Winter can be a time when some triathletes go into hibernation. Post season can tend to be a time to reacquaint one’s self with the lounge, television and fridge. Or you can use this time to get a start on spring and hone some skills that may get a bit rusty if the only saddle time you have is sitting on the trainer watching Le Tour.
Depending on where you live the winter temperature can get below freezing, the roads can be wet and slippery and you tend to spend more time riding in the dark so winter riding takes a bit more motivation, a bit more preparation, the right equipment and a good reason to get out the door.
In winter I usually go by the adage “cold, dark, wet, pick any two” and many seasoned riders will also tell you there is no such thing as bad weather just bad clothing. Being cold when you are riding is uncomfortable and that can be distracting, which is the last thing you need when cycling in the dark amongst traffic. But being warm doesn’t need to cost the earth nor make you feel like you are heading to Antarctica.
The most important parts to keep warm are the extremities. Helmets are great at protecting your head and are usually exceptionally well ventilated which is great for summer but not great for winter. As someone who is follicly challenged I need all the help I can get so I use a skull cap under my helmet. This keeps the cold air of my bare skull and also keep my ears warm.
A skull cap to stop you getting an ice cream headache.
Another great item for the upper body is a “Buff”. If you haven’t seen a buff it’s a material tube that can be used in a variety of configurations to keep various parts warm. I put mine around my neck to keep that warm and if it’s exceptionally cold and dry I have been known to pull it up over my nose.
A "Buff" is extremely versatile and can be used in many different configurations, winter or summer.
Gloves are next, a good cycling specific pair should be warm enough for most conditions and also allow enough dexterity to allow you to effectively brake and change gears. If you need an extra layer then ski or outdoor shops are a great place to find either silk or merino inners that are warm without adding extra bulk. Cuffs that cover the wrists and dont leve any bare skin are essential, and with some "technology" borrowed from ski gloves some have a soft absorbent area on the first finger to allow for some, ah how can I put this politely, snot absorption.
The rest of your clothing should consist of a few layers depending on your local weather and personal preferences. Even though many will say Sydney doesn’t get really cold, I don’t like feeling cold at all so I tend to prefer to over dress. The base layer is the most important part of the equation. Merino is the Rolls Royce of base layers but can be a little pricey, some outdoor shops like Kathmandu have the occasional super sale and their merino and polypro base layers can be had there for a more modest price.
Base layers come in long and short sleeve, a snug fit is best for keeping warm.
With a decent base layer to kick it off, I simply make use of my existing kit and use a short sleeve jersey and a long sleeve winter jersey to top it off, preferably in a light colour. For down below I wear two layers as well. My “boys” need to be warm so I will usually wear a thin tri short as my base layer and a “Super Roubaix” fabric ¾ bib on top.
The feet are the next spot that needs attention. If you only have tri shoes you will really struggle here. Tri shoes are designed to give maximum ventilation and also often have holes in the soles to allow water out, they unfortunately also allow lots of cold air in. If you have road shoes these are generally a wiser choice, and I find good road shoes with some decent socks is adequate, however if you only have tri shoes then shoe covers may be a good investment to keep the piggies warm.
Shoe covers like these can keep your feet warm and have you looking good in the cafe afterwards too.
Once you have the right clothing, heading out into the wintery weather is nowhere near as daunting. In our next installment we will look at keeping youself safe and upright when you do venture out in the cold.