Now that winter is coming, it’s time to figure out what you are going to need to make winter training as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. Having the appropriate clothing and equipment will make inclement weather infinitely more manageable and the items below are what I consider to be essential to make Canada my year-round training location.
Booties and warm gloves
When the weather drops to 10C or below, the booties season begins for me. This seems to be the threshold for me to remain comfortable with warm feet on long rides. I can survive a lot of crazy weather if my hands and feet are warm. My favourite booties are a fuzzy and waterproof style from Bontrager that are like UGGs for your bike shoes. As for gloves, my favorites are Bontrager’s RXL Stormshell gloves. Some of the guys I ride with feel they are overkill for Victoria’s temperatures so you might find something like the Windshell variety works better. Maybe women have colder hands and feet and require a thicker option but I always opt to be too warm versus too cold when I go out riding.
Daylight savings means the early morning can be very dark. Rainy and dark mornings call for clear lenses but what happens when the sun peeks out? This is where photochromic lenses really shine as they take care of this exact conundrum by responding to UV light and becoming darker. I also use photochromic lenses on my mountain bike as I find the forest creates pockets of low light in the winter even if it is a sunny day. The Rudy Project NOYZ frame with photochromic lenses is my go-to glass for winter conditions.
A layering jacket
The weather on the west coast is generally wet, so a waterproof or water resistant jacket is important. The cold and damp weather also makes it important to have layering pieces to stay warm. My favourite jacket is the Repel jacket from Champion System. This jacket is waterproof and very warm, so too warm for temperatures above 10C. Below 10C the jacket is perfect for cool or damp days and easily can be layered with a jersey, undershirt or even a thermal jersey to go well below zero. Layers are key for remaining comfortable when training in cool temperatures as one heavy piece is rarely perfect for the whole ride and layers allow sweat to wick away keeping you warm and dry.
Neutral cushioned running shoes
Last winter I spent my off season working on my running and I am planning do the same this year. With shorter days and less optimal weather I feel like December to February is a good time to keep some intensity in place on the bike while getting more mileage in running. I like running in a more cushioned and relatively neutral shoe like the Asics Cumulus. The shoe comes in a waterproof model called the Cumulus G-Tx as well. I find this shoe is quite forgiving for wet conditions when rain and snow could otherwise result in blisters as it has a Gore-tex upper which keeps feet dry and warm. The idea of running with more cushioning is catching on in triathlon given the popularity of the Hoka shoe, but I still like to use lighter or natural shoe in racing and in speed workouts to make sure I am not lazy with my form. Getting increased mileage in muddy or even snowy trails is another great winter training plan so a shoe like the Asics G-Tx shines even off road. Hardcore trail hounds might choose a more trail specific shoe.
A Cross Bike
I have been an advocate of off road riding for triathletes for years now but for some people mountain biking is just not appealing or not accessible (ie: there are no real mountain bike trails). The perfect middle ground between your time trial bike and a mountain bike is a cross bike. A cross bike will challenge you to ride a variety of terrain, even if it is only gravel roads and will be much safer if the roads are covered with slush or ice. Having a cross bike will take the pace of your ride out of the equation and allow you to either just enjoy some mileage or work on some of your technique by climbing and pedaling on loose terrain. The slacker angles are much more comfortable so your back will get a nice break from being hunched over in aero position all season which is great while you are either in recovery mode or building back to form. I have Trek Boone which also has a bit of suspension built into the rear end of the bike which makes for super comfortable winter gravel grinding. An added bonus might be to add in some cyclocross racing to your off season. These short, ultra-intense races are great for offseason and the efforts might help tune up an engine that has become fairly diesel after a season of Ironman training.
Lets face it, some days riding outdoors is simply not going to be an option. This is where the bike thong enters the picture. Nobody wants sweat to ruin their insanely valuable carbon bike, so this small investment is worth it to protect your bike. The Saris Thong is inexpensive and effective. It creates a sweat and waterproof barrier to protect the front end of your bike and features little pockets to hold important items like a phone and the remote. It is easy to install and remove so throwing it in the washing machine after your ride is no big chore. Without the Thong you are likely going to spend a lot of time trying to clean your bike- or you might want to use an old bike for those sweaty sessions on the trainer.