Gear Prudence: I have a dilemma and I hope you can help me. The changing seasons and the variable weather have been making it really hard to dress for bike rides. I’m either too hot or too cold, and no matter what combination of clothing items I try, it never seems to work out. I know how to bundle up for winter and strip down for summer, but autumn dressing baffles me. What am I doing wrong? —Failing as Leaves Lessen
Dear FALL: There’s a trite adage about how “there’s no bad weather, only the wrong clothes.” This is utter bunk, as there is most assuredly bad weather (i.e. sharknadoes) that no clothing combination will render pleasant. However, the problem here isn’t so much that the weather is crummy, but that you’ve chanced upon the Goldilocks of seasons, where the temperature is just right. Faced with this blessed reality, you are unable to attire accordingly. Perhaps your first mistake is expecting to be comfortable. If you want climate control, hermetically enclose yourself in an SUV like a normal person. To be outside on a bike is to sometimes be too hot or too cold, and no matter how smartly you adorn yourself, you should accept the eventuality that the elements might outsmart you.
That’s not to say that you’re hopeless against climatic mercuriality, and there are a few key tips for dressing in a season with a wide degree of variability. Think “Dobos torte” and layer. Wearing many thin layers and having the willingness to add or shed them as needed can help you home in on the right comfort level as both your internal and the external temperature change. Unlike a Dobos torte, it is inadvisable to spread chocolate buttercream between clothing layers.
In addition to layering, fabric choices are key. Cotton is bad, wool is good. “Tech” fabrics, especially as base layers, can also be good, provided they wick away moisture from your skin. Moist skin leads to clamminess and clamminess to discomfort and discomfort to a whole host of terrible things like a desire to cut short your bike ride or write a complainy letter to a bike advice columnist.
Everyone has a slightly different capacity to tolerate the heat or the cold, so your willingness to experiment with assorted clothing combinations is admirable. And while you don’t need to bring a full wardrobe with you to be maximally prepared for fluctuations, you might want to carry more weather gear on you than you would otherwise. Some packable jackets fit in jersey pockets or you could always just bring a small bag. Don’t be stubborn. Adjust or cope. —GP
Gear Prudence is Brian McEntee, who tweets @sharrowsDC. Got a question about bicycling? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.