By Laurel-Lea Shannon
I admit it. I’ve always been a fair-weather cyclist. Once the temperatures struggle to reach daytime highs of 10 to 15 degrees C (52 to 62 degrees F), I’m one of the first to turn indoors to set up my trainer. But this year it’s going to be different.
Last month, I received a parcel of cold-weather cycling clothes to test and review. Brrrr. . . if that keeps me riding until the snow falls, it’s solid proof that, even in one of the coldest cities in Canada, with the right gear you can extend the cycling season by a couple of months.
Dressing for cycling in cool temperatures is tricky because you need to stay warm without overheating. When you ride your bicycle in cold weather your body can lose heat faster than it generates it, which can quickly lead to hypothermia. And it doesn’t have to be bone-chilling cold for that to happen. If you’re improperly dressed, even temperatures as moderate as 5 to 15 ºC (40 to 60 ºF) can put you at risk for hypothermia.
The trick is to dress in layers. That way, if you get too warm you can take layers off, but if the temperature suddenly drops, or the wind picks up, or it starts to rain, you can put them back on as needed.
What do you need for early fall cycling (temperatures 12 to15º C/46 to 60º F)?
- Arm warmers or long-sleeved jersey
- Knee warmers/knickers
- Cycling jacket/vest
- Full-fingered gloves
Specialized Women’s Deflect Jacket: Fall riding can be changeable. It may be sunny and warm when you head out but the weather can change in a heartbeat—clouds roll in, the wind picks up, rain starts pelting down. You can end up miles from home, underdressed and at risk for hypothermia. For extra insurance, take along a light wind- and water-resistant jacket like this one from Specialized.
The Deflect Jacket is a 2-in-1 jacket/vest, making it a good companion for fall rides. Made from stretch woven polyester, the semi-form-fit is comfortable but snug enough to move with you on the bike. It doesn’t flap in the wind. There’s a vented back to optimize airflow, but if you get too warm just unzip the sleeves and you’ve got a vest.
The jacket comes with one zippered back pocket and one side pocket. Considering all the stuff you may want to store in the pockets in cooler temperatures (i.e. extra layers that you shed along the way as you warm up), I would prefer more cargo space. But a two-way front zipper that can be opened from the bottom allows easy access to jersey back pockets when necessary.
Velcro hems make the wrists adjustable and keep the wind out. The bottom elasticized hem has a thin silicone gripper keeping the jacket in place as you ride. Two bright colour options, red and ion (yellow), plus two deflectors at either side of the back pocket, make you highly visible on the roads.
The attractive Deflector Jacket performed well on the bike. It kept me warm, protected me from the wind, and gets top marks for comfort at a reasonable price.
Bottom line: Excellent jacket for fall riding.
Price: $160 CND
BG Gel Wiretap™ Long Finger Glove: These gloves are designed to make it possible to use your cell phone, or touch-screen phone without having to take your gloves off. Though Specialized carefully points out that you’re not meant to do that while riding your bike.
The women-specific sized gloves fit well. The fingers are tapered and the thumb, index, and middle finger have gripper lines for easy gear changing. The all-important index finger and thumb are lightly wired for screen-friendly tapping. At first I thought this was just a cool decorative feature but in fact it’s functional. The fine wires conduct electricity from your skin to activate the screen—very cool indeed.
The gel padding on the grip and heel of the palm protects the ulnar (near your little finger) and median (near your thumb) nerves. What I like about the gloves, besides the sleek design, is the tapered fingers that allow you to not only use touch screens but make phone calls, open energy bars, pump up tires, or unclasp your helmet without having to take them off.
The synthetic leather palm adds to the suppleness and on-bike comfort of the BG Gel Wiretap™ Long Finger Glove. Available in black/pink, black/red, white/LT teal.
Bottom line: Classy, comfortable, and touch-screen-friendly.
Price: $70 CND
Specialized Women’s EX Arm Warmers: Arm warmers are a must for fall cycling. I like them because if I get too warm while cycling I can pull them down around my wrists and continue cycling. When I stop later, I can slip them off and they easily fit into the back pocket of my jersey. They also do double-duty for early spring rides.
Specialized Women’s EX arm warmers have fully articulated elbows, making them more comfortable than warmers that don’t. The thermal fabric throughout the sleeves is soft and warm. A two-inch silicone arm gripper and spandex cuffs keeps them in place on your arm, so they move with you without gripping. Price: $50 CND
Specialized Women’s EX Knee Warmers: A few years ago a cycling coach told me that when temperatures drop below 15º C (60º F), it’s good to protect your knees from the cold—not that I need any additional reasons, besides my own comfort, to stay warm while cycling.
Breezes that kept you cool on the bike during summer rides will chill you in the fall, especially if you cycle for long periods. Complex joints like your knees can become stiff and painful when overexposed to the cold. When the mercury drops, that’s a good time to pull out your knee warmers.
Like their arm warmers, Specialized EX knee warmers are fully articulated, with a silicone gripper and spandex cuffs. The soft thermal fabric is warm and keeps the wind out. On the bike, the EX knee warmers were comfortable and stayed in place while riding.
What I like about these products from Specialized is that not only are they made for women but they are size-specific—not one-size-fits-all, which don’t fit anyone properly. Price: $50 CND