What to Wear, When: A Simple Tool for Cyclists

It’s not a trivial question for cyclists.  Too little, too much, or the wrong apparel can make a ride miserable, or, worst of all, impossible.  As a new bicyclist, I learned quickly that general guides weren’t all that helpful for me: Thermal comfort is highly individual, and I’m the only one who knows what works best in my specific case.

So I started experimenting on short rides, to ensure that I was well-prepared for long ones. See those nearly-illegible, messy cards above? Each time I came home from a ride, I noted the actual temperatures, wind speed (if relevant), what I wore, and added any other helpful notes.  This has become a quick and simple part of my post-ride routine.

It didn’t take long to build up a library of useful lists.  Before a ride — particularly a long one, far from home — I pull out this little notebook (it’s just the index cards clipped together) and compare the day’s forecast to my previous notes. I may slip up sometime in the future, but so far, this system has worked incredibly well, and I’ve been able to calculate what bicycling clothing I need at any given time with surprising accuracy.

2 replies on “What to Wear, When: A Simple Tool for Cyclists”

Fascinating. Very commendable & sensible for your riding comfort (& survival?). I feel guilty to mention that my Brompton outfit is long sleeve base layer, lightweight cargo shorts & Keen Commuter II cycling sandals (& helmet – & sunscreen). If it gets cold or winter arrives then I’ll add a lightweight fleece top. If it’s wet then I could put on a lightweight rain jacket – but I’m more likely to wait awhile until the rain passes over? (Nearly forgot about my long fingered lightweight gloves for cooler rides). I’m not doing early morning cycling club rides anymore & so the winter club gear is little used, & I’m not missing the fast descents into cold valleys. Seriously, I don’t know how you do your winter rides & feel guilty. (Hoping to hear one day how you cope with summer rides?)

You may be far hardier than I, Ian. This is the first winter I’ve ridden; I thought cold rides would be misery, but they were not, at all. Much to my surprise, I grew to love them. We’ll see this summer, but the shocking news may be that winter rides are actually easier and more comfortaable, as some of my cycling mates claim. Also, no cold valleys here . . . that really doesn’t sound like much fun! We’ve more rolling terrain here, which is definitely kinder when it comes to wind chill.

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