How to dress for shoulder season riding?

Hello. As per title, I’m afraid I’m doing it wrong.
No problems in summer nor in winter, but at the end of an autumn ride (springtime could as well do the same) I come back wet with a cold belly. I’m talking rides when you have to push or climb. I usually dress with a summer base layer, a long sleeved jersey that may have a light fleeced inside, and a windproof vest. If I’m climbing I would open the vest of course, and maybe unzip the jersey a bit. Descending, the opposite.
Maybe I should change this and switch to a summer jersey w/ armwarmers? Or a vest with a mesh back? Usually I’m also underdressed comparing myself to other cyclists I see around during my rides.
What works for you? Grateful for your tips.

In my experience long sleeve jerseys are much warmer (Lycra or fleece) than the equivalent jersey and arm warmers.

I rarely need long sleeve jerseys and wind vests together because the long sleeves keep me so much warmer.

I would do the summer base layer, appropriate warmers and the vest for your style of riding.

And I wouldn’t compare to others. I have friends who wear just shorts and a jersey at 50 degrees and I’ve got tons of stuff on at those temps.


i find the shoulder seasons to be the most challenging as well. fortunately, Layers are the answer. and most cycling kit packs down small. this time of year in the north east USA a light long sleeve with summer base layer is all i need. or summer jersey with armwarmers and a vest if i think its going to get warm in the sun. leg or knee warmers below 60/65 degrees f. it took me a few seasons to get my wardrobe sorted, but once i got it all dialed, i can mix and match items to get through till the real cold weather kit needs to come out.



try a sleeveless, wind-proof base layer to start.

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Here is what I like when temperatures stay below 65 degrees F:

  1. The core of my cool and cold weather riding kit builds around a Rapha Brevet LS Windblock Jersey. I find this jersey to be quite versatile and on its own, rarely too warm.
  2. Regular bib shorts if the temps are going to stay above 60, but I’ll consider 3/4 length tights if the temps are lower. I stay with 3/4 length since I’m short and too often, full length lights are way too long.
  3. I’ll add a variety of SS and LS base layers as the temps continue to fall into the low 50’s or high 40’s.
  4. Around the same temps, I’ll begin to add gloves, winter cycling cap, and neck warmer. These come on and off during the ride to regulate heat.
  5. New for this year, I purchased insulated toe covers to keep my feet more comfortable in the cooler temps. I haven’t put them to the test yet.
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I start with a Castelli Gabba or equivalent jersey paired with a decent thickness short sleeve base layer. Good quality arm warmers and knee warmers really help as well, packable windproof gilet if it gets colder in the pocket.

Main thing is that the kit is all waterproof, this time of year there’s always showers around and nothing will cool you down quicker than getting wet!

I personally find this combo means I don’t cook on the climbs or sprints but then don’t freeze on the descents. I’m generally a pretty warm person mind with good circulation.

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Thanks to everyone.
I can see that there’s a wide variety of attitudes towards autumn kits. Someone is going lite, someone else is used to a pretty warmer kit.
I think I’ll switch to SS plus warmers instead of long sleeved jersey, for starters, since I tend to go warm.
Castelli Gabba: yes it’s a fantastic piece I wear when it’s damp or there’s a risk for light showers. Since it’s already windproof though, I don’t understand the need for a windproof vest over it?

Just another layer seems to help a little bit! There’s no science to my choices :sweat_smile:

Great topic as I hate being cold but I also hate going out and realising I’m way overdressed :slight_smile:

Bulk of my autumn riding is done in 3/4 tights and a Stolen Goat Orkaan long sleeved jersey, it’s basically a thermal with a DWR coating but breathes well so I rarely feel like I’m boiling in it. I normally wear one of the Galibier short sleeved technical undershirts with this. I normally do this until it goes below 10degC (50degF)

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I think, getting some inspiration from your contributions here, there’s something to discuss here about the pros and cons, and the dos and donts as well, of:

  1. windproof stuff. E.g. jerseys that make you sweat when pushing harder. I use windproof (jackets) in wintertime, but not in autumn for this reason

  2. merino base layers vs other synthetic fabrics. Because I like merino, until it gets wet forever

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I’ve got a Stolen Goat Orkaan jersey and it’s excellent, got it for a bargain from their outlet.
Would definitely recommend for the kind of conditions we’re talking about.

I think Stolen Goat clothing is from Bioracer whose kit I always like and fits me well.

I’d also look what the maximum temperature will be when your ride will end. Not necessarily what it is at the start. If you’re starting at 51 and going up to 70, I would dress VERY different then if it’s 51 and only going up to 58. Dress to the high - and just know you might be a bit cold at the beginning until your warmed up.


You’re right. I always follow the rule of 15’ when sorting out what to wear anyway

Agreed, but with proper layering, there really isn’t a need to be cold at the beginning, either. Arm / knee warmers and vest can get you from the low 50’s up into the 70’s comfortably.

True - I guess I just switch from lycra warmers if the high is 70 to fleece if the high will be 58 for example

I will slightly amend my previous statement, though…there are a few times in the spring where we could start an early Sat ride and it will be in the high 30’s and be +60* at the end. That is a bit more challenging to be comfortable across the whole ride…especially as it pertains to your hands and feet!

This is a great suggestion. I’d add: if it’s sunny, the perceived temperature is higher than if it’s cloudy and the same real temperature. We feel less cold with the warm sunlight on our body.

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No doubt…there are a myriad of variables that can perceive how warm / cold it is. I probably have 4 or 5 different kit variations for the same temps depending on sun, wind, humidity, recent rain, etc.

50* and sunny can get an entirely different kit than 50*, cloudy and windy.

Yes. For example here in Northern Italy now we have 7° to 18/20° so a quite big temperature gap between early in the morning and the middle of afternoon. I always ride early in the morning, 8:00 now, so I start my ride feeling a little bit cold, with summer kit plus a short sleeve thermo underwear and a Gore shakedry cap that’s excellent also as just wind protection and expels the sweat very easily.
I start also with arm warmers and windproof vest that will be opened during climbs and eventually took off (like arm warmers) at the end of the ride at 13:00 when the temperature is much higher!

One super low-tech/cheap thing that I find useful in this type of weather is a chest-sized fleece rectangle cut out from a blanket ($3 Ikea fleece blanket to be precise.) I tuck this under my jersey in front, and it really makes noticeable difference warmth wise, and folds up pretty small. This is an add-on to basically any other configuration that adds warmth where you need it most. It is simple to remove, as you just pull it out.
Also, I recently added a mid-weight long sleeved jersey (Eliel Eastern Sierra T1 jersey) to my wardrobe, and have been impressed with its versatility. It is warm enough for rides in mid-50s (f), but I don’t overheat until in the mid-70s. It really covers quite a wide range of temperatures comfortably.

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