BEST SPRING AND FALL CYCLING KIT - Trail Master Wheels

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Monday, 15 April 2019

BEST SPRING AND FALL CYCLING KIT

Those of us enthusiasts who are truly committed won’t stop riding with the end of summer.  We’ll certainly ride outside in the fall.  Depending on where we live, some will ride the roads during the winter while others grind-it-out on the trainer or do some cross-training to stay in condition.
As soon as winter fades and signs of spring emerge we’ll come out of hibernation and get on the road again.
Spring and fall riding can include cool temps, wind, wet roads, less sunlight and sometimes a combination of these conditions on the same ride.  Riding earlier and later each of the last few years, I’ve realized that trying to save some money by layering up on top of my regular summer kit just doesn’t provide the comfort and performance I want to enjoy some of the best times of the year to be on the road.
Wearing kit specifically designed to work for you when you start your road riding season a month or two early in the spring or extend it another 2-3 months into the fall and can double the time you enjoy biking outside each year and add to the amount of high-value training you can do.
This post is about helping you decide on the best spring and fall cycling kit including everything jerseys and bibs to jackets, base layers, arm and leg warmers, socks and gloves.
If you are interested in summer jerseys and bibshorts, go 

WHAT MATTERS WHEN CHOOSING SPRING AND FALL CYCLING KIT

There are a handful of things that matter most when choosing kit for any season and several that are unique to the spring/fall, summer and winter seasons.
Looks and price are obvious starting points any time of year because these are go/no-go considerations for a lot of us. If you like what you think a jersey or jacket or pair of bibs will look like and you can afford it, you are usually good to move on to what else matters.  If not, it doesn’t matter what else that kit has going for it.  So let’s cover looks and price first.
In general, spring and cycling fall kit don’t have as wide a range of colors and styles as you’ll see in summer.  There does seem to be, however, more than enough to choose from that runs from a basic to a distinctive look.  You’ll generally want a highly visible kit as many drivers don’t expect to see riders out on the road in March or April and the low sun and shortened days in the fall will put you in low light situations at times.  I’d stay away from black, grey or white jerseys and jackets and choose bright or high visibility colors and any kit with reflective accents that announce your presence.  High-vis shoe covers and gloves will also help you stand out as they are constantly moving and signaling your plans.
Expect to pay a bit more to kit yourself up to ride in the spring and fall.  In part that’s because you’ll find yourself buying some combination of base layers, jackets, gloves or booties in addition to jerseys and bibs.  You’ll also find that you want clothes that perform well in these cooler and often windier seasons and you can’t get away with average performing kit that you might in the summer.  But, good performing kit for spring and fall isn’t generally more expensive than good performing summer kit.
Getting cycling clothing that has the right cut for your body is key to your comfort in any season.  At the most basic level, kit will run either standard or slim.
When I say slim I’m talking about the width at your hips and shoulders.  It’s much the same as when you talk about having narrow feet.  I don’t mean “small” which would be both your width and length.  Some of the best cyclists have a slim frame or narrow feet but are tall or have the same length as other riders who have a standard or wider body.
If I put on a medium, the size I wear, in bibs that are cut for slim frames like mine, it will fit fine.  If I were put on a medium bib with a standard cut, I’ll have some room in the chamois area and around the inside of my legs, something I’m not going to find fully comfortable out on the road.
Even if you add a few pounds when you aren’t riding as much volume as you do in the summer, the added weight usually finds its way to your butt, gut and love handles.  It doesn’t make your shoulders or hips any wider.  You might want to go up a size if you find you ride a good deal heavier before and after summer but I wouldn’t suggest you go from a slim to standard cut if the slim suits you better when you are fit.
Clothing makers usually have charts to help you find the size that fits your dimensions best and whether a kit’s cut is suited to your body width.  It normally doesn’t work to just drop down a size or half size on the kit you like if it is a standard cut and you are slim or vice versa.  It’s kind of like buying shoes.  If you have narrow feet and the shoes you like are only sold in a standard width, if you try on a smaller size to compensate for the extra width, you may find the shoes are too short and your toes get crowded in the front of the shoe.
Once you know your cut and size, fit comes into play.  While recreational cyclists will often be fine with relatively loose fitting bike clothes, most enthusiasts want a closer “race-fit” that wraps your body in high-performance materials.
Differences between race-fit kit come down to:
  • how well it moves with you (stretch),
  • how well it supports your leg muscles as they do the work (compression),
  • how unaware your skin is of the kit’s seams as you rub against them,
  • how well the bib chamois conforms to your anatomy,
  • how well your legs are gripped but not strangled by your bibs,
  • how flat and your bib straps rest and stretch with you as you get out of the saddle,
  • how flat your jersey or jacket stays against your body as you move in and out of aero positions, and
  • how well the sleeve length conforms to your arm length for a long sleeve base layer, jersey or jacket.
With the right cut kit that ‘fits’ you well, comfort is the final consideration.  Here again, some things are common to being comfortable in every season, most notably your chamois and the wicking and breathability of the clothing layer closest to your skin.  Some of what matters most are quite different between summer and spring/fall kit.
Summer kit is mostly a question of whether and what kind of base layer to wear under very breathable, sweat removing, soft and stretchy jerseys and bibs.  If you are heading out on your summer ride very early or ending it late, you might also bring leg or arm warmers to cope with a 10-15F/5-8C temperature change.  You might also stuff a rain jacket or vest/gilet in your back pocket if a shower is possible.

HOW I SELECTED THE KIT FOR THIS REVIEW

High-performance, higher priced clothing tends to build in better performance, more functionality and more versatility to work in different conditions than lower cost kit.
That said, you can’t really choose a couple of jerseys and bib shorts to serve you across all the situations you’ll be riding in during the spring and fall.  Instead, you almost need a small wardrobe of kit of slightly different weights and materials to cover the range of temperature, wind and moisture conditions you’ll ride in during the spring and fall seasons.  That’s what I tried to pick to test for this review.
Since I couldn’t do a good job of comparing five brands of cycling clothing for the variety of different spring and fall weather (for example, jerseys for cool, wind-free days, jackets for colder, windy days, bib tights for drizzly weather, etc.), I picked a number of kit pieces to test that my research suggested could become part of a seasonal wardrobe I could recommend one to you.
Living in the northeastern US, these seasons cover temps that range from near freezing (35F/2C) to quite pleasantly refreshing (55F/13C), sometimes in the same day.  We’ll see wind-free days and on others winds that can blow steady up to 10mph/16kmph with gust up to twice that.  Especially in the spring, we’ll get our fair share of damp weather and unexpected showers, and plenty of low sun and low light conditions in the fall.  Sometimes I think I’d be better off skiing or sailing, two of my other favorite things to do those times of the year, were it not for their training benefits being limited mostly to wrist curls.