I had to get a torch to see the thermometer Sunday morning: 10C at 6:30, excellent. It would be warm unlike last week’s frost and fog. I was on the road again. Why? Well I’ve been mountain biking since 1984 and have spent enough time in mud to have loved it and to have loathed it. When the Autumn is as beautiful as it is this year why not enjoy looking at it rather than wallowing in it.
There is a maze of tiny lanes hidden between the A24, A23, the Downs and Horsham to the North. These small roads seemed even narrower Sunday with all the leaves and puddles, and not a car in sight. The streams were full to bursting and the flooded woods were leaking over the roads as we breezed along warm and happy on our Italian stallions (road bikes if you didn’t know).
After last week when I refused to accept that we had our first taste of winter I started to think about clothing and how it is the most important part of enjoying cycling. Apart from that Sunday, if you’ve read my blogs, you know that I am always comfortable, never too hot, too cold or too wet. I know that most men would rather think about wheels or brakes but, just as there is no excuse for not having descent lights today, there is no reason to be cold or uncomfortable when riding.
I love the Autumn. Cold, wet mornings, mist, dew even frost, with the hope of sun later. But, if you’re unlucky you get rain instead. But who cares? The game is to see if you can out smart the weather. I’m proud to say that for the last few years I have won. My only failures were our Good Friday ride to Hastings when I refused to let the winter wind beat the Spring sunshine and last Sunday. But twice in a few years is a good record.
How do you do it?
Start with a base layer, I never ride without one whether its 30 degrees in a Pyrenean valley or 10C on a rainy Sussex Autumn morning. At this time of year even the most uneducated rider can get their head around wearing a wicking base layer. For the “cool” dude or the traditionalist Merino wool is best. Try the Endura Baa Baa base layer at £40 , wicks well, dries quickly, keeps you warm and never smells (I once wore one every day on a ski trip just to see). If you want a faster drying and warmer option try the BBB Thermo base layer £39.99 . Most of the year I use a warm weather base layer that keeps me cooler in hot weather than if I wasn’t wearing one and in our usual summer temperatures it just acts as an extra layer under my jersey (I have a Pearl Izumi Transfer-lite £25, you only need one as it washes in the shower and takes minutes to dry).
On top of the base layer I wear a jersey, close fitting, or a light softshell jacket, again close fitting. I don’t want any cold air circulating around any gaps between me and my jacket/jersey. If you are wondering why some jerseys cost more it is usually down to their ability to cope with temperature changes. A long sleeve jersey can act as a mid layer. The best longsleeve jersey that I’ve used is the Endura FS260 Jetstream which has been my most worn top for the last 3 years. Check out the Endura MT500 long sleeve jersey or Roubaix jacket too
If you want a practical cheap option for keeping warm on chilly days you can opt to wear arm and or knee warmers. Costing from £15 these do a great job saving your money for something else. Add to these a gilet like the Endura Laser and you have just about all weathers covered for less than the cost of a budget jacket. Gilets are cheap and not bulky so can be carried in your pocket of bag without any bother.
Jackets are next. Soft shells are best as they are comfortable against the skin and usually breathable. Some, Gore Windstoppers, are virtually 100% waterproof too.
The final part of body protection is a waterproof shell. This is last on my list and I have only ever ridden a few times with a waterproof. The reason why I don’t use waterproof tops is that even the most breathable don’t breathe enough when you are working hard. For me the priority is to stay warm, staying dry is not always an option if I am sweating on a hard ride. I do, however, own a Montane Velocity jacket that I have used countless times on walks during this wet year. I never ride off road without a Pakajak in my bag – just in case. Its not water proof but does keep the wind off which helps keep you warm, winter or summer.
Enjoy the Autumn and it’s weather with all is surprises.
Sunday’s ride was simply beautiful despite the Autumnal dampness. The ride: Strava – Garmin just went the wrong way and nearly went under the A23 at Slaugham. The lanes were really beautiful, like a private cycling wonderland… who needs to go abroad when its this good? Please note, I enjoyed myself and got quite over excited hammering back home.