Leaves are changing colours (and falling, so keep an eye out for wet leaf mulch - it's not a road bike-friendly surface), the days are shortening but there’s still plenty of daylight, the weather is, well changeable, and there’s some beautiful crisp mornings. Autumn in the UK is a great time to ride.
The changing conditions of autumn mean being prepared is essential. You will find the start of your ride is chilly and you need your warm clothing. However, halfway through your ride, you may be hot and need to strip off.
In this guide, we take you through our coaches’ must-have autumn accessories to keep you warm, motivated and safe on your rides.
Must-Have Clothing Layers
Our key recommendation in colder weather is to layer up. The more layers – the more warm air you can trap.
Several specifically designed thinner layers are far better at holding in heat and expelling moisture than one thick layer and allow you to take a layer off if the temperature increases during your ride. Layering up on top is especially key as your upper body is still the majority of the time.
Let’s take a closer look at the cycling kit we recommend to keep you riding during the colder months.
1. Arm and Leg Warmers Keep your limbs warm on cold starts
Even if the day promises warmth, mornings can be nippy. Arm warmers and leg warmers are your secret weapons against the early chill.
Easily stashed in your pocket as the day warms up, they offer flexibility in adapting to changing temperatures, ensuring you're comfortable from start to finish.
Coach Tip: Arm warmers under a waterproof or windproof jacket will help to avoid feeling like you're riding in a bin bag and keep any rain from seeping through to your arms.
Product Suggestion: Both Decathlon and Wiggle’s own brand arm and leg warmers offer reliable performance without breaking the bank.
2. Windproof Gilet Keep your core warm in the autumn breeze
Gilet, tank-top, vest, these products have a range of names depending on where you are from, whatever you call them though they are an autumn ride saver. Keeping your core warm in chilly conditions is essential to feeling good and getting the best out of your rides.
Lightweight, packable when you don’t need them, and breathable enough to keep wearing during efforts. The best windproof gilets are a must-have item.
Product Suggestion: Like most cycling products you can find a wide range of gilets at prices and brands to suit your budget and style. We love our Rapha brevet gilet and have been using it in all seasons for a good 8 years now.
3. Waterproof Jacket Defend against unpredictable showers
Autumn weather can be as changeable as the colours on leaves. A compact, waterproof shell is a ride-saver when unexpected showers roll in. Times have changed since the old-fashioned race capes were the standard and now lightweight, breathable waterproofs are readily available.
Look for one that's easily packable, so you can carry it with you without adding bulk when the rain has passed over. Breathability is essential too, if your jacket isn't letting your sweat and heat out you will quickly overheat and have a miserable time.
Coach Tip: Now is a perfect time to consider re-waterproofing your wet weather gear. Most cycling and camping shops will carry special waterproofing wash and re-waterproofing treatment which can bring back waterproof properties that fade with use.
4. Warm Socks Happy toes, happy rider
Don't forget your feet! Thermal socks keep your toes warm during cooler autumn rides. Our feet don’t get much of a chance to warm up whilst we are riding so keeping them warm from the off is essential.
There are lots of classic cycling tips about using kitchen foil and carrier bags inside your cycling shoes to keep warm, but we love a pair of good, cycling-specific thermal socks this time of year.
Coach Tip: Merino wool provides insulation without overheating, ensuring your feet stay comfortable on those chilly mornings.
Product suggestion: DeFeet Woolie Boolies are the gold standard of warm socks and we use them 3 seasons a year with great results. Tried and tested, long-lasting and available in a variety of lengths to suit your needs.
5. Cotton Cycling Cap Shield your eyes from the sun and showers
A large amount of your body heat is often lost through your head. Whilst a helmet is a must when cycling, it is not there to help keep you warm or dry.
A versatile cycling cap is more than a style statement. It shields your eyes from the low autumn sun, keeps sweat away from your brow, and keeps light rain off your face.
The classic retro style with a visor enhances visibility and protects against unexpected weather, making it a valuable accessory for your autumn rides.
Product suggestion: Prendas retro caps, all the classic racing names and styles for that retro look.
6. Neck Warmer Cheap, versatile, essential
A cold neck can spoil the mood whilst out on a ride.
A lightweight neck warmer (or snood if you must) is the perfect accessory for added warmth and flexibility.
Wear it as a neck warmer, headband, or face mask, adapting to the changing conditions of your autumn ride. And once you wear them for cycling you may find them being an essential part of your off-bike winter outdoor wardrobe too.
Product Suggestion: Buff, was the original brand in this space and offers a wide range of designs from the whacky to pedestrian.
Embrace the beauty of autumn on your cycling adventures, and with these must-have cycling layers, you'll be ready for whatever the season throws your way.
Read on for some more autumn must-have accessories.
Njinga Ride Smart Must-Haves
See and be seen
As the days become shorter, bike lights become essential for cyclists.
They ensure visibility to motorists and pedestrians and in unpredictable autumn weather, such as rain, fog, and mist, bike lights cut through adverse conditions, enhancing your safety.
Coach Tip: Flashing lights are highly visible but if you are riding in a group, consider a constant light on your rear light as it can be quite distracting for your fellow riders.
Product Suggestion: We highly recommendrechargeable, LED lights and there is a wide range of lights out there to suit your budget.
8. Tool Kit What to pack
Unfortunately during autumn with more dirt on the road, there is an increased risk of a puncture or a mechanical issue occurring.
Dealing with a flat tyre or a mechanical problem is frustrating, especially if you are not prepared. Therefore we recommend always carrying the essential tools for handling any issues on every ride.
We recommend: 2 x spare inner tubes, tyre levers, hand pump or gas canisters with a nozzle and also a multi-tool.
Coach Tip: Think ahead before every ride. Ensure you check your bike to ensure it is in good working order, especially ensuring your tyres are pumped up and not worn out. Extra time checking your bike before you begin can prevent punctures and mechanicals on your ride.
9. Clear Intentions
Once the weather turns, the hardest part of any ride can be the journey from bed to bike, or from sofa to saddle.
Coach Tip: If you intend to ride early in the morning in the autumn then laying out all your gear the night before can be a fantastic way of ensuring you head out regardless of conditions.
It not only cuts down time in the morning but is a great first step in laying down your intentions for your ride. And if you are feeling very kind to yourself, pop your chest heart rate monitor strap near a radiator - putting on your heart rate monitor can often be the coldest part of any ride!
10. A Goal
Or two. We always talk about how important goals are to our coached riders and autumn time is no different.
It will often signal the end of the ‘season’ for challenges and events but it's a great time for us to continue to enjoy the gains we’ve made through the summer and to start laying down training for next year’s objectives.
Keep Up your Training
Whilst autumn may limit your outdoor riding, your cycle training doesn’t have to take a hit. If you’re not so keen on riding outdoors or simply want to supplement your outdoor riding with indoor training or off-bike conditioning, the Njinga Cycling Academy has a great selection of on and off-bike sessions to choose from.
Work on your cycling weaknesses and maintain your fitness and strength ready to conquer your next year’s goals with the Njinga Cycling Academy.