How To: Dress for a Fall Bike Ride

How To: Dress for a Fall Bike Ride

The best season for cycling is finally here! Gone are the muggy dog days of summer, replaced with crisp autumn air, changing leaves and blue skies. Riding in September and October gives you gorgeous weather and fantastic scenery, especially if you’ve registered for one of our fall bike tours. But after the extended heat of summertime, dressing for a fall bike ride can be a puzzle. Follow these easy tips to stay comfortable (and dry!) on your next ride.

Canal Place in the fall cumberlandThe key to layering properly is wearing a few light, wicking pieces that you can take on and off easily. If you wear anything heavy, you’ll probably overheat as soon as you get warmed up.

One of my personal worst experiences with improper layering was a cold morning bike commute in Colorado where I wore: a long-sleeved shirt, under a Patagonia R2 fleece, under a heavy waterproof soft-shell jacket with a pair of jeans. I was completely overheated and sweating in minutes! But my layers were too heavy to take off and carry, so I had to suffer until I got to work — soaked in sweat AND shivering because I was so sweaty! Learn from my mistakes, and please don’t wear heavy layers!

How to layer: on a cool morning

Since mornings can be cold and afternoons can be hot, you’ll have to be smart about what you wear. Start with a light base. Unless it’s really cold (below 40 degrees), wear a pair of light, padded cycling shorts. Wear a lightweight, wicking top (with or without pockets) made of polyester or wool. (Ladies, stay away from cotton sports bras! They’ll get cold and clammy. Always wear wool or polyester.) Add a lightweight, windproof jacket. These Pack-a-Jacks stuff into a tiny pocket, so you can carry them in the back of your jersey or in a small handlebar bag if you peel it off. It’ll come in handy to have on a long, shady descent or if your ride goes late into the night.

How to layer: on a rainy day

Wilderness Voyageurs Bike Tour guides Bill H

Again, start with light layers on top and bottom. Unless it’s really cold, you probably won’t want to wear rain paints. (Rain pants typically fill up with water and cling to your legs anyway.) If it’s warm rain, you’ll be fine with a lightweight rain jacket like the Helium II from Outdoor Research. If it’s a cold rain, add an extra long-sleeved wicking layer on top of your first layer. A good, heavy rain jacket is your friend on a cold day, because it won’t get soaked as quickly. The brand Endura makes high-visibility, waterproof jackets that are great for rainy rides. Another great accessory is a pair of light, waterproof gloves or mitts. These are indispensable to keep your fingers working on a wet, cold ride.

Pro tip: if you’ve got the space, bring a set of chemical hand warmers in case your fingers are prone to going numb! These can be life-affirming in the middle of a chilly ride.

How to layer: on a cold, dry day

Colorful Colorado Fall Leaves

Start with the same bottom layers you’d usually wear. If it’s really chilly, try a pair of cycling capris or wear leg warmers to keep your joints warm and lubricated. Arm warmers help too, if you don’t want to add the extra weight of a long-sleeved top. Under your helmet, don an ultralight beanie or a light headband. If there’s no rain in the forecast, wear a light long-sleeved shirt and maybe a wind-proof vest to keep your core warm on descents.

Which bike tours happen in the fall?


Fall is the busiest time of year at Wilderness Voyageurs! We have fall bike rides on the Great Allegheny Passage and the C&O Canal, in Michigan, South Dakota, Colorado, Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay, the New York Finger Lakes, Georgia’s Gold Coast, and more! No need to worry about the cold, either! On our fall bike tours, guides keep a big insulated Hydroflask handy to serve hot chocolate or coffee if the weather gets gnarly.

Call 1-800-272-4141 for more information or to speak with our bike tour specialist.