What Equipment Do I Need for a Triathlon

I’m often asked by beginner and novice triathletes “what do you wear for a triathlon” and “what equipment do I need for a triathlon”.

More important than any recommendation of product “X” or product “Y” is the fundamental rule: race in what you train in.

The most important factor is comfort. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in and do not, ever, try anything new on race day.

What to wear for the triathlon swim

The only equipment you really need is a good pair of goggles, some sort of swimming suit and a swim cap (normally provided by the race officials). Wearing a wetsuit is optional (and highly recommended in colder waters).

For beginners a wetsuit is also helpful as it aids buoyancy (particularly for your legs) and increases the circumference of your arms, essentially making them larger paddles.

 

 

The downsides to wearing a wetsuit are comfort, unfamiliarity, and additional transition time to take the suit off.

To combat these problems you should definitely do some training in your wetsuit before the race (did we mention that you should race in what you train in!).

Also, apply a little BodyGlide or Vaseline to body ‘hotspots’ (those areas likely to chafe – the neck and underarms in particular) – the ankles and heels of your feet (to aid quick removal of the wetsuit).

What do you need for the triathlon bike

You should wear a triathlon-specific shorts and top underneath your wetsuit. This allows you to remove your wetsuit, put on your bike shoes and be ready to start the bike.

Some triathletes prefer wearing a one-piece tri-suit. This is personal preference. Triathlon-specific shorts differ from traditional bicycle shorts in that they have a thinner padding on the seat. This allows for easier and more comfortable running, whilst still offering cushioning for the bike seat.

Any bicycle shoes can be used for a triathlon. Specific triathlon bike shoes typically have only one or two Velcro strap fastenings to permit easy opening.

Bike helmets are compulsory, and must comply with the specific race rules. Essentially this means that the helmets must be worn ‘as purchased’ with no modifications and must be worn at all times while on the bike.

The safest approach is simply to put on your bike helmet first as soon as you take off your wetsuit at transition 1 and take off your helmet last as you put on your running shoes at transition 2.

You can race on any bike you want. However, as the race distance increases it makes more sense to invest in either a road bike or a triathlon bike. An entry level road bike can be obtained for a few hundred dollars.

However if you see yourself doing more triathlons it may make sense to invest a little more money on your bike as this is the single piece of equipment (other than your training plan) which will result in the greatest improvement in your race time.

You will want to get as light a bike as you could afford (usually made from carbon fiber) and/or a bike with a tri-specific geometry. Make sure your bike is the correct size for you.

If it isn’t you can waste a lot of energy or even injure yourself. A good bike fitting is always recommended no matter what your objectives are for cycling.

What to wear for the triathlon run

Choosing the correct running shoes is very important and triathletes should resist the temptation to settle for the cheapest shoes you find in a discount store. A good running shoe will help prevent injuries in the future.

Other Items

I’ve described the bare minimum equipment needed to complete a triathlon. Beyond this there is a huge choice of additional items available. Most useful are:

  • Race number belt: an elastic strap to attach your race number. This is far easier than using traditional safety pins (and does not damage your tri racing vest.
  • Lace Locks: these are used with your normal shoe laces and allow you to ‘zip’ up your laces rather than tie a knot. Useful for tired or sweaty hands.
  • Socks: some athletes prefer not to wear socks to save the time putting them on. Others view them as essential. It really comes down to how prone a triathletes is to blisters. Train with socks on and without and see which is more comfortable.
  • Sunglasses: these really should be an essential item. Protects riders from anything getting in their eyes on the bike and protects against the sun (obviously).

In summary – a triathletes racing list

  • Goggles
  • Swimwear
  • Swimming Cap
  • Wetsuit
  • Tri Shorts and Tri Top (Tri Suit optional)
  • Helmet
  • Bike Shoes
  • Socks (optional)
  • Sunglasses
  • Running Shoes
  • Racebelt (optional)

Good luck!

Terry

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