It’s the time of year the days are getting shorter, the mornings colder, but we still get up, climb on the bike and get those miles in. But in this period of weather-based uncertainty what do we wear? The morning chill is too cold for the summer gear we have been happy in for the last few months, perfectly aligning the short to maintain that crisp tan line like a badge of honour. But not cold enough to break out the thickest warmest kit, it’s time to layer.
“less than 15 degrees cover the knees” (Andrew L. Pruitt, EdD)
I first heard this quote years back while I was at the Boulder centre for sports medicine listening to Dr Pruitt speak about biomechanics in relation to bike fitting. We have lots of customers come to the shop pay hundreds of pounds to get the bike set up perfectly for them to avoid injury but then spend the autumn/winter months wearing a thick jacket and summer shorts. The knee joint is not well protected by the body, it is not surrounded by loads of muscle or fat and it is at the leading edge for the cold head wind you ride into every morning. Like any good hinge it needs lubrication. In cold weather the blood flow can become restricted and the natural lubricant found in the knee less effective; causing knee pain or inflammation. If its cold enough for a gilet or thicker top, its time to cover up those knees.
This time of year, I find my ideal line up of kit consists of:
Summer weight jersey with a base layer underneath (for those colder days a nice merino wool one).
Fleeced arm warmers (this way when it gets warmer towards mid-day you take them off).
Summer or fleeced shorts
Fleeced knee warmers
For those colder mornings start off with a wind stopper gilet to keep the cold wind off your chest.
If you suffer from cold hands then a lightweight set of full finger gloves
This seems like a lot of kit but most of it is summer stuff you are repurposing. Adding in some arm and knee warmers is a small expense to bridge the gap before winter jacket and tights season. A merino base layer is cheaper and far nicer to wear on long rides than a thick fleece jersey because it will wick moisture away from your skin.