Cover High Before You Cover Low

With the transitions of seasons occurring all over the world as Summer shifts to Fall in the Northern Hemisphere and Winter to Spring in the Southern, we are faced with the seasonal challenge of how to kit up properly for volatile and variable weather conditions.

One of the most common mistakes made, apart from overdressing, is riders offending our collective sensibilities by inexplicably wearing leg coverings with short sleeve jerseys; an aesthetic faux-pas of monumental proportions. We’ve already discussed the merits of layering when kitting up in your Flandrian Best, and this specifically addresses the oft-abused Point IIV as discussed therein:

Maintain order; if it’s cold enough for knee warmers, it’s cold enough for arm warmers. First come arm warmers, then knee warmers.

While wearing shirt-sleeves and pantaloons is acceptable for civilian attire, doing so with your Cycling kit marks the rider like a greasy Cat 5 tattoo on the calf. The lower half of our bodies is working much harder than our upper bodies, which sit nearly motionless as our guns piston away at the pedals leaving a path of destroyed dreams and broken souls in our wake. The legs need air to breathe, room to roam freely; the caged bird doesn’t sing and covering up the guns unnecessarily with lycra is like caging a wild bird of prey.

There is a certain pleasure to be found in kitting up perfectly for the day’s ride. We deliberate over the temperature, the wind, the likelihood of rain. We lay out our options like a Valet for his nobleman, we may even take a step outside and reconsider our choices. Returning from the ride many hours later, we allow a wry smile to creep across our faces in the knowledge that we nailed our kit today.

  • Expect to be cold when you first step outside. Once the engine is running, it will be pumping out heat; when you’re properly dressed for riding, you will be cold whenever you are standing still. If you’re comfortable standing still, you will overheat once the game is afoot and the engine room is calling for more coals to be heaped on the fire.
  • Remember your layers, and always consider arm warmers and a gilet before a long sleeve jersey and knee warmers before tights. These give you the possibility of micro-adjusting your temperature as the day warms or cools, or if the rains suddenly arrive. Only move to long sleeve jerseys when there is no possibility of overheating.
  • Long-fingered gloves are only allowed when paired up with arm warmers or a long sleeve jersey.
  • Belgian booties are always acceptable in Spring and Fall, and always look the business.
  • Wearing full leg warmers and a long sleeve jersey while enjoying a Pre-Ride espresso and talking shit is ultra-Pro. Deploy this at-will throughout the season, so long as you remove these layers prior to throwing leg over top tube.

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102 Replies to “Cover High Before You Cover Low”

  1. @sthilzy

    A-bit high, but got me hooked on knee warmers, 1991

    Edwig Van Hooydonck, Tour of Flanders

    Amazing — this was the first issue of Winning that I ever scooped up at my local bike shop (Wheelbase in Frederick, MD). Such an education.

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