It’s autumn, the days are crisp and cool, the trails still tacky from summer rains, and there’s no better time to ride a mountain bike. Here are eight pieces of gear we’ll be hitting the trails in over the next few months.
Kitsbow Rudy Jersey
Yep, it’s expensive. And yep, it’s worth every penny. I’ve ridden in hundreds of kits over two-plus decades of riding, and the Rudy ($220) is hands down my favorite ever. The merino-nylon-spandex blend is soft and stretchy but still heavy enough to keep out the autumn chill. The fold-over collar, in contrast gray, looks classy either way you wear it. The detailing is everything I’ve come to expect from Kitsbow, including great ventilation across the shoulder box and tiny niceties such as the tethered lens cloth. And it looks easily good enough to wear straight out to the bar for post-ride Bourbon. This is the jersey I’ve been waiting on for years.
Rapha Merino Mesh Base Layer
There is no better base layer than this mesh wool piece ($80), which is light enough for the heat of autumn days but, thanks to the merino, adds lots of warmth after the sun sets. With both short-sleeve and long-sleeve options, these are perfect for year-round use except in the dead of winter.
Chrome Telegraph Knickers
Taunt me all you want about the fashion faux pas that is the manpris, but I’m sticking with these tough, four-way stretch knickers ($100). The fabric is heavy-duty and has shrugged off errant branches and tumbles in the rocks over the years, and the extra coverage is perfect for those stream crossings in tumbling temperatures. Mostly, though, I like the casual styling, with deep but trim pockets (including a spot for the iPhone/camera) and an easygoing sensibility that matches the riding attitude this time of year.
I’m a longstanding proponent of Shimano shoes, and the company’s offering just got better with the new XC line. The top shelf XC90 ($370) features a new Dynalast carbon sole design that’s slimmer for lower stack heights and flatter to relieve tension on your feet and calves. They are heat-moldable for a custom fit, and the opposing Velcro straps help avoid that uncomfortable pinching feeling when you really crank them down. Most importantly, the XC90s went a major diet (as did the entire new line of shoes), shedding 60 grams from the previous top end. Many of the new features carry over to the more affordable XC70 ($200) and XC61 ($150).
POC Index Windbreak Glove
This time of year, you need to carry two pairs of gloves, one for day riding and one for after sunset. Alternatively, I just wear something like the Index Windbreak ($50), which is cool enough for all-day autumn weather but, thanks to the neoprene cuff and windproof fabric on the back of the hands, keeps your hands toasty if you get caught out later than expected.
Light & Motion Urban 550
With the days getting shorter, I never head out without a light. But I don’t always want to cart around my stadium-bright race rig, with all the accompanying cables and batteries. Enter the Urban 550 ($140), which is not much bigger than a refill air canister but casts plenty of light even for the techiest trails. It’s USB rechargeable, so I just keep it hooked up to my computer and snag it as I’m walking out the door. It really is bright enough for full-on trail riding, and I especially like the sidelights for added visibility on the pavement connectors back home.
Troy Lee A1
Better known for moto and downhill gear, Troy Lee released the A1 ($165) earlier this year, and I have to admit I was skeptical. But this full-coverage, all-mountain lid is one of the most comfortable helmets you can buy—a statement that has been substantiated by every single person I know who has tried it. The interior padding is thick and cushy and seems to meld to nearly any head shape. The visor is fully adjustable and uses durable metal hardware, the strap system is clean and simple to fine-tune, even on the trail, and though it’s not the lightest at 340g, the quality and extra protection more than make up for it.
Osprey Viper 13
I’ve long been a fan of the Viper series (and all of Osprey’s hydration packs, for that matter) because the rigid bladder system is so much easier to use than anything else out there. And Osprey overhauled the Viper ($110) last spring, adding a mesh-and-foam back and shoulder straps that are comfier than ever, a genius zip design down one of the straps that makes getting the bladder out of the pack even easier than before, and a new on-off bite-valve design that keeps the mouthpiece out of the dirt and assures that you won’t inadvertently leak half of your water in weeds. The Viper comes in three sizes, but the largest, 13-liter variety is perfect for autumn days when you need extra space for layers.