Monday, October 09, 2006

Fall riding gear guide

Ahh, Fall; leaves are changing and there's...
Any good article that deals w/ the changing seasons of summer into fall typically says something about there being "a chill in the air". I've always hated that description simply because everyone uses it. Funny enough, here I am trying to write something about the change in the weather, and all I can think of is the damn chillin' air!

The best thing about this time of the year is the riding gear. The worst thing about it is: putting it all on before going out! The main thing to remember about outdoor clothing is layers. This is the same for cycling. Summer you simply throw on some spandex and you're out the door. Fall and winter involve so much more; it's about building a system.

Base layer.
You can benefit from a light, mesh base during the summer, but psychologically it feels too hot to me. During the fall it's a necessity. The idea is that you're creating an area directly on the skin that is as dry as it can be. The material wicks the sweat from the skin so you're dry, and you're able to naturally regulate your body temperature. Something like cotton soaks up the sweat essentially becoming a sponge. Then you have cold sweat directly on the skin keeping your core temperature down as well as preventing the skin from breathing. This gets worse the colder it is outside. Worse case scenario, you can bring on hypothermia prematurely.

I've been using a bunch of different brands that all have different fabrics, which (go figure) all do different things. Typically a cycling base is a tank-top but most companies offer a t-shirt version as well. I like the tank because it doesn't bunch up in the sleeves when you put the jersey on. Plus you can start using it for warmer transitional weather. Here's who I've been using, and what looks good:
  • Pearl Izumi- Most shops carry PI. They use a broader, open knit that has less surface contact. Some might say that is better for summer, but there's also an argument that the spaces allow for more heat to be trapped. (men/women)
  • Defeet Un-D-Shurt- Very fine weave. Feels super soft, and does the job whether hot or cold. (men+women)
  • Under Armor- Surprised how well this works. Closer to a jersey weave, and definitely fits tight to the body. You can feel the perspiration on the outside of the material. (men/women)
  • Craft- Swedish made goodness. I've been using their windblocking baselayers too; the WS brief is hot! They've added Gore this year for their WindStopper material. (men+women)
The first thing most riders reach for when the temp dips are warmers. No brainer. In fact, it's such a no brainer that I'm not going to spend too much time on them. You'll find your favorites. What I will spend some time on are the specialized versions. I'm talking about the windblockers, and the woolies.
  • Campagnolo- Textran arm/leg warmers (and everything else). Feel weird as hell on the skin, but they're windproof, and waterproof and they're Campy! I usually break these out when it's truly getting down there (your temp will vary) and I run 'em over my Giordana arm warmers that are super thin. They have a ton of product to wade through.
  • Salsa- Wool arm/knee warmers. 100% Merino Wool (the best, not itchy!) regulates your temperature better than any man-made fabric. Keeps you warm when it's cold, and cool when it's warm. Plus wool has the capability to absorb 30% of its weight in moisture before you feel it! High-tech sheep.
  • Rapha- Sportwool armwarmers. Uber-cool low key cycling wear w/ an emphasis on the good wool. Hella expensive and hella cool. Makes it a bargin doesn't it? Check out the rest of their site, you'll love the retro attitude that exudes from these guys.
  • Capo- Capoforma Retro Warmers. More Euro-cool products brought to you by the guys at the Upland Sports Group.
Like I said, you'll find your favorites and what works for you, but these are some tried and true examples of cool/cold weather gear. I'll have some examples of shoe covers, socks, gloves, etc. before it gets too cold out there. Remember, there's no reason not to ride in the winter!

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