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Ask An Expert: What To Wear For Shoulder Season Riding

45Nrth Gloves on top of a stack of cold weather clothing sitting in a pile in the snow.

Autumn and spring — also known as the “shoulder seasons” — are notoriously difficult to dress for. As the heat of summer shifts to the cold of winter and vice versa, riders are faced with wild weather patterns that can go from cold to wet to windy to warm all in the same ride. If you want to extend your riding season into these unpredictable months, it’s essential to be prepared.

45NRTH Product Manager Laura DuSchane is here to help you with that. Read on for her advice on what (and what not) to wear as the weather cools down.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Laura: I am a senior product manager overseeing the footwear, apparel, and soft goods for 45NRTH. With a history of product management in the outdoor industry (and living in snowy Minnesota), 45NRTH is the perfect place for me to make “work” that much more fun. Staying active all year round is important to me and there is so much to explore on our bikes, even in the snow and when the temperatures dip below freezing! 45NRTH makes it possible to get out and enjoy the outdoors, no matter the temperature outside. We’ve made it so that there really are no excuses not to get out and have fun.

What makes riding in the shoulder seasons so unique?

Laura: Riding in the shoulder seasons comes with a wealth of variables including your location, weather, and type of ride. That is why we have a range of footwear, apparel, gloves, and headwear that allows you to customize your gear for where and how you’re riding. The thread that weaves all of our pieces together is that our gear will keep you comfortable, whether it’s through Merino wool, waterproof-construction footwear, or wind-resistant shells. You get to pick what works best for you.

Rider stands next to their bike while holding the handlebars and smiles while wearing a 45nrth jacket, gloves and hat for cold weather cycling.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your design process? What challenges do you have to consider when designing shoulder-season apparel?

Laura: Our design process always starts with asking ourselves what problems we can solve for riders. We listen to consumer feedback, chat with bike shops, and of course, consider our own team’s experiences to bring products to market that extend the riding season.

The challenge with shoulder-season gear is that we don’t always know how long shoulder seasons will last! Winter can come early or late; spring can show up on time or not peek out until May. To tackle that challenge, we look to have versatile pieces that can be worn alone in the shoulder seasons and layered up with complementary products in the winter so you can wear the shoulder-season gear when the temperature is well below freezing.

Closeup of a rider's hand unzipping the unzipping the vent in 45nrth naughtvind cycling pants.

What are the benefits of having some shoulder season-specific pieces?

Laura: The most notable benefit of having shoulder-season pieces is that they make your riding season last so much longer. Fall and spring are some of the best times to be on your bike, and the right gear will keep you comfortable and ready for variable weather for one less thing to worry about when you’re out riding. Also, shoulder-season pieces can layer into your winter riding kit effortlessly, giving you three seasons of use.

Why is layering so important in the shoulder season? What tips do you have for layering?

Laura: Layering is important during the shoulder seasons because when you leave for your ride it might be chilly outside, but the sun could come out mid-ride and change the temperature drastically. The key to comfort is breathable, removable layers. If you look at most 45NRTH apparel and soft goods, you’ll notice a key material in many of the pieces is Merino wool. It’s a natural fiber that regulates temperature, breathes well, wicks sweat, and even blocks odor.

Another important tip is to consider your gear’s packability. When you do shed a layer, the ability to fold it up and stash it away is key to a light load. Remember that your body temperature will likely increase as you ride, so keep that in mind as you dress (and always check the weather forecast before you leave).

Rider standing next to their bike with a jacket draped on the handlebars while wearing a long sleeve shirt layered under a short sleeve shirt.

What are some key pieces riders should consider adding to their shoulder-season kits, and why?

Laura: A key piece I would suggest are waterproof cycling boots. The Ragnarök and Ragnarök Tall are waterproof-construction boots that will prevent puddles and road spray from getting in, keeping your feet dry and comfortable. These boots also have a neoprene ankle cuff and weather-resistant upper materials so dirt and grime stay out and can easily be wiped off post-ride. We also have awesome lightweight Merino wool crew socks that work great under these boots for ultimate comfort.

Next, never underestimate the power of liners — specifically a helmet liner and glove liner. These lightweight layers are easy to keep in a pocket when you don’t need them, but when the air is crisp, you’ll be so glad you have them to cut the chill.

