what you would wear off the bike, but some parts of you will be colder and some parts of you will be warmer. Remembering to cover your extremities and having easy to remove layers will make your life a lot more comfortable.
Don’t stop riding – the fun’s just beginning! Celebrate your new sweat-free existence. We’ll start our winter “how to” series soon :)