The cool shoulder season months are my favorite for tackling epic rides, but sometimes the weather throws you a few curveballs. Don’t let brisk mornings, early sunsets, or surprise rain showers derail your fall riding plans. Here are the shoulder season riding essentials you need to stay comfortable when the weather starts changing.
Arm, knee, and leg warmers
My warmers come out once it dips below 60 degrees. I prefer old-school Merino wool arm and knee warmers, but anything that covers your exposed skin and wicks away moisture will do the trick. They’re easy to slide off when you get too hot or you can add a vest when it gets colder. Mountain bikers will appreciate the abrasion-resistance provided by the Fox Racing warmers.
A vest (or “gilet”) is an easy way to add a layer without the bulk of a full jacket. I like to keep one in my pocket/handlebar bag during the fall. Vests are easy to take off and pack away when you get too warm, but you’ll get some extra style points if you ride with your vest unzipped, flapping in the wind. Sure, it’s not aero, but it looks cool and feels like a cape.
I use light-to-medium-weight thermal gloves that pack away easily, provide a lot of dexterity, and have just enough warmth to keep my delicate fingers happy. If you have sweaty palms like me, it’s nice to carry an extra pair so you can swap in dry gloves for cold descents.
I keep a simple Mucky Nutz butt fender mounted on my saddle and just leave it there until the summer. It weighs nearly nothing and will protect your backside from puddles, damp roads, and light rain showers. For more coverage on really wet days, I ride with a simple clip-on fender from SKS. It’s easy to mount before a ride and then remove later for that perfect Instagram shot.
When the days are shorter it’s easy to get caught out by an early sunset. I keep a small set of lights on my bike just in case my plans go awry and I end up riding home in the dark. For years, Lezyne, NiteRider, and Light & Motion have been my go-to brands for quality lights but I recently started using a Garmin Varia radar tail light and love the extra awareness the radar gives me.
If you plan to spend lots of time riding in the dark, especially on mountain bike trails, check out our guide to night riding lights.
Other bike essentials
Toe warmers and a good thermal sock let me ride comfortably into the low 40s. Like the Mucky Nutz fender on my saddle, I just leave the toe warmers on my shoes until summer returns. For my head, a thermal headband covers my ears and forehead when temps are above 45 degrees. Any colder than that and I’ll use a skull cap or balaclava.
Also, if you ride on the road year-round, fall is a good time to swap to a puncture-resistant tire. Rain, snow, and a lack of street sweeping mean all the nasty tire-killers start coming out to play.
These essentials will let you add layers and mix and match gear to suit your needs. This combination of products keeps me riding outside until winter drives me into my trainer dungeon. But what works for me may not work for every rider or every place. So what did I miss? What would you add to your list of shoulder season essentials? Let me know in the comments!
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