What Not to Wear

Actually, this post is going to be more of “what to wear” gear post, but I liked the title shout out to the TLC show!

In case you haven’t noticed, or if you live in California, you should know that it is currently the season of “winter.” And winter is, by definition, the coldest season of the year for the Northern Hemisphere, from December to February.

And yes, my favorite California friends, I know “I could just move there and skip the whole winter thing.” But….I kind of like it here. Yes, it’s cold and it makes it really, really hard to train sometimes. But it also makes you tough. It makes you really appreciate the gorgeous blue sky days and 50 degree weather when you randomly get it in January. I believe that the turning of the weather gives each season a freshness that you just don’t get until you experience one after the other. And yeah, sometimes it sucks, but with the right frame of mind, and the right gear, any triathlete can survive here!

Note: I live in Virginia. Virginia’s winter is much less harsh than areas north of me. I don’t know how they do it.

This past Saturday I had a 100 mile ride on the schedule. I watched the weather forecast furiously and it never quite turned in my favor. While the wet weather stayed away (thank goodness — I did NOT want to repeat the Lake Placid incident!) it was still cold. While I did gain a couple degrees over the Charlottesville forecast because I headed south on the route, these were still the temps I was looking at:

Weather1 Weather2


So, how did I do it? The trick is in the gear and how you wear it! Well, that’s 80% of it. I will say, there’s a mental toughness component to accept you’re going to be a bit chilly, your toes will be cold, and that’s just a fact of the matter. But again, it’s 80% gear!

This is what I wore:

On the feet: Two pairs of socks. One swiftwick thin sock layer, with the wool Pearl Izumi socks over top. In my tri shoes (yes, these are much colder than road cycling shoes so that would be an upgrade if you can swing it!), with the Pearl cycling booties on top.

On my legs: I started with my Smashfest Queen Lava Berry Cycling shorts and Knee Warmers. On top of those, I wore Under Armour Storm Tights (it appears these are only available in men’s. I wear test for UA sometimes and so I have a women’s pair…or what appears to be women’s…so hopefully they are coming soon for everyone!) Regardless, I think this worked because they were wind resistance, and lightly fleece lined. Next time if it’s a little colder i could always try out some Base Layer Pants, to keep me warm.

On my upper body: I started with a base layer of a basic Under Armour crew neck cold gear top. Then I layered on a vest. And finally, my Voler riding jacket that I love.

On my hands: I wore a thin glove as a base layer (you know, the kind you can get for $5 from the drugstore!), and then Pearl Izumi elite barrier gloves.

On my head: A Sugoi Balaclava. Actually, that’s the best way to know I really think the ride is cold. I typically avoid the Balaclava at all costs because I am not a fan of something that it supposed to sit over my mouth; I spend most of the ride with it pulled down. But, it is great to keep my head and neck warm!

I also used some Mad Alchemy Embrocation balm which I applied to my hands, feet, and thighs under the knee warmers just prior to leaving on the ride. I don’t think it really did much for my toes, but I’m positive it helped with the legs and hands! I did *not* do the old “plastic bag” trick with my feet in bags inside my shoes. Again, if it was a wet cold ride, I may have rethought that one, but didn’t think it was necessary this time!

All in all, I was comfortable enough for the whole ride. And, because I kept my base layers thin and well thought out (i.e. wicking materials on the bottom, wind resistant and insulation on top), I never felt so heavy or like my movement was restricted by all the clothes.

Hope this helps others attempting to brave the cold this winter on two wheels! As always, don’t go out if the road conditions are dicey in the winter! I purposefully did not head into the mountains, knowing that was where the snow, black ice, etc would be. Stay safe (and warm)!

Published by Alyssa Godesky

Alyssa is a professional triathlete who has logged over 8,000 miles in competition of swimming, biking and running across five continents. She came to triathlon from an ultrarunning background and over the last few years has found success back on the trails: in 2018 she set the female supported Fastest Known Time (FKT) on Vermont's 273 mile Long Trail in 5 days, 2 hours and 37 minutes. In 2020 she set the women's supported FKT for climbing the 46 High Peaks in the Adirondacks in 3 days, 16 hours and 16 minutes. She is a triathlon and running coach, and also enjoys spending time guiding hikers out on the trails. Alyssa is based in Charlottesville, VA with her dog Ramona.

0 comments on “What Not to Wear”

  1. another idea for hand protection that is both pretty cheap and very effective as a base layer, are rubber surgical gloves. 100% wind and rain barrier. might get a little sweaty in there, but generally I’d rather have warm hands that I can feel that are a little wet, then non-functioning, numb, seemingly dry hands. You can also size-up the gloves and put a thin pair of “real” gloves under them.

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