Kitting up for comfort on your ride is about the temperature outside, and your internal thermostat. New England based rider and writer, Berne Broudy, lays it out.
Here’s the deal: no one can tell you exactly what you should be wear when you click into your pedals to spin down the road or trail. To put together the perfect kit, you need to check the outside temperature, but you also need to know your own body tendencies. Do you run hot, cold or do you adapt well to the temperature outside? My husband and I can leave the house at the same time in the same kit, and within 10 minutes of pedaling I’ll be sweating, while he is still perfectly comfortable.
The ruling wisdom for sweaty sports like cycling is to start cold, which means wear less than you think you’ll need, because you’re going to warm up as soon as you start moving. Start cold and you won’t need to pull over and peel layers as soon as you hit the first hill, and you also won’t be carrying extra clothing into your pocket or pack.
If your ride starts on top of a mountain not at the bottom, or if you have a hard time warming up, starting cold may not be a good option. The same is true if your ride involves major temperature swings—up and down significant elevation, or from dawn to dusk through the heat of the day. On a recent tour through Nepal’s Annapurna Range, there was frost on the ground when I left my tea house, but as soon as I climbed out of the valley and into the sunshine it was hot. So I’d peel and extra layers and stash them in my jersey pocket mid-ride, then put them back on at the end of the day. And always check the forecast before you leave for the day so you’ll know if you’ll need a waterproof layer or if a wind jacket is enough. Despite endless blue skies, every time I ride in the Rockies I get caught in an afternoon storm—it’s a whole lot more pleasant when I’ve got a rain shell I can throw on.
Regardless of your personal climate, having a drawer full of layers you can mix and match will help you pick the perfect kit on any day. Layers also let you fine tune on the fly—peel arm warmers or unzip a vest so you’re not thinking about your temperature, but your workout, journey, ride or race.
All the pieces in your wardrobe should be versatile. For example, you can wear bib shorts year round if you also have leg warmers or knee warmers for cool days or frosty mornings. A short sleeve jersey is perfect for a big climb when you’re generating a lot of heat, but having a stashable wind vest in your pocket for the descent can minimize your distraction on the descent. Curate your own collection of layers—bibs, tights, jerseys, jackets and accessories like baselayers, warmers and gloves, and you can use them in combination throughout the seasons.
Berne Broudy is a Vermont based cyclist, skier and expert on all things outdoor. Her work has appeared in Outside, Men’s Journal and Popular Science.
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