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Be Prepared with Cold Weather Riding Gear

When I first started the sport of triathlon in Eugene, Oregon, my motivation was quickly put to the test. Within the first week of training, it snowed. Even though the snow didn't last long, it was cold (for a California native), wet, and I was beginning to forget what the sun looked like. That's when someone told me, “There's no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.” I couldn't agree more.

No matter where you live, it's possible to properly train for a triathlon of any distance, despite the weather. It comes down to two things: the right mental outlook and the right clothing. Since riding 5 hours in the rain is inexplicably enjoyable to a select few, I'll focus on the clothing and gear that can make all the difference.

One of the first items to come to mind has to be the rain jacket, however, it should be rain jackets. Some jackets are more breathable than others and that's exactly why you should consider having two in your closet. For the days when the rain is light or misty and it's humid outside, a breathable jacket is the best tool for the job. Jackets such as these tend to be more expensive, but they're well worth being comfortable and dry in the saddle. Then there are the days when it pours and breathability takes the back seat to keeping dry. This is when you can't beat one of the cheap, PVC jackets. A common feature you should look for in either jacket, is that it should come down to cover your butt from wheel spray.

If you ride in a group year round and want to continue doing so when the skies open up, get fenders! While fenders are often found on recreational bikes, you can find them firmly attached to my Cannondale SuperSix each winter. Not only do they help keep you dry, they greatly limit the spray so that other riders are dry as well. Another great reason to put fenders on your bike is sanitation. If you ride on rural roads, where runoff from pastures washes onto the roads, you'll be happy to know your water bottle is protected from whatever your wheels were splashing your way.

For me, cold, wet feet and hands are the worst part of a winter ride. However, if the hands and feet are warm and dry, I'm all smiles. If it's dry, but bitterly cold and wool socks aren't warm enough alone, consider a pair of Oversocks. Simple as they sound, Oversocks are incredibly effective at keeping your feet warm and keeping your shoes looking their best. Neoprene shoe covers are also an option, but if it's not wet, I find that they can get too warm. For the days when it's really wet and cold, putting a plastic bag over your shoes and then slipping into neoprene shoe covers makes a tremendous difference.

As for your hands, if your windproof, waterproof gloves don't seem to keep the tips of your fingers nice and toasty, wearing a latex glove underneath will fix that problem. Your hands will get sweaty wearing the gloves, but it's a certainty that you won't complain about having cold fingers.

Lastly, there are items and accessories that every triathlete should have to combat their winter training – base-layers, a neck gaiter, a beanie, and arm/knee warmers. A good base-layer draws moisture away from your body and dries quickly, establishing the foundation for comfort during a cold ride. It's wise to have a few in you collection for various temperatures. A merino wool neck gaiter can be seen as a luxury item, but once you've ridden with one in near-freezing temperatures, you'd never ride without one again. The same goes for a good beanie. Both a neck gaiter and beanie trap quite a bit of body heat that would have otherwise been lost. Best of all, even when wet, merino wool dries quickly and retains a lot of body heat making your ride that much more comfortable. Then there are the arm/knee warmers, perhaps the most versatile items to own. They're easy to put on or take off during a ride and offer quite a bit of warmth as well. As a rule of thumb, I'd recommend having your knees covered when the temperature drops below 60º.  Keeping them warm is a preventative measure, as the knee has no source of natural protection from the cold – it's just cartilage, ligaments, tendons, and bone. Overall, covering the knee ensures that the joint is warm and therefor loose, lessening the chance of discomfort.  Then, you're free to hammer the pedals no matter the temperature.

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