The key to staying warm and prevent overheating is to layer your core. This consists of a base layer closest to your body such as a long sleeve shirt that is wicking, breathable and allows vapor transfer. A middle layer will provide insulation but still allow the transfer of moisture such as an acrylic/wool blend or polyester fleece long sleeve jersey. The air temperature and your level of activity will determine the appropriate amount of insulation needed for this layer. The outer shell will act as a water resistant windbreaker and should be a breathable fabric such as polyester to allow perspiration to pass through.
Gloves are essential for keeping your hands warm and comfortable on those cold days. Most have cushioned palms to help with circulation for the different positions of your hands on the handlebars. Full fingered gloves work well in cool weather and mitts can be used in very cold weather.
One third to one half of your body's heat is lost through your head so keeping it warm is crucial to maintaining your body warmth. Depending on the outside temperature, there are a few choices to achieve this goal. Headbands, hats, skullcaps, neck gaiters and balaclava can be worn with your helmet and will add warmth and some will provide a wind barrier. They are designed to keep your head warm and allow perspiration transfer keeping you dry. Select the appropriate head wear for the weather conditions you will experience the day of your ride.
Fall days can start out cold and warm up by afternoon so arm warmers can be very useful in slightly cold conditions. When the sun comes out and things begin to warm up you can simply roll them up or take them off and tuck them into a pocket. For those slightly cold days that don't warm up you can wear a long-sleeve thermal jersey.
There are many options for keeping your legs and knees warm and your choice will depend on the outside air temperature. Keeping your knees warm will keep them lubricated and functioning properly preventing injury. On slightly cold days knee warmers or leg warmers can be worn with cycling shorts. For those colder riding days, full length thermal tights can be worn.
Keeping your feet warm will make you much more comfortable and prevent your toes from becoming numb while you ride. Stick with wool and polypropylene thermal socks that will wick away moisture and retain heat. Avoid cotton socks as they retain moisture and make your feet cold. Shoe covers can be worn in very cold weather. They go over your shoes, have Velcro closures for easy on and off, cut-outs for your cleats, durable rubber soles and high cuffs to keep your ankles warm.
Wearing the proper clothing and accessories for the weather conditions you will experience will keep your warm without overheating, dry and most of all make your ride much more enjoyable. It's an investment that will pay off season after season. Click on any of the items pictured in this post for more information.