Winter is upon us. For a large part of the US, this time of year is a bit cooler, but for the most part, does not really effect training for triathlon and endurance sports. However, in the Northeast, we need to adapt our training, gear and preparation to the conditions in order to continue training outdoors. As a general rule, I Johnmake every effort to stay off the bike trainer and the dreadmill. There is a time and a place for both of those, but a 3 hour bike ride is not one of them.
Over the years, I have paid the price for making the wrong choices when trying to brave the cold and winter conditions, especially on the bike. When there is zero wind outside, you still have to consider the air flow across your body when riding 20+ MPH. There is no better way to find exposed skin than to dive-bomb down a hill in freezing temperatures. You can also easily overdress and be even colder than if you under dressed.
I have compiled a list of the gear that works best for me as well as a few tip and tricks I have instituted over the last decade of training through the winter. In general, you will want to invest in higher quality items. Dont be afraid of the price tag. I have gear I purchased 8-10 years ago, and I dont see a need to replace them any time soon. When it comes to performance athletic gear, I believe you get what you pay for.
Here is the gear I use to get out the door on a 20 degree day.
- Under Armour Skull Cap. I use this year round to keep the sweat off of my head and out of my eyes. In the winter, I found that it wicks away the moisture and allows heat to stay in.
- Oakley Split Jacket Sun Glasses. I have been a huge fan of Oakleys for a number of years. My eyes are sensitive to sunlight and I wear prescription glasses. This is one piece of my gear I do not skimp on. I purchased these with all of the options and have no regrets. I also wear these on a daily basis if I am going outdoors. Great for running, cycling, skiing and everything else you do.
- Oakley Split Jacket Wind Gasket. I chose the Split Jacket model because it had this accessory available. It snaps in very easily and turns the glasses into more of a goggle. Perfect for keeping the wind out of your eyes while riding. I have used these as ski goggles on mild to moderately cold days.
- Burton Buffer II Ski Socks. Another piece of crossover gear from skiing. These are lightweight (so they fit in your shoe), foot shaped (there is a designated left and a right to eliminate wrinkles and folds) and they keep my feet warm and dry. I underestimated the importance of the right sock too many times. I dont make that mistake anymore.
- Giordana WindTex Silverline Jacket. I spent the extra money and bought a quality top. Very light, very warm and great at blocking the wind. I have never been cold in this jacket. I have a slightly lighter version to wear in autumn and early spring.
- Turtle Fur Neck Warmer. I prefer the neck warmer over the balaclava. I can pull it down (off my face) or up over my nose depending on the conditions.
- Giordana WindTex Silverline Bib Tights. I love the bib version of these tights. The waistline is so high, and you have the shoulder straps, there is no lower back exposure when I am deep in an aero position.
- Under Armour ColdGear Compression Top. I am a huge fan of this top, and Under Armour compression gear in general. For 95% of my winter training, I use this base layer and then a jacket over top. Thats it. This top is also very forgiving in that if you sweat too much, it will wick the moisture away from your body and allow you to keep warm. Other brands may work, but I cant argue with success.
- Performance Bike Neo Booties. As long as my feet are warm, I am good to go. I use this version (heavier) whenever I have to wear booties. I would rather error on the side of too warm, than frozen toes. I would also suggest staying away from any bootie that closes with Velcro. They tend to come undone and could be a hassle on the ride. Go with the zipper style.
- Specialized Radiant Gloves. You could also go with a good cross-country ski glove. Typically, regular skiing gloves are too bulky to operate the brakes and shifters easily. My gloves have the added feature of a pocket for hand warmers.
A few tips and tricks that I also employ.
- Dont forget your lips and face. A little Auqaphor will go a long way to preventing wind damage to exposed skin.
- Remember to hydrate! Although you may go through less fluids than a ride in August, make sure you are still getting enough. I have gone hours on very little water, only to cramp up over the last 10 miles.
- Clean your glasses with swim goggle anti-fog solution. I use Jaws Quick Spit for my swim goggles and glasses. The temperature differential between your body and the air will cause them to fog much more often than in warmer conditions.
- Bring extra tubes/CO2 canisters. The roads get pretty gnarly from the fall and rarely do street sweepers make the rounds in the winter. I will get more flats in 2 winter months than I do the rest of the year.
- If its shiny, its probably ice. Stay away from anything that looks like water, it will take you down in a second.
- Keep away from leaves on the road. You never know what lies beneath.
Stay warm, stay safe and keep up your fitness for an outstanding next season. If you have any other tips, tricks or gear suggestions, please comment below and share your experience and gear suggestions.