You definitely know it’s cross season when conversation turns to pumpkin spiced lattes, modular clothing and embrocation cream. For those of you south of the equator, you’re leaving these favs behind but for us up north, road racing is over, cyclocross is in full swing and riders are out to ride for fun before winter arrives in earnest.
The most marked difference between summer and fall riding in our part of the world is the need for different clothing systems. Rides can start in very chilly morning conditions and end in almost summer-like heat in the afternoon. Dressing in tights and winter riding boots (fatbikers rejoice!) for the morning will leave you sweltering later on in the day. Obviously, the reverse is also true and dressing in a jersey and shorts might be comfortable in the afternoon, but you’ll have to suffer through the morning to the heat of the day.
Without question, the key to transitioning between seasons, regardless of your hemisphere, is the modular clothing system. Ideally, this consists of arm warmers, leg warmers (or knee covers), shoe covers and full-fingered but light gloves. The most important component is a nice, light vest with pockets. This combination leaves you toasty-warm in the morning, but the shoe covers, leg warmers and arm warmers can be removed at various times to always maintain the perfect body temperature. The vest we talked about is required because you need the pocket space to stow all of this extra gear later in the day.
The other approach is to use embrocation cream directly on your skin when you don’t have room to stash your clothing pieces. Creams, such as that made by Mad Alchemy provide a nice warming sensation by increasing blood flow to the anointed areas. I use the medium strength on my legs and hands – it’s kind of like having a cushion of warm air around your exposed skin. Caution should be taken as embrocated areas feel like they are burning when hit by intense sunlight. You’re best to only use the cream on long rides when the forecast is for overcast skies. And whatever you do, don’t get the cream in your eyes. One last tip is to wipe applied areas with dish soap before showering. This helps to remove the cream that can burn a little when hot water hits.
Happy riding and remember to use your lights as the days get shorter!