This time of year, I put away the lycra and carbon-sole race shoes and forgo training for skills sessions or just plain fun riding. Here’s what I’ve been wearing to keep it laid-back and beat the autumn chill.
Kitsbow Icon ($195)
The grouches will rant about the exorbitant cost of the Icon, Kitsbow’s new flannel jersey collaboration with the Pendleton wool company. Complain all you want, but I haven’t worn anything but this piece since it arrived—it's that cozy. You can wear it fitted and still move freely thanks to the gussets at the shoulders. Plus, the 3X Dry Schoeller panels on the elbows and shoulders have already proven their durability on a ground impact. (Like I said, skills sessions.) Mostly, I like that it just looks and feels like fall.
Twin Six Three Quarters ($120)
They aren’t new, but every time fall rolls around I find myself reaching for these heavy-duty knickers. Cut from a polyester-spandex blend made from post-consumer recycled plastic, they feel as comfy as a good soft shell. And they’re DWR coated to shed the inevitable mud of this time of year. I’ve been wearing them with Specialized’s SWAT bibs so I don’t have to carry a pack.
Shimano SH-M200 ($180)
Though Shimano has focused on the cross-country set recently, the company pushed hard into the trail category this fall with three new enduro models. These top-of-the-line SH-M200s offer premium features at a mid-range price. They're cut high on the inside for extra heel protection and have nicely sculpted lugs made from three different densities of rubber for a good combination of durability and grip. And though I’m not a fan of laces, they work here because of the speed closure, the Velcro cover flap, and the addition of the buckle up top.
Giro Blaze Glove ($35)
If I could own only one pair of gloves, it would be the Blaze. With just a light layer of insulation in the soft-shell backing and a plain leather palm, it's useful in an incredibly broad range of conditions, from toasty fall afternoons all the way down to around freezing. It would probably be a bit lightweight for road riding in frigid temps, but the lower speeds on the trails make it ideal.
Spy Optics Cutter ($160-$220)
Thank goodness for companies like Spy who manage to pull off high-performance shades in a package that isn’t teched-out and geeky. The Cutters look right at home on the beach, but they’re packed with innovation, including excellent ventilation and a range of interchangeable lens choices. I’ve been wearing the black and white model with Spy’s Happy Lens, a polarized bronze tint that’s said to improve your mood by allowing in long-wave blue light. I’m not sure about that, but I’ve been pretty happy with the huge coverage (I have chronically dry eyes) and the engineering to keep sweat of the glass. Note: while it’s true that the lenses are interchangeable (I also received a rose lens with my Cutters), the swivel mechanism for making the change isn’t the simplest to use.
Bontrager Ion 700 USB Headlight ($100)
Just a few years ago, some high-powered lights with external batteries were lucky to produce 700 lumens. Now, I have that much—enough for singletrack riding—in this micro-USB rechargeable stick light that’s about half the size of a cigar. I’ve run it on full power for just a little under two hours before it died, so it’s definitely built for commutes or after-work rides only, not all-night endeavors. But given its diminutive size and weight (only 5 ounces including handlebar mount), I’ve been packing it along on every ride I take as a backup.