Triathlon Guide for Beginners: Gear Up!

This is the 3rd article in our 4 part series on triathlon for beginners. If you missed the last two, the first article talked about reasons why you might want to give triathlon a try and how to pick your first race. In our second article, we looked at some training ideas and tips to help make your first triathlon a success. The next piece of important information in getting ready for your triathlon event is triathlon gear and equipment. Being prepared with the right stuff on race day will make a huge difference to your overall enjoyment of the event. We are going to break it down into two categories: Must Haves and The Extras.

image courtesy of TrekBikes.com

Must Haves include equipment and gear that we believe you must have in order to have a positive race-day experience. Here they are:

Swimming Goggles: based on when you will be starting your swim, assess if you will need tinted goggles or not. There are many options when it comes to goggles and some work better on different face shapes, so be sure to try them out to find the ones that fit you best.

Wetsuit (if the water is below 72 degrees, it is recommended you wear one): if wetsuits are allowed at your race, it would be a good idea to wear one. A wetsuit will make you faster as it gives you buoyancy!

Bike: lots of options here, from entry-level bikes to higher-end expensive ones. Go to a local bike shop and test ride some to figure out what you like (and what you can afford).

Cycling Shoes: if you can practice it and get comfortable with it, clipping into your bike pedals is the way to go. You will be able to generate more power and it will make a difference in your bike time.

Bike Helmet: required at all races…you’ve got to protect your head!

Running Shoes: hundreds of options here, just be sure to practice in them ahead of time and find shoes that fit you well. The main thing to consider is will you go with or without socks? Whatever you decide, test it out before the race. Blisters can be your worst enemy!

Triathlon Shorts: probably the most comfortable and worry-free thing you can wear are tri shorts. They look like bike shorts but have a thinner pad that works better for swimming and running.

Triathlon Top: wearing a top with a pocket(s) in the back can be helpful for carrying your nutrition/gels. You also want to find something that is form fitting so you don’t have too much drag on the swim and bike (especially if you aren’t wearing a wetsuit).

Race Belt: easiest way to wear your race bib number.

Water bottle(s) for your bike: stay hydrated!

Gels or some form of nutrition: for anything longer than a sprint distance triathlon you will need some calories. There are many ways to get these calories: gels, drinks, or bars. Ask your triathlon coach or the experts at the triathlon shops for advice on what you should use.

Sunglasses: not totally necessary, but definitely helpful on sunny days!

The above list will get you to the starting line prepared for the race. But, now it is time to look at The Extras. Triathlon is one of those sports where the gear and equipment options become endless. There are so many little things you could add to your race-day list, none of them are necessary, but most are really cool!

Upgraded wetsuit: there are decent wetsuits around $100-200, but you can go for an upgraded suit somewhere in the $400-600 range. These suits are typically made out of a more flexible/thinner material that helps with overall comfort and range of motion for the arms.

Upgraded bike: you can find used bikes and entry-level bikes in the $1,000 range, but if you are looking for something lighter, “faster” and with that cool-factor, there are a slew of options when it comes to bikes. It’s pretty common to see price tags of $3-10K.

Helmets: the standard helmet works great, but if you are looking for “less drag”, check out the aero helmet.

Speed laces: replace your standard shoelaces with these for a faster transition time.

This is just a sampling of some of the extras you could get. Again, none of these things are necessary for finishing a triathlon race, but if they don’t make you faster you will at least feel pretty cool! For getting all the above gear and equipment, check out these local triathlon shops:

Austin Tri-Cyclist
Bicycle Sport Shop
Jack & Adam’s Bicycles
Mellow Johnny’s

The folks at these shops will be able to help you figure out what you will need. You could also get the guidance and support of a triathlon-specific coach who will not only be able to help you select the best gear and equipment for you, but they’ll be able to coach you as to how to use it!. Check out all of these great triathlon training programs and coaches: http://www.myfitlist.com/find/activity/triathlon