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Shoulder season riding essentials

By Bruce Lin

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Cycling shoulder season spring and fall bike essentialsThe 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. 

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Arm, knee, and leg warmers

Cycling arm knee leg warmersArm warmers

Mavic Ksyrium Merino Arm Warmers - $35.99
POC Thermal Sleeves - $39.99 
Fox Racing Arm Warmer - $19.99 

Knee warmers

​​Mavic Ksyrium Merino Knee Warmers - $35.99
Mavic Cosmic H2O Knee Warmers - $39.99
Fox Racing Knee Warmer - $22.49

Leg warmers

Mavic Ksyrium Merino Leg Warmers - $49.99
POC Thermal Legs - $49.99
Fox Racing Leg Warmer - $29.99 

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. 

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Vests

Cycling vestsMavic Essential Vest - $69.99 
POC Pure-Lite Splash Gilet - $89.99
Giordana FR-C Pro Wind Vest - $169.99 

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. 

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Gloves

Mavic cycling glovesMavic Ksyrium Merino Gloves - $31.99
Mavic Essential Wind Gloves - $43.99 
Mavic Mistral Gloves - $61.99

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. 

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Fenders

Bike fenders ass saver and clip onMucky Nutz Butt Fender - $11.99
SKS X-tra Dry Quick Release Fender - $17.99

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.   

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Lights

Cycling bike head and tail lightsLight set

NiteRider Swift 300 Headlight and Sabre 110 Taillight Set - $49.99 
Lezyne KTV Drive + KTV Pro Pair - $69.99 

Headlight

NiteRider Swift 300 Headlight - $29.99
Light & Motion VIS 500 Onyx Headlight - $49.99 
Garmin Varia UT 800 Smart Headlight - $99.99 

Taillight

Lezyne Pro Drive Taillight - $29.99
Light & Motion VIS 180 Pro Taillight - $69.99 
Garmin Varia RTL515 Bike Radar Taillight - $199.99

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.

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Other bike essentials

Spring fall cycling bike essential apparel and gearMavic Toe Warmers - $22.99
POC Thermal Sock - $29.99
Pearl Izumi Barrier Headband - $25.00
Continental Gatorskin 700x32 - $64.99

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. 

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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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