Commuting / How-to / Tips - Safety

Stay Warm, Stay Cool

Philadelphia Bike Ride

Laura’s spring-approved gear for your viewing pleasure.

After a rough and seemingly endless winter, spring is finally here! For many cyclists this means getting back in the saddle to breathe the glorious fresh air after a long hibernation. While it’s always absolutely great to get outside on the first nice days of the season, year after year I see people totally unprepared for the weird weather that spring always seems to dish out.

So, what to wear when you roll out your front door so you’re comfortable in the varying conditions of a spring day? Here are some things to think about.

Check the weather

If you’re reading this, you’re lucky enough to have access to the internet and consequently, super up to date weather info. Weather Underground is my favorite personally, because it’s a little pessimistic (so you can only be pleasantly surprised by weather) and also provides really good radar maps and hour by hour forecasts. Figure out the worst conditions you’ll be out in and dress for them, you can always unzip things or take layers off/push up your sleeves. Deciding shorts were a bad idea mid-ride is way worse than being a little too hot in your pants. Summer is coming soon enough, there is plenty of time for shorts.

Layers rule

Layers are your friend most of the time, and the warm start to spring is no exception. It’s best to dress in a few light layers rather than one heavier one, this allows you to more subtly adjust to the changing conditions. As it gets warmer you can peel them off and as the sun gets low or it gets windy you can zip up. We all have a light wool sweater or two tops that are almost warm enough that you can wear both of. This time of year it’s especially good to avoid wearing cotton next to your skin because you can be working up a sweat one second and freezing the next, especially if you plan on stopping for a picnic or something mid-ride. Lastly, a light windbreaker does wonders and packs up really small when you take it off. I have a crazy windproof 70s ski top that was my mom’s and the Pakajak by Endura which is also showerproof (pictured packed up and neon pink), but any running store and most bike shops will have some form of ultra-lightweight wind breaker that will be just as good. In the past I dismissed windbreakers as sort of useless but that was before using one. They are surprisingly good garments for this weird middle weather.

These things are your friends!

Sunblock

So glamorous right? When it’s sunny but brisk we don’t usually think Oh hey, I’m totally going to scald my sensitive winter face if I stay outside for longer than half an hour. Yet every year without fail there are hilarious sunglasses tans all over the place (myself included). Just think about it, your poor face has been subjected to freezing winds and dry air all winter, it’s not up to the task when spring comes along. Just a plain old SPF 15 will usually do the trick.

Add warmth with accessories

There are a plethora of small useful accessories to add warmth to an otherwise light spring weather outfit. You can easily wear a lighter weight top if you wear some fingerless gloves for the cool part of your ride, or a buff to keep your neck warm. Also to consider, silk scarves/kerchiefs. Most thrift shops have them, they’re super lightweight and surprisingly good for regulating temperature. The best part about small warm accessories is they don’t take up much space and you can easily carry them when you’re not wearing them. It’s all about using what you already have in new arrangements rather than buying special mid-weight things. More money left for beer and donuts after your ride!

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