There's no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.

― Alfred Wainwright, A Coast to Coast Walk

You’ve no problem committing to riding in autumn because it appeals to your sense of adventure. It’s like the greatest game of chance, where those mercurial days keep you guessing at how long the warm weather will last and/or when exactly winter will strike with an arctic blast. Most of the time though, autumn is neither hot nor cold but rather a temperature range that’s afraid of commitment. Dressing for autumn is almost as much of a learned skill as riding a bike, but unlike bike riding, you already have one advantage if you know how to dress yourself. From there all you need is a bit of strategy to organize your autumn cycling clothing. Here’s what you need for how to dress in autumn.

  1. Base layer – Depending upon your definition of “cold”, a base layer can be either a close-fitting long-sleeve or sleeveless synthetic t-shirt that wicks perspiration away from the skin. Base layer cycle clothing is intended to be worn as a second skin under your jersey to keep you warm and dry.
  2. Lightweight jersey – A long or short-sleeve jersey made from a lightweight synthetic fabric that’s both comfortable and breathable will provide some protection from the cold while diffusing body heat if it’s warm.
  3. Arm and leg warmers – Keeping your muscles warm will help keep you comfortable even when you’re not moving. Arm and leg warmers are basically sleeves that are pulled on over your arms and legs to chase away any chills but can be easily peeled off if the temperature rises. They can be fleece-lined or crafted out of wool for cooler days, or are made out of a stretchy fabric that will cover you up without smothering you.
  4. Outer layer – Choosing an outer layer ultimately depends on what’s happening outside. Reach for a breathable rain jacket if there’s a chance of rain. Or, if it were a classic day in the UK with overcast skies and low visibility, a bright or even fluorescent outer layer would be best for comfort and safety. A windbreaker is your ally against bullying wind, or opt for a thermal cycling jacket if the temperature is slightly below your tolerance for cold (you’ll warm up once you get going).
  5. Cycling cap or beanie – Putting a lid on beneath your helmet is the dealmaker for any cycling weather — hot or cold. A cycling cap works well in mild weather since caps are often made out of lightweight cotton or synthetic fabrics. A beanie is better for lower temperatures since it covers a greater part of your head, including the ears. Both caps and beanies are available in different fabrics ranging from lightweight to thermal.
  6. Gloves – Your extremities are equally important to keep comfortable. Gloves share top rank with socks, and winning at dressing for autumn means getting them right. Same as temperature and weather conditions, cycling glove options span a wide range. For example, gel-padded fingerless cycling gloves keep your hands cool while significantly helping to lessen pressure on your palms. Grab some fitted, 5-fingered, water-repellent gloves if wet weather is expected, otherwise heavier gloves that combat the cold should keep your digits snug. What really matters is your cold tolerance and personal preferences so choose gloves aimed at maximising your comfort.
  7. Socks – Same as gloves, if you nail your sock selection, you can have the best ride of the season every time. Socks should be thick enough to keep your feet warm but not so thermal that your feet overheat. No matter how good your socks claim to be, a tight fit can reduce circulation and result in cold feet even in milder autumn weather so make sure your foot has some wiggle room. Sock construction brings out passionate opinions in people, so whichever socks you choose, prioritise comfort.
Sharpen your autumn dressing skills with these additional tips:

  • Learn how to do the “ranger roll”, which will allow you to efficiently carry extra layers in your jersey pockets.
  • A lightweight, cotton neck warmer can close the gap between your collar and chin on windy days, plus it can be pulled up over your face to keep warm on descents.
  • Carry an extra set of slightly heavier gloves and zip them in between your jersey and your base layer. If your hands get cold, you can swap your gloves for the ones you’ve been keeping warm next to your chest.

Both “cold” and “hot” are a matter of personal opinion. Autumn provides the perfect opportunity to define the sensations on your own terms without getting caught out in so-called “bad weather”.