10 - best $25 Flannel Shirt Work n' Sport Super Brawny RED BUFFALO Doesn't matter. It's timeless. Warm, but not too warm. Beefy. Hi-vis. Boxy fit (unless you like that), smaller sizes frequently out of stock, too many urban lumberjacks wearing same shirt. 9 $45 45 NRTH Greazy Merino Cap 45 NRTH Greazy 2017 Lightweight, Warm, Breathable Brim is a little flimsy, not cheap. 10 - best $25 Flannel Shirt Work n Sport Super Brawny CHARCOAL BUFFALO It's timeless. Sturdy, warm, classy and understated. You can wear it without looking like a clone of the three guys in your office wearing red flannels--also more "all-season" than a red flannel. Boxy cut (but maybe you like that), and sleeves are a bit short. Hard to find in smaller sizes. Not hi-viz. 10 - best $100 Cotopaxi Pacaya Insulated Jacket Cotopaxi Pacaya 2018 "Amazingly warm for a light weight jacket. Packs into its own chest pocket which makes it easy to throw in bike bag for weird Chicago might be 60F might be 30F kinda Fall days. Good craftsmanship and materials." The price point is a bit daunting BUT they hire refugees and the quality is top notch. 8 $65 Shoes Keds Scout WF58953.jpg 2018 Waterproof, they're not bulky so they don't create a conflict with pedal cages like most waterproof shoes, look like normal shoes so I can wear them to any destination and don't have to carry extra shoes for work Developed a hole on the sole/upper seam after about a year (but to be fair, I wore them almost daily and abused them on my bike), had to be broken in a bit before they were really comfortable, if being used solely for winter they're not super warm but socks can fix that. 10 - best $120 Fenders Portland Design Works (PDW) Full Metal Fenders (personally, I like the matte dark brown finish) 2017 "-Never cracks or breaks -Handles public transit (buses, Metra, CTA el) with all its bumps and squishing with aplomb -Fenders are ESSENTIAL gear for winter biking. They protect your clothing and gear, help to minimize salt spray, and they take away the worry about hitting puddles, avoidance of which might send you into traffic." -It might rattle. You can cut a chunk off a wine cork and fit it between the frame mount and the fender to avoid this, if it occurs. 9 $10-25 Uniqlo HeatTech HeatTech and HeatTech Extra Warm long and short sleeve t-shirts, tights. 2016-2019 Cheap compared to other base layers, lightweight (fits under other clothes and can be layered for more/less warmth), moisture-wicking stays dry after activity.8 $8 Clear Glasses 3M Virtua CCS Protective Eyewear Foam Gasket, Anti Fog Lens, Clear2016 Foam gaskets help keep heavier rain and cold wind out of your eyes where regular sunglasses fail. Lenses are clear and thus ideal for riding at night. Comparable to wearing regular sunglasses w/ option to remove foam gaskets. Anti-fog coating doesn't really work. Lenses scratch easily. 10 - best $$$ wooooooool is warm for your cold parts, stays that way even when wet cheap wool is itchy, oh no 10 - best $25 neck gaiter Buff merino wool 2012 Can pull up over ears & nose for extra warmth; wool stays warm when wet; also comes in a WINDPROOF version for super cold days Not great for rain or precip days 9 $30 Wool neck buff Buff Lightweight Merino Wool 2013 "- Plugs a gap in coat /sweater collar - Can use as facemask by wedging under helmet/cap, and can double over to increase thickness - Doesn't stink ever" - When used as a facemask in super-cold temps, can sometimes frost over by nostrils/mouth, making breathing somewhat trickier. But everything used this way does. $40-100 Tires Continental GrandPrix 4Season Tires IMG_4445.jpg ( 2019 Stopped into a local Chicago bike shop for winter tire recommendations for commuting. They said to essentially stick with what you're comfortable with - if you ride with slicks or knobby tires, you're likely going to want to stick with what you know. Across the board though they said their shop recommends Continental GrandPrix 4Season tires. Glass is a bit of an issue On Chicago streets and these are supposed to be good for their puncture protection. 10 - best $10 Spoke lights Nite Ize Spokelit - Red nite ize.jpg ( several years ago For side views, makes me far more visible to cars. Easy to install. Batteries last me all winter season/night riding. 9 $20 Multifunctional Headwear (Headband, Balaclava) - Buff Buff Any 2017 "1. Extremely versatile - can be used as a headband to cover ears, neck cover, or pulled up high over the face. 2. Is seamless and comfortable 3. Comes in fun colors " "The ""Original"" model isn't always warm enough for super cold temperatures, so you end up needing a couple different versions for a variety of temperatures. 8 $300 Boots Lake MXZ303 2017 Keep feet warm and dry. flexible and comfortable sometimes they feel loose. When it gets below 10 degrees my feet are still cold. Backpack pannier "Look for one that fits your body, water resistant is best. Add a couple of wool knit caps to your bag to give out to cold peeps. 🙏 8 $200 Gortex shell Marmot E30710 2013 water resistant, breathable, hood fits over your bike helmet and guaranteed for Iife. expensive, cold when really windy, long rain session-water will get through 10 - best 30 Cap Walz Classic cotton 3-panel 2018 "Fit. Comes in 2 sizes. Style. I like the classic ones with the stripe. The cotton is surprisingly effective in really hot and cool weather alike - this is my go to cap from 45 - 100F." "Peak doesn't have the crisp light-switch snap up. Cost. " 9 Mine was a gift, but the Specialized website has the updated version for $200+...oof. Specialized Deflect H20 Comp Jacket Specialized Deflect H20 tSuper high-viz (I refer to this color as ""Please-don't-kill-me Pink"") It has a nice little soft fabric bit at the back of the neck that helps delay water trickling down the back. For photo reference, I am about 5'4"", 135 pounds, wearing a size small. It's snug but not too tight. " "It's Specialized, so it's absurdly expensive (mine was a gift). The pockets are pretty small for a phone. "10 - best $40 on sale Merino wool shirts I like the REI brand because it's equally durable but cheaper than Smartwool. 2019 "Warm, but not bulky. Anti-stink magic Can also be worn as a casual walking-around shirt. Photo reference: I am 5'4"", 135#, wearing a size S. " Honestly nothing. 8 $60 on sale Rain pants REI Co-Op Junction2019 "Water-resistant (not waterPROOF) but breathable. Easy to move around in. Convenient lower thigh pockets to accommodate the actual movement of bicycling instead of having everything scrunched up at the hip crease. ALL PANTS SHOULD HAVE THIS. Photo reference: I am 5'4"", 135#, wearing a size Medium. They are comfortably loose on me; I might be able to squeeze into a small but I like room to move around. " Nothing, really. They're fine for what they are. If you want super insulated winter pants, these are not the pants for you. They aren't making any effort to be as thin as possible, but they're only very lightly insulated.
