The first thing I think about before getting on my bike is: ‘What should I wear today?’ A long sleeved jersey? Or yet go for short sleeves? An extra layer? Take my neck warmer? Pffff that stress of choices is almost as bad as pre-race nerves.
Nothing unimportant though because clothing is a determining factor for the comfort of your training. Too many clothes make you sweat which leads to coldness when you need to stop (for a flat tyre for example). When you’re dressed too thin, it is difficult to stay warm.
That’s why checking the weather forecast and rain radar (https://www.accuweather.com,
https://www.rainviewer.com) the evening and morning before your planned ride, is no luxury. It’s even a must! Do you know the forecast, than you can get dressed correspondingly. A well prepared rider can train in the most efficient way!
Except for if you only cycle on perfect sunny summer days, without any threat in the air, you have to learn how to get dressed in ‘layers’. I already left for training, certainly in the early spring when the weather was unpredictable, starting my ride under a cloudy sky at 12 degrees and came back with sun and 23 degrees. Or the other way around. Leaving in summery, warm temperatures and finishing in the poring rain and autumn chill. In Belgium this is pretty common and that’s why ‘layers’ of clothing are essential.
Why is this so important? Between the layers, your body temperature can be retained, so that you can stay warm during cold weather rides. If the temperature rises unexpectedly, you can lose a layer immediately. If you do it well, than layers keep away moisture from the skin, both underneath the clothing as on top (in rainy weather).
Let’s start at the base. The lower layer or cycling underwear, is a must. A high tech fabric, better known as polypropylene-polyester mix, keeps moisture away from the body. The disadvantage can be that these fabrics retain smells. A lower layer with more natural fabrics and also very good, is underwear based on merino wool. Whatever you do, never go for cotton! It absorbs moisture and becomes heavy and cold on the skin.
On top of the underwear comes a middle layer with a moisture wicking and isolating function. In mild weather circumstances, a cycling jersey with arm warmers on top of short sleeved underwear, is enough. Underneath 15 degrees, I go for a long sleeved undershirt.
If you do this, make sure you go for a cycling jersey that isn’t too tight because you need a bit of space in between the layers to make them ‘work’. It is the space between the layers which retains air and that results in warmth.
As last you need protection against rain and/or wind. With mild weather, a sleeveless wind jacket is enough. Does it get colder, than opt for a thin water -and windproof jacket.
When you expect the temperature to drop or you go cycling in the mountains (where it can be hot during the climb, but freezing cold while descending), than I advice you to always carry a rain jacket with you (in a jersey pocket).
Price vs. quality
Good cycling clothing asks for a small investment. Quality comes with a price! But it’s worth it… Nowadays the fabrics, stitches and cuts are this good, that your clothes will last for years.
Same rule for the cycling pants, don’t look at a cent. You need a good chamois! Certainly when you plan longer bike rides. Comfort is most important! Cycling has to be fun at all times.