It is CYCLOCROSS SEASON, which means all everyone is talking about is what they’re going to wear (and ride) on race day. It’s a topic very near and dear to my heart because I am a total weenie in cold and wet conditions, which as anyone who races cyclocross knows, are optimal race conditions. So over the years, I’ve tried to be good at packing enough to keep me warm before, during and after race, and not miserable on the start line. When you’re packing, make sure you have all of this in your pack—it’s the basics for what you’ll need to ride and be race-ready in pretty much any condition. (Of course, for optimal comfort and cleanliness, definitely check out my favorite cheap hacks for racing cyclocross and keeping everything together!)
(New to cyclocross? Check out my top 5 tips for racing CX!)
OK, here’s what I would always have in my race bag:
Surfers use neoprene for a reason: It moves well and it stays warm even when soaked and freezing. Get a pair of neoprene gloves to wear for warmup / pre-ride, and even to race in when things get really bad, and you will not regret it.
Full Finger Gloves
I’ve had these Giro ones for years, and while I prefer to race with no gloves, when it gets super cold, that’s not always an option—a light full-finger glove is a good weapon in your arsenal. (If you’re really into CX, you’ll end up with 10 pairs of gloves for all temp ranges, but I think these and the neoprene are the most critical).
When it’s raining, a cycling cap under your helmet can make a big difference in terms of visibility/rain in your face. It also is shockingly warm for cold races. Plus, it avoids a post-race helmet hair situation. You can go fancy, support your favorite team, or grab one on the cheap. (I like this one for a cheap option!)
For $14, you get a neckwarmer/headband/hat/balaclava—a buff is your best friend for cyclocross.
Even if it’s gray out, clear glasses will keep mud out of your eyes. Don’t skip them.
I’m a huge fan of 7mesh when it comes to jackets to ride in. They’re pricey, but they last. I’ve had one now for 5+ years and it still looks brand-new. If you invest in one thing this season, a raincoat is the way to go, since it can be warmed up into a winter jacket by adding a couple layers underneath. To me, this is your most important piece of kit second only to your bib shorts.
You’re going to want to wear these hanging out pre-race or even pre-riding on really cold, wet days. The name of the game is staying warm and dry as long as possible. Get Showers Pass Women’s Club Convertible 2 Pant here
Whether it’s a cycling specific one or just a plain puffy coat, some kind of cold-weather jacket is a must. (If you want a cycling winter jacket, this really solid one from Velocio is on sale right now.)
Jersey and Bib Shorts
You can see my favorites here—you’re going to want to wear a separate set of cycling kit for pre-ride and then change into race gear. Jerseys are nice here so you can bring a pump or your phone/keys/whatever on course with you!
So, most cyclocrossers race in a skinsuit. And it is absolutely ridiculous that no brand that I could find is currently making a plain women’s skinsuit… with the exception of this random super cheap $38 one on Amazon (verdict: yikes.). (With the amount of jumping on and off your bike in a race, it’s really nice to not have to stress about catching your jersey on the seat. Skinsuits are sleek and really nice for CX.
For cold, crappy days, you can’t beat merino wool socks.
I don’t often race in a baselayer but I like it for warming up. I’m a fan of Rapha’s Souplesse long sleeve and sleeveless baselayers for enough warmth without adding a ton of bulk.
Preferably ones with a zip, because you do not want to race in legwarmers. They will sag. So you want to be able to unzip so you can pull them off over your shoes when you’re a couple minutes out from your race start. (These Louis Garneau ones are decent and a solid price!)
Mountain bike shoes
I really love this inexpensive ($125) pair of Shimano MTB shoes. For anyone with a wider toebox or wide feet in general, they’re awesome, and they’ve been really great for running!
You want to look for MTB shoe covers that are waterproof, like these. Warm is nice, but waterproof is your main concern here.
I saw a woman rocking the Ride Bikes Get Rad sweatshirt at the World Cup last weekend and let me tell you, it looked SO perfect for post race.
I just got Alpaca wool socks and I’m obsessed. SO COZY. After years of actually crying as my cold feet warmed up post-race, I can safely say nothing is more important than being able to very quickly warm your feet up.
I LOVE my Vivo Barefoot Galoshes because a) they’re super comfy and b) they travel really well because they are extremely packable compared to most super burly galoshes. They don’t make them anymore, sadly, but this pair is really similar (and black, so I love them!). I’m a big fan of finding a pair that does fold/bend because otherwise, you will end up leaving them behind right when you need them.
Ahem, Shred Girls beanie, anyone? Very useful for when you’re damn cold post-race.