Now that it’s officially autumn in the northern hemisphere, the temperatures are getting colder, the days are shorter, and there’s often a chance of rain in the forecast. For me, that makes riding my bike all the more important. I enjoy breathing fresh air, feeling the wind in my face, and seeing the landscape change with the season. I come home invigorated.
Speaking to my riding companions, everybody agrees that the hardest part is heading out. It’s rare that we went on a ride and then thought: “I should have stayed home.” Usually, it’s the opposite, and one of us exclaims: “So glad this ride was on the schedule. Otherwise, I might not have gone, but this is a great!”
How do you avoid being miserable when it’s cold (and maybe damp) outside? “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” That old saying is especially true for cycling: On a warm, sunny day, you can ride in almost anything, but in more demanding weather, good cycling clothes make all the difference.
In time for the colder seasons, we have the Bicycle Quarterly wool jerseys back in stock in all sizes, with short and long sleeves. You’ve seen them in many photos, because it’s pretty much all we wear on our rides. Wool is an almost magic material: It’s comfortable over a wide range of temperatures. It insulates equally well wet and dry. And it doesn’t absorb odors. These qualities make it ideal for cycling jerseys, especially at this time of year.
Great wool jerseys can be hard to find. The best Merino wool is soft to the touch, doesn’t scratch or shrink in the wash, and lasts for many years. That is why we offer the Bicycle Quarterly wool jerseys, made by Woolistic in Europe.
We chose the blue color of the Italian champion jerseys, because it offers high visibility, yet looks classy – something that isn’t easy to achieve. We used the same color for the Seattle Randonneurs jerseys, so we get to see them on the road quite frequently. They really stand out from a long ways in any weather.
Why wool over all other materials? I have found that it’s important that the innermost layer remains dry – it’s next to my skin! That is why wool jerseys are much more useful than windbreakers and other jackets. Even breathable shells tend to get damp on the inside. I get sweaty, and on the next downhill, the moisture chills me to the bone.
When I layer up in wool, the moisture is transferred outward, and I stay dry on the inside. This becomes obvious on very cold days, when the moisture generated by my body freezes on the outside of my jersey (above), but inside, I remain warm and dry. (I wore four layers of wool that day. Usually, it’s not that cold on our rides.)
Even in light rain, I prefer not to wear a shell. I find that if the outer wool layer gets moist, it’s OK, as long as the inner layers next to my skin remain warm and dry. Shells have their place: I wear them in downpours, when there is so much water that my body heat cannot keep me dry; and during long mountain descents, when I don’t pedal and thus generate little heat.
Once you have the right clothing, temperatures – at least down to freezing – no longer need to discourage you from riding. It’s truly liberating when you realize that you can go for a ride when you want, not just when the weather is “nice”.
Once you have your clothing dialled in, you may consider installing fenders on your bike, not so much because you want to ride in the rain, but for all those days when there is merely a “chance of rain”. Being prepared allows you to head out and enjoy the day, and most days, the rain never materializes. Even more independence comes with generator-powered lights. They free us from being limited by the short days at this time of year. But those are topics for future discussion.
If you are new to autumn cycling, focus on your clothing first, so you can enjoy riding on those many dry, but chilly, days.
Readers who live in the southern hemisphere are heading into spring. We envy you! And yet, you’ll want good clothing, too, since the weather in spring is as unpredictable as it is in autumn. Having a good wool jersey in your wardrobe will allow you to enjoy many more memorable rides.
Click here for more information about our wool jerseys.