Spring & Fall
Biking Gear Reviews & Recommendations
by BLU Contributor Elizabeth
Spring biking: that first hint of delicious summer warmth, the smell of fresh grass in the air, sparkling fresh sunlight...and days of pouring rain with a high of 38 and a 20mph wind from every direction at once. (Seriously, how does the wind do that?). The weather for spring is similar to fall, so the gear needed for spring has a dual use for fall.
Whether you’ve been biking all year or you're just picking it up now, we’ve got some gear recommendations for you and your bike. Read on for a quick synopsis of reader recommendations or scroll all the way down for the full unedited list of cyclist-submitted reviews and recommendations. Looking for recommendations on additional seasons? Check out our synopsis of winter biking gear, summer gear, well as camera reviews.
Staying Warm & Dry
When you’re biking in wind and rain, you can get very cold and miserable at a higher air temperature than you think. Light jackets and water/wind resistant rain pants break the wind and protect against fog and drizzle. Good outerwear will even keep you mostly dry in moderate rain. Get loose outer layers so you can wear thermal base layers underneath them as necessary.
Go easy on the puffers and the down coats; think more about wind and water resistance. For cool-weather riding, one reader recommended the Cotopaxi Pacaya Insulated jacket as a packable choice that works for variable Spring/Fall days.
+ Elizabeth likes the Specialized Deflect jacket for visibility and rain resistance.
If your destination doesn’t have a way to dry off your clothes, don’t forget a spare set for the way back. (This applies whether or not your outer layer is “waterproof” - assume that all waterproofing will fail and you’ll never have to put on cold wet socks after work.)
If you're a commuter, you're likely carrying a backpack with expensive work electronics. You'll want to invest in a waterproof backpack or a backpack cover. Bonus, they often have dual purposes to increase your visibility.
Ditch the bulky snowpants and get thinner water-resistant pants - on colder days, it’s easy to layer some thermal leggings under them.
+ Elizabeth likes the REI brand Junction cycling pants.
Several reviewers recommended gaiters - these are great spring gear because they can be transformed from hat to headband as needed, and they fit in a pocket if you end up not needing them at all.
Pogies are generally considered winter gear, but I prefer to keep my pogies (Cobrafist style from 45NRTH) on the bike until it’s warm enough to ride barehanded. The pogies are water-resistant enough to be dry inside for a couple hours, even in a moderate drizzle. If it’s 40 degrees and raining, I’m more comfortable with bare dry hands inside my pogies than a soaked pair of gloves. To avoid overheating my hands, I just wear light gloves under them, or even no gloves.
A cap with a brim keeps rain out of your eyes so you can actually see where you’re going (most people seem to find this helpful.) One reviewer recommended the classic cotton three-panel cap from Walz for everything down to 45 degrees. Another was pleased with the 45NRTH Greazy cap: “lightweight, warm, breathable.”
One reviewer in Chicago recommended Lake brand boots as good down to 10 degrees. (If your “spring” is colder than 10 F, check out our winter bike recs!) Another reader recommended the Scout model from Keds as a waterproof, less-bulky choice that translates well to off the bike. (Keds Scout shown above with our reflective shoelaces)
The days get longer in the spring and shorter in the fall, and a lot of folks have rides in the dark or semi-darkness (dusk and dawn hours can have quite poor visibility - don't overestimate how much you and everyone around you can see!) Nobody should have to dress up in eye-searing neon gear just to get to work without dying, but the reality is that our elected officials keep choosing cars over people and refuse to make safe streets a priority. Being in the right about the principles of safe street design isn't going to un-break all your bones if you get rear-ended by an F-150.
Keep Your Bike Happy
Getting wet and dry and wet again can be hard on a bike. Treat your trusty steed to some extra lube on the chain and frequent wipe-downs.
If you don’t have them already, fenders will keep most rain, mud, road gunk, salt water, and miscellaneous wet stuff off your backside. One reviewer recommended Portland Design Full Metal fenders.
I used to have really crummy panniers that I bought because they were the cheapest ones on Amazon. Every time it rained, I had to individually wrap everything in plastic grocery bags. This was very annoying and now that we have to pay 7 cents a bag in Chicago, it’s not even that cheap. I strongly recommend real waterproof panniers if you can afford them. I like the Ortlieb back-rollers: they’re huge, they have a laptop sleeve, and the waterproofing is 100% reliable.
Raw Product Reviews Received
Below are reviews we've received from real cyclists. Desktop users, filter results by the criteria you find the most important. What’s your favorite spring biking gear? Let us know below!
Add your recommendations
Let us know what specific products, brands, and modifications you recommend for riding.