Commuter Cycling 101: Getting Ready for Autumn, Part 1

The seasons are a-changing here in the midwest. Though this hasn't been the hottest summer we've ever had by any stretch of the imagination, it's still noticeable that the nights are getting cooler. And with kids heading back to school and the like, it's time to start prepping our commutes for autumn.

So how do we prepare? The most likely place to start is with wardrobe, which we'll deal with this week. Remember the following adage for riding in cooler weather: if you're slightly cold when you start off, you'll be fine when you arrive. Your body will warm up as you ride, so don't overdress and be TOO warm when you get to your destination!

Also, the less you have to change clothes when you get where you're going, the less you'll have to carry or prepare for when you get to work. Again, nothing against cyclists who dress in their lycra jerseys and the like for all their commuter rides, but that's not how I do things.

Throughout the summer, I tend to wear the following: wicking t-shirt, shorts, and sandals. And of course, the vest portion of my Pearl Izumi Vagabond Jacket. It's one of the few nods I tend to make to cycling clothing during the summer as it's cool and visible, and the removable sleeves make it easy to deal with for summer use. This week, I've been riding the morning commute with the sleeves back on. It's a tad chilly when I start off in the morning, but by time I get going things are fine.

Later in the fall, as things get cooler, I'll switch to a pair of khakis while I ride - the same khakis I plan to wear at work that day. Normally this means one of my pairs of Cordarounds, which I reviewed a couple of months ago. The cool weather and easy pace of my morning commute means that I don't perspire nearly as much as when I'm heading to work, and in general, my legs don't sweat nearly as much as my upper body. For this reason, I'll continue to wear a wicking t-shirt under my jacket. As it gets cooler, I may switch to a longer-sleeved t-shirt to keep the arms warm, but that's about it till it gets into the 30-40° Fahrenheit range.

Remember to hike that pant leg on the chainring (normally the right) side up so that you don't get grease all over your pants!

I have also changed from sandals to a pair of tennis shoes (well, actually, indoor soccer shoes in my case, but the purpose is the same) and athletic socks. Your extremities don't warm up nearly as much as the rest of you, and keeping your feet covered on your ride is a good idea - especially during the fall when rains are more common and you may get more splashing as you ride.

Speaking of extremities, you also want to think about your hands! Even if you don't wear cycling gloves during your summer riding as I usually don't (my handlebar grips are cushioned), you'll probably want to do so for the fall. A friend of mine was bemoaning the fact that he wore fingerless gloves for his morning commute on Monday due to the cold! I wasn't bothered without them, but I ride later in the morning than he does.

I carry my work shirt, an undershirt, and a pair of socks for work in one of my panniers each day. A quick change upon getting to work (and after cleaning up with one of my Action Wipes) means that I start the day fresh and clean. And one more little tip - if you don't have a place to hang your sweaty t-shirt at your office, you can drape it over your pannier and put it under your desk, giving it time to dry a bit. And thus you can avoid putting on a damp shirt at the end of the day to go home!

I'll throw my shorts into my pannier for the morning leg of the ride, and put them on after work for the ride home - keeping nice and comfortable on the way home as I pick up the speed as much as possible to get home quickly. I don't have to worry as much about my perspiring at home! Of course, as it gets cooler this becomes less necessary.

Next week we'll talk about some more weather-specific gear for your autumn riding and also some of the concerns that fall weather can have for your riding.

People, not speed.


  1. Good tips!

    I'm lucky enough to have a shower at work, so sweating on my ride in, isn't a big concern. It's been a bit "refreshing" on the morning commute this week, but I've just been wearing a base layer under my shorts to keep my legs warm and either a long sleeved shirt or a base layer under my t-shirt I've been fairly comfortable, but it's not necessarily the best looking "ensemble." It's functional though!

    This is my first year of commuting by 2 wheels and it's very enjoyable! I'm looking forward to giving the Fall and Winter a try! :-)

  2. Thanks, Eric. You are certainly fortunate to have that shower at work! I'm probably not the best person to say this, but I never saw looks on a bike as all that important. It's how we look on the job that counts. That being said, it's not an opinion that is shared by everyone.

    I'll be giving winter tips coming up soon and I hope you'll come back and let us know how things are going for you!

  3. Its a very wonderful experience cycling in Autumn days.

    One feels the joy of cycling from within and this make the person feel the thirst for daily cycling joy.

  4. One feels the joy of cycling from within and this make the person feel the thirst for daily cycling joy. Its a very wonderful experience cycling in Autumn days.
    Bike Cycling

  5. I ride a full size folding bike so if the weather gets really nasty during winter riding, I can fold it up and take public transit. Sometimes I even cheat and throw it in a friends car trunk to get a ride. But don;t get me wrong! I ride most days even in the winter


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