Without doubt, Autumn is my favourite season of the year in the UK for cycling. Sure you get the odd damp, grey day where it's not much fun out on the bike, but when that bright sunshine hits your back with a tail wind and 12 degrees on my Polar, life don't get too much better in my book!
However, in order to enjoy it to the max, getting the right cycle clothing for Autumn is essential to allow you to battle the drop in temperature, as well as a stronger wind and of course rain! However, don't let the magazines fool you into thinking this has to cost a fortune - it doesn't.
The key to riding in comfort during Autumn is layering. In case you are wondering why have a number of different layers - the whole point is to trap air between each layer of cycle clothing to keep you warm. Outer layers such as gilets and lightweight jackets can also be removed (or added) to help regulate body temperature during your ride.
It's also worth mentioning that keeping your core at the correct temperature is crucial to ensuring your extremities remain warm too - even the best autumn gloves/overshoes/socks will not work otherwise.
It should come as no surprise to hear that the key to any "system" of layering is a good undervest / base layer - during Autumn I use a selection of three different base layers for my riding. When the temperature (and wind off the sea) is being kind, I find the fast-wicking Prendas short sleeve base layer is my preferred choice - you'll find the black version looks better after repeated washing.
When the temperature dips, I will then select the Prendas long sleeve base layer or the highly rated Craft crew-neck long sleeve baselayer for when I'm out early morning or in the evening for additional insulation.
The best outer layer(s) will often depend on the temperature - living in the south - we certainly have a better time of it than say our friend Brian in the Isle of Islay. Whilst many people will recommend adding arm warmers for Autumn I think a long sleeve jersey is a better option.
A long sleeve jersey made from a fleece-backed thermofleece material provides additional insulation during the colder months and is also highly breathable. Combine this with the right base layer and it will offer you superb comfort. My current favourite is the Cilo / Aufina long sleeve jersey but whichever one you choose they all offer the same levels of insulation.
But sometimes a long sleeve is not enough and you'll need an additional layer to keep the cold off your chest. Some people find changing the base layer works best for them, and if this is you, a Craft base layer with a GORE Windstopper front could be the cheapest option.
My preferred option is a windproof gilet. The Craft Featherlight gilet is lighweight, cheap and is easily stowable in rear jersey pocket or alternatively something like the Rocket Espresso gilet made from GORE Windstopper is 100% windproof and in my opinion is a cycle clothing Autumn essential.
Warm socks are not always good enough on their own. Unless you go to the expense of having some specific Winter boots (the range from Northwave being the most popular) modern cycling shoes are often well ventilated, allowing cold air through.
If you run hot, a pair of oversocks maybe all you need to add another layer of protection. Alternatively look at something like our Aqua Light Overshoes that are windproof without being bulky, resist rain and spray from the road and have reflective strips at the rear. Just swap them out for full-on Winter overshoes when the temperature falls closer to zero.
Whilst we have three very different types of gloves that are suitable for Autumn and Spring, my preferred choice are the Prendas Aqua Light gloves.
The short answer is both! A good quality pair of knee warmers is a fabulous addition to your cycle clothing wardrobe and can be used for much of the season - even Summer in the UK - it's important to get the right size as silicon grippers will only do so much!
A comfortable pair of three quarter length bib tights is a flexible solution, just make sure they feature a decent seat pad and are made of Roubaix/fleecy-backed fabric to give you thermal protection.
Investing in some decent Autumn cycling socks is cheap and gives you maximum bang for your buck! I have two different types of Prendas socks that I prefer for Autumn: the ThermoCool-Carbon or the Reflective Flash sock.
If you are follicly challenged like myself, a cotton cap under your helmet is a godsend in Autumn - under helmet skull caps are often just too warm for Autumn and are better suited to Winter. My current favorite is the Prendas Reflective Stripe Cotton Cap but if you are not too fussed about the design (it is under a helmet afterall) check out our range of cheap cotton caps.
Prendas Super Roubaix Fluro Yellow Gloves on Brooks GTS Running shoes
Our roubaix gloves are perfect for Autumn and Spring to keep the chill off your fingers during a run.
Although I don't race anymore, I can still remember the feeling of physical and mental fatigue come the end of the season. October was always about having a few (extra) drinks, enjoying some freedom at the weekends, the start of the Sandbanks evening chain gangs and adding activities like running, cyclo-cross and track cycling to my weekly plan to offer a mental break from looking at your power/hr/etc
These days I run all-year round, but if you do decide to add some running to your training to mix it up a little - then many of the items mentioned above can certainly double up for some time-efficient running.
My essentials for running in Autumn including to work are:
Just remember that you tend to build up more heat when running (it's hard work/less efficient plus you're going slower through the air) so generally speaking you'll need less clothing on.
I hope some of that advice helps, and if you have any questions, you can always contact us via email, telephone or twitter.