Layering apparel for cyclocross racing obviously includes your bib-shorts and your jersey…ain’t no one racing ‘cross naked this fall if we have our say in it. Beyond your team kit, things can get tricky when choosing apparel for ‘cross racing.
Layer layer layer, but always focus on your core.
Your core temperature is the first thing that dictates the temperature of your extremities. You can put 4 pairs of shoe covers on, but if core temps are dropping, you may have trouble keeping your feet warm.
If you want to layer like a pro, start with your base layer.
The best base layers are specifically designed to wick moisture away from your body which may help temperature regulation should you get too hot during your warm-up.
Chose the style of base layer to match the temperature and consider these four:
- Thin sleeveless tank top (55 – 70F)
- Short Sleeve Top (40-55F)
- Longsleeve thermal (25 – 30F)
- Even thicker longsleeve thermal with turtleneck and windstopper front (below 25F)
Experiment and adjust to your preferences and race experiences.
Next, have multiple vests and arm warmers of different thicknesses.
Most racers will pair bib-shorts with knee or leg warmers, many athletes put too much focus on thermal jackets instead of vests and arm warmers.
As a cyclocross racer, your primary goal is to get your body warmed-up while not getting too sweaty. If you sweat through your bibs and jersey 25 minutes before your race, it will be extremely difficult to stay warm during your race. Using vests with arm warmers for allows you to unzip the vest and/or roll down the arm warmers as your warm-up gets serious.
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Invest in 2 – 3 pairs of gloves that balance warm and dexterity. Gloves are one of the most important contact points for cyclocross racers. We recommend finding and testing three pairs with varying thickness to ensure that you have options on race day.
In cyclocross racing, your hands are probably on the hoods most of the time, but you’ll also be shouldering the bike during run ups. Crossers use their hands much differently than road or MTB racers. Do not underestimate the need to test your glove set up before it’s 20 degrees and snowing.
As a general rule of thumb (pun intended), if temps are over 40 degrees, you can probably go without gloves. 25-40 degrees and we’d recommend racing with a lighter pair of gloves, and if it is below 25 degrees you’ll probably want the thickest pair of gloves that don’t limit dexterity.
Once you are racing and your heart rate is 180 bpm or higher, 35-40 degrees will not feel that cold. What’s tricky is executing a well-timed cyclocross warm-up and getting to the start line without freezing your ass off while you wait for the gun to go off.
If you get wet during the warm up and go to the start line wet you are doomed! This includes getting super sweaty from a trainer warm up. There are two ways to stay dry
Have a change of clothes to change into after the warm up. Those sprinter vans? Yeah, now you get their utility because you only have 10 minutes in-between a good warm up and the cyclocross race start. Change your base layer if you are sweaty, and bibs too if you’ve been slaying a trainer warm up.
If you rode the course and it was wet or warmed up in the rain have a new pair of socks, shoes, bibs, jersey… everything so you start the race DRY with a warm core.
A gore tex jacket and warm up pants are nice to inspect a muddy wet cyclocross race course because you may be able to stay dry except your socks and shoes. So bring a dry pair!
If at all possible, bring a friend to your race who can meet you at the start so that you can wear WAY too much clothing to the start and toss it to the sidelines with about 1-minute to the start.
Optimal layering for cyclocross means that you’ve completed your 45-60 minutes of all out racing without ever thinking about the outside temps during the race. If this is something that you can accomplish on a regular basis this fall, you’ll know you’ve figured out what to wear for cyclocross racing.