Sports Basement's Bike Wear Guide

Let’s be honest, the Bay Area (and most of California) doesn’t really have “seasons”. It generally feels like it’s 50-60 degrees outside and gets a little colder in the winter months, a little hotter in the summer months, we maybe get some periods of rain, and then a couple of extreme weather days sprinkled in. Our weird, wonderful, Bay Area weather makes getting dressed confusing, especially if you’re going to be on a bike! First you’re cold, then you’re hot and sweaty, then suddenly the wind picks up and you’re cold again…layering for your bike ride without packing your closet into a pannier is tough. 

You might find yourself asking: What kind of padded shorts are best? Should I invest in a bib?! Since both of these handy pieces come in a huge range of styles and lengths, you can really wear ‘em in any weather. Learn more about chamois pads and cycling bibs below.

When it’s 49°F and below wear:

  • Baselayer: You didn’t think baselayers were just for snow did ya? Your baselayer should fit smoothly and snugly against your skin to keep you warm and dry. Most baselayers are synthetic and have wicking tech built in. If you’ve got a solid baselayer on, you’ll actually need less outerwear so your bike ride will be comfortable as well as less bulky.
  • Jersey: With your baselayer on, reach for a long sleeved jersey to keep your core warm.
  • Cycling bottoms: Your legs may generate some body heat as they’re cranking away, but you still wanna keep ‘em covered. Keeping your knees warm is key. Your legs may not feel cold, but your knees are more prone to injury in cool temps.Reach for tights in low temps. Pro tip: Grab a padless pair of tights to put over your padded shorts to keep your tights cleaner longer.
  • Be sure to wear these: Thermal headband, full fingered gloves, and wool socks.

If rain is in the forecast:

Grab a weatherproof jacket with longer sleeves, so when you reach forward on your handlebars, your jacket still covers your wrists. While a tight fit isn’t necessary, you don’t want it to be too loose or you’ll end up with a lot of flap. Also, look for a tail flap on your jacket to protect your shorts from getting wet when you lean forward. And don’t forget the rain pants, especially if you’re biking to work.

Biking with a small puddle in your shoe is less than ideal. Add a synthetic rain bootie to your rain wardrobe arsenal to keep your feet dry. And don’t forget about gloves for your hands! Your brakes won’t work as well if your fingers are slipping on them so pop those suckers on to stay in full control.

To keep your head warm and dry, try a skull cap under your helmet or a helmet cover. Stay away from hoods since they can affect how well you see, hear, and turn your head while biking.

See and be seen with emphasis on being seen. Rainy and foggy conditions make for terrible visibility for you and other vehicles on the road. In this weather, it’s extra important to make sure your bike lights are working and you’re as visible as possible. Add reflective bands to your bike and moving limbs to stay visible.

If you run hot: Skip the jacket but keep the skullcap and accessories. They can go in your pockets if you wanna take ‘em off later.
If you run cold: Add toe covers or booties for additional warmth.

When it’s 50-60° wear:

  • Baselayer and Jersey: It’s still a little chilly out but your body will warm up quickly once you get goin’. Try going with just a long-sleeve baselayer and long-sleeve jersey to protect yourself from the cold and wind without overheating.
  • Wind vest or Windbreaker: Wind likes to make an appearance when Bay Area temps reach this range. If it’s a cold, biting wind (like the wind along the 1), you’ll want to reach for a full on wind jacket. Otherwise, stick to a vest to keep yourself windproof when riding into the wind, yet cool when you start producing body heat.
  • Cycling bottoms: Tights might make you feel too hot, especially if you’re facing an uphill battle or long ride. We recommend following this rule: Long sleeves? Cover the knees. Keep your knees protected with knickers, or shorts plus knee warmers.
  • If rain is in the forecast: Slip on a waterproof jacket to stay as dry as possible. If you don’t mind getting a little wet, a waterproof and windproof vest might be all you need to keep dry enough and not worry about bulk. See more notes above.

If you run hot: Go with just a jersey, you'll cut back on the layering but still have pockets!
If you run cold: Add on light wool socks and full-fingered gloves so your hands don’t feel the wind’s chill.

