by Garneau

Cold weather cycling

Figuring out the right cycling base layer for fall rides, isn't always easy.

For cyclocross riders — that special breed of cyclist who actually enjoys racing in the rain/hail/sleet/snow — cool, crisp fall weather can’t come soon enough. After all, what could be more fun than freezing your extremities off while sending your heartrate skyrocketing on a few loops around a muddy cyclocross course?

But if you haven’t been muttering “cross is coming” under your breath all summer, you may not be looking forward to the colder, shorter days that signify the upcoming winter.

Hey, we get it. Garneau's US offices straddle the northern Vermont/Canadian border: Our summers are fleeting. But if we’ve learned one thing about living here, it’s that the only thing standing between you and an epically satisfying autumn ride is having the right fall-weather cycling gear and, Oh, learning how to layer it. Here’s what we’ve learned about cold weather cycling gear over the years:

after a fall bike ride, in a coffee shop, Garneau cycling helmet
After a fall bike ride, in a coffee shop

7 tips to stay warm & dry for cold weather cycling:

First, Check the Temperature

The thermometer will tell you the basics—but don’t forget to factor in windchill. Got it? Now head to your closet.Over time, you’ll determine what works best for you. At the very least, it should help alleviate some pre-trip anxiety about what to pack for your next bike tour.

Start with Your Cycling Base Layers

First of all, you never need to wear underwear with bike shorts. That’s what chamois are made for! But for women, choosing the right bra to wear can often be a make-or-break factor of a chilly fall ride. A cotton bra will soak through as soon as you start to build someheat—then turn into a cold and soggy band wrapped around your core on the first descent.(There’s a reason mountaineers use the phrase, “cotton kills.”) Instead, choose a bra made of a moisture-wicking synthetic material, such as Carbon X-Mesh.

The same theory applies for your feet: Choose cycling socks made of wicking material, such as Primaloft®, which helps keep your feet dry and warm. On cooler days, reach for socks with merino wool. Softer and finer than the sweaters your grandmother used to make foryou, top-quality merino is a natural material that wicks sweat and retains warmth—even while wet.

Please Your Knees

First question: shorts, knickers, or long tights? (Not sure? We can help with that.) But if you go for shorts, here’s a little advice: if it’s colder than 60° (15.5°C) outside, consider covering your knees. The synovial fluid that keeps your joints lubricated and moving smoothly doesn’t work as well when it’s cold outside. So when in doubt, throw on a pair of kneewarmers—preferably, ones with wind-blocking technology—to keep the breeze off your knees.

Garneau Gravel bike on a Fall bike ride in Vermont
Fall bike ride on gravel in Vermont

Choose Your Chamois

Most cyclists find that bibshorts — versus shorts — provide a little extra protection from chilly breezes. So if you want to keep your core warm but your legs uncovered, consider a heavier-weight pair of cycling bibs. A unique combination of water and wind-proofing with a brushed interior make the Course Thermal Bib a great choice for foul-weather riding when you don’t want the weight of long pants.

Cycling knickers, which fall just below the knee, are another excellent option for transitional temps. For the smoothest look and feel, choose a pair of knickers with a built-in chamois and a brushed fabric. Or, if you’re looking for multi-sport functionality, consider a pair without a chamois that you can layer over top of cycling shorts, or wear on their own for yoga or running.

Finally, long pants/tights are your best option for days when you don’t expect the temps torise much during your ride. Look for cycling tights with strategically placed fabric panels that shed water and wind, yet allow for breathability in key areas, such as behind the kneesor at the lower back.

Cycling tights with fabric panels that shed water and wind
Cycling tights with fabric panels that shed water and wind

Layer Up Top

Arm warmers were made for shoulder seasons (even though they stop just short of yours!).Give yourself plenty of options by pairing cycling arm warmers with a short-sleeve jersey and a lightweight cycling vest on a cold morning. If you heat up, you can tuck the warmers in your vest pocket, or shove the vest in your jersey pocket (or do both!). Options are key for comfort.

Cycling pause at restaurant with a garneau cycling tight
Cycling pause at restaurant with fall garments

Merino wool cycling jerseys have made a comeback in the cycling and running world inrecent years, and for good reason. Combined with polyester, our Polartec® Power Wool jersey is designed to keep you warm and dry even in damp conditions. On a windy day, though, nothing beats our Course Wind Pro® long-sleeve jersey, with a brushed back to let heat escape and serious wind protection in the front.

On a windy day, though, nothing beats Course Wind Pro® long-sleeve jersey
Beats the weather with the Course Wind Pro® long-sleeve jersey

Top It Off With A Jacket

A lightweight cycling jacket repels wind and keeps the heat in, yet lets you vent when needed. You’ll likely use this layer often during the short days of autumn, so consider a color that’s as bright as your retinas can handle—or explore our HiViz360 line, which lights up in headlights for maximum visibility. Headed out when it’s pouring down rain? (We salute you Flahute.) Top things off with our 4 Seasons jacket, designed for the rider who’s not afraid of getting a little wet—but who would prefer not to.

Top things off with our 4 Seasons jacket
Top things off with our 4 Seasons jacket, designed for those eager to defeat bad weather

Add Cycling Gloves And Booties

You can often combat the chill of a fall ride with just a light pair of cycling gloves. For fall,look for a glove that’s breathable and transfers moistures efficiently. Garneau Ergo Air®technology will evacuate moisture and keep your hands dry. Softshell gloves are often a good way to bridge the gap between your mesh gloves and winter hardshells. Our latest Proof Thermo Gloves area a great example Same goes with a pair of toe covers; you might not need the protection of a full pair of booties quite yet, but prefer an extra layer over your toes. Still chilly? Go for a pair of lightweight cycling shoe cover designed to block the wind and some water. You’ll get protection without risking overheated, sweaty feet.

Top things off with our 4 Seasons jacket
Go for a pair of lightweight cycling shoe cover to block wind and water

Still need help to find the Right Cold Weather Essentials?

Fall Accessories Buyers' Guide