Riding during the shoulder seasons and beyond provides a new sense of thrill. With trail conditions ever-changing from the various forms of precipitation and changing foliage in the “off-season,” you have to adjust how you attack trails. While this riding challenge itself is a thrill, you also need to change your plan for dressing accordingly. Suffering due to Mother Nature can make even the best rides lackluster.
Where I ride in the Mid-Atlantic, a rider can see weather encompassing all four seasons in one week (sometimes a day if you are lucky!). For that reason, I prefer to use layers that I can easily mix and match to dial in the warmth I need for the day.
Up top, a good baselayer to pull the sweat away from my body is the first thing that I reach for. There is nothing worse than needing to stop and quickly starting to shiver because you are wet. Next, I’ll include an insulation layer to keep the heat near my body to stay warm over my base layer. Last, I’ll pick out a jacket or vest that can deal with the forecasted weather for the day. It’s good to have options here. The specific thickness or level of my insulation and outer layers are based on the weather and how I plan to ride that day.
Down low, insulated bibs keep my legs warm. I wear knee pads on a majority of my rides year-round. During the winter, they double as an insulating layer to keep my knees warm and working. I will wear trail pants when things get sloppy, the mercury drops off, or the wind is whipping hard. Otherwise, I stick to shorts as much as I can.
My extremities are very sensitive to cold weather. I grab gloves that may be rated a level colder than forecasted to keep my fingers working. I am a big fan of insulated socks down low to keep my toes warm. For a long time, I have used clipless winter riding boots to stay warm and dry. Last winter, I slapped some flat pedals on and started experimenting with shoe combos to dial in winter riding. The freedom of just putting my foot on the pedals versus trying to clip in with snow-clogged cleats is off the chart!
It is easy to hang up the bikes when the weather becomes a bit extreme. Sometimes it can be good to take a break and give your bike some loving. There is probably a creek that you have been ignoring for a bit. As daunting as it may seem to get out, you probably don’t need much to ride comfortably for shorter rides to work off the holiday meals. Take stock of what you currently have. Experiment with what is in your closet first. You may already have enough gear to get out to ride all the bikes.