Triathlon is a very interesting sport, since it combines three sports into one (cycling, running, and swimming). A 'triathlete' will begin the competition by swimming a specified distance in either a pool or open water environment, like a lake or ocean. They will then move onto cycling, which is typically the longest activity within the race. Lastly, the competitor has to transition from cycling to running, where they will finish the race on their feet. The triathlete to finish the race in the shortest amount of time will win. Triathlons require a variety of skills, including stamina and adjustability.
Having a proper bike is mandatory to compete in triathlons. It is the longest component of the race, typically spanning 20km for sprints, 40km for Olympic triathlons, 90km for half Iron Mans and 180km for full Iron Mans. No matter the distance, you are going to be on your bike for a long time, so you want one that is comfortable, aerodynamic and has a good capacity for storage.
For comfort you want to look for adjustability. The handlebars, or cockpit, should be able to adjust forward and back, and side to side. This allows you to bring the bars closer together or further apart, making it customizable. The saddle, or seat, is built so it gives you a more aggressive, bent over position. Saddles also have a cutout section in the middle that alleviates pressure in your pelvis.
The shape of handlebar extensions also contributes to comfort. They can be straight, curved down, or curved up. Picking one is all based on what you find more comfortable.
Triathlon bikes should also be aerodynamic. Oversized tubing profiles and hiding brakes, cables, and storage can contribute to aerodynamics. Tubing profiles are the frames that the bike is made out of. Manufacturers also hide brakes in the front fork of the bike, making it more aerodynamic.
Manufacturers also incorporate storage systems for food, water, and tools that fit with the design of the bike, so it can be aerodynamic and functional.
A good triathlon bike can cost $1,500 to $3,000.
When participating in a triathlon, wasting a single second can make or break your race time. So when transitioning into running, it is advised to get some elastic laces. Elastic laces can either be sold with a triathlon shoe, or they can be bought separately and attached to whatever shoe you have.
They are made of an elastic material that has a plastic zip that is attached to the end of the laces. This allows you to adjust your laces and start your run quickly so you do not waste time.
A good pair of elastic laces can cost about $8.
Having proper safety equipment is also important in a triathlon. The helmet is the most notable one. These are worn when biking and protect you if you were to fall and hit your head on the ground.
Triathlon helmets are usually lightweight and aerodynamic and enough protection to protect you during a fall. Some even have visors attached to them.
When buying a helmet it should be comfortable. You want it snug enough where it feels secure but it should not squeeze your head too tight and make you feel uncomfortable. They should also have some ventilation so you do not overheat.
A triathlon helmet can cost between $55 and $400.
In order to be prepared for a triathlon, you must train. The pull buoy is a training modality used for swimming.
It is a dense piece of foam that is put in between your thighs when swimming. This prevents you from kicking your legs and isolates your arms. Training like this can strengthen your stroke, work on your upper body endurance and fix your upper body technique.
Swimming in triathlons is done in pools, lakes, and sometimes even oceans, so it is important to strengthen your swimming to prepare you for the toughest situations.
Pull buoys can cost between $7 and $13.
Participating in a triathlon means that you will be given a race number. This number is typically attached to your tri-suit, but the downside is that you will have to poke holes into your expensive investment in order for it to be visible. You will also have to switch your number around from the back during biking, to the front when you are running.
A race belt prevents all of this from happening.
It is a belt that attaches around your waste, and displays your number. When switching from biking to running, you are able to turn the belt so your number is visible. It also keeps you from poking holes in your expensive tri-suit.
When looking for a race belt, it should be able to easily attach your race number and be adjustable.
A good race belt costs about $10.
Running distances can vary depending on the event. For example, sprints are 5km, Olympic runs are 10km, half Ironmans