Our Naughtvind bibs are another great piece to have on-hand. They were designed to complement the height of our boots for comfort without bulk. The brushed fleece lining keeps legs warm in chilly breezes, but the bibs also have a breathable mesh back for ventilation. Wear them with our Merino wool t-shirt and a long-sleeve jersey and you’re set.

  • Closeup of a cyclists foot on the pedal while wearing a 45nrth Ragnarok Tall cycling boot.
  • Cyclist standing next to their bike wearing 45nrth cold weather gloves and cycling bibs.

How can riders use shoulder-season pieces into the winter months to get more use out of them?

Laura: All of our apparel is designed as a system, so you can add/edit/customize to suit your needs. For example, our Naughtvind shell pants are designed to be worn over our Naughtvind bibs when the snow starts to fall. Our Risør liner glove slips under the Sturmfist 4 insulated glove for extra warmth. It’s all about adding the right layers (think technical pieces built for cyclists that maintain breathability and manage body temperature).

Let’s talk footwear: what are some features that riders should look for in a shoulder-season boot/shoe?

Laura: Weather-resistant materials and waterproof construction. Keeping your feet dry is critical to comfort and enables you stay out longer.

What are some features riders should avoid?

Laura: Anything that may absorb water…beware.

What features should riders be looking for in shoulder-season headwear?

Laura: Packability and breathability. As noted before, weather is so variable. Having gear that you can easily stash away when you don’t need it makes life much easier. Our Merino wool helmet liners and cycling caps are perfect for keeping your ears and head warm, but they can still fit in your pocket when not needed. Flat-lock stitching and ear and neck coverage will keep things warm and comfortable under your helmet.

  • Cyclist wearing a helmet focuses on the course ahead while wearing a 45NRTH Naughtvind Jackeet and helmet liner.
  • Cyclist tucks their 45NRTH gloves into a reflective pocket on the 45NRTH Naughtvind Jacket.

What are some headwear features riders should avoid?

Laura: I will assume that everyone is wearing their bike helmet, so my biggest tip is to make sure your head gear can comfortably fit under your helmet! Avoid anything too bulky and ensure that it covers your ears.

How about hands? What are some features that riders should look for in shoulder-season gloves?

Laura: Wind- and water-resistant gloves are a must in the shoulder seasons. Our Nøkken softshell glove blocks cold and wind. It also features a long cuff that cinches to fit perfectly with a long sleeve thermal jersey. I would also recommend looking for gloves that have AX Suede on the palms for grip control in wet conditions and extra comfort.

If you use a phone for navigation, check out the finger pads on your gloves to ensure they are compatible with touch screens. All 45NRTH gloves have this feature so you don’t have to pull your gloves off and blast your hands with cold air every time you need to use your phone.

Closeup of a rider's hand holding the brake lever on the handlebar while wearing 45NRTH cycling gloves for warmth.

Does clothing strategy differ for road/gravel, mountain biking, or commuting?

Laura: Many apparel attributes can cross over to multiple types of rides, but there are a few considerations to keep in mind whether you’re commuting, mountain biking, or on a road/gravel ride. Regardless of your ride, I would encourage wind-resistant materials to keep the chill away from your skin, whether that is on your hands, ears, or legs. Also important for all types of shoulder-season riding are waterproof footwear and breathable materials.

That said, here are a few tips for clothing comfort on each type of ride:

  • Road and gravel: Look for materials that have some stretch in them for comfort in your shoulders and a long drape in the back hem of your jersey/jacket for coverage. Because road and gravel cyclists typically prefer more fitted clothing, our Naughtvind bibs with the Ragnarök or Ragnarök Tall boots are a great fit.
  • Mountain: Look for gear that is built tough, with articulated knees/elbows that can handle a mountain bike ride, like our Naughtvind Shell Pants. We also suggest a pair of our comfortable wool socks and Nøkken gloves before getting out there.
  • Commuting: Visibility is important when commuting. When the sun rises late and sets early, high-visibility apparel with reflectivity is critical for safety. We incorporate reflectivity into all of our Naughtvind and footwear pieces. Also, don’t forget your lights!

Now you have the knowledge (and hopefully some of the gear) you need to extend your riding season. Just remember to keep it dry, breathable, packable, and layer-able. We hope to see you out there enjoying some extra ride time in the most underrated seasons of the year.