When it’s 60-70° wear:

  • Jersey: Reach for a short-sleeve jersey since you’ll really warm up now, especially if the skies are clear. The best part of jerseys is the pockets! Most jerseys come with 3-4 pockets. If you plan your ride (and your outfit) out in advance, you can just stuff those pockets and you won’t need any additional bags or backpacks! For longer rides you'll wanna wear a snug fitting jersey. If your ride is short and sweet, a boxier, looser fit can also be a great option.
  • Lightweight or mesh baselayer: What? A baselayer when it's hot? Yup! Baselayers are great for thermal regulation. They'll wick sweat away keeping you cool while preventing you from chilling on descents or in the wind.
  • Wind vest: Even on a beautiful, sunny day in the Bay, you need wind protection. But don’t reach for that long sleeve jacket. Try a vest out instead! These small but mighty pieces cover your body’s core while providing ventilation for you. Plus, if it gets too hot, it’s small enough to fold up into a pocket! While convertible jackets (with removable sleeves!) are popular, decide at the start of your ride whether you want a jacket or a vest so you don’t add more bulk to your load if you’re on a long ride or accidentally lose a sleeve.
  • Cycling bottoms: Knickers are our recommended go-to whether you’re biking on the windy coast or in the warmer East Bay. If you’re looking for more flexibility, you can always wear shorts and light knee & arm warmers to protect yourself from the wind and the sun.

If you run hot: Opt for a thin or mesh jersey. Pack arm and leg warmers for protection since you can stow ‘em in your jersey pockets if you wanna shed them.
If you run cold: Don’t skip those arm and leg warmers and grab a wind jacket or windproof baselayer instead of a vest. Lightweight full finger gloves will keep your hands warm if the wind is chilling you.

When it’s 75°+ wear:

  • Light or mesh jersey: Wicking away moisture is going to be your number one goal when you’re in high temps and a snug, light-weight jersey will be your best bet. Arm coolers are perfect for covering up in hot weather, especially when sunscreen evaporates on contact.
  • Cycling bottoms: Yes, hot weather generally means wearing shorts but knickers can help wick away moisture while protecting your knees from the sun (and sunburns). Plus, there’s nothing like sporting a great knicker tan line. If you’re on team shorts, add on knee skins or leg coolers to keep your knees from burning up.

If you run hot: Stick to the basics and look for light, moisture-wicking apparel. Don't forget the sunscreen if you're shedding layers!
If you run cold: Even if you run cold, you’ll still warm up fast in high temps. Keep your wardrobe lightweight and flexible with arm and leg coolers so you can remove and add them as you need without getting weighed down by jackets or jerseys.

Cycling Bottoms with Chamois Pads

To pad or not to pad? If your bike ride is usually just a short commute you can probably skip the padded shorts. However, if you’re in the saddle frequently or in it for a long haul, you’ll want to invest in a pair of these bad boys. Here are a few tips on how to wear ‘em:

  • Go commando! Seriously. These shorts are designed to be worn against your skin. The seamlessness, breathability, and moisture-wicking properties are not going to work if you’ve got underoos on.
  • Choose a chamois. In general, nicer chamois pads are made out of denser foam that will breathe better and be more comfortable on super long rides, but it all depends on you and your personal preference. If you find you can’t get comfortable on the saddle no matter which pads you try, your saddle might be the problem. Try coming in for a bike fitting.
  • Road vs. mountain: Road shorts are those tight-fitting lycra shorts that have a chamois pad sewn in. These are great for those who go on long rides frequently since they’ll be comfy and your shorts won't be flapping in the wind. Mountain shorts have a rugged outer shell with a padded inner liner short. This is a great option for those looking for some versatility in their shorts (and those who may not be into that super-snug-lycra-shorts look).

A Word on Bibs:

Cycling bibs are extra helpful for all you serious road cyclists out there. Bibs help hold your bottoms in place so you won’t have to deal with wardrobe malfunctions while trying to beat your PR. While they’re not the most convenient thing to wear on a regular commute, they’re perfect for long rides. All pro cyclists slip into these to make their rides comfortable and functional. These are extra comfortable, since they use the shoulder straps to stay up, so there is nothing binding across your belly. The comfier you are the more you wanna ride your bike and the more you ride, the more you'll need a bib to keep your shorts up!

Leave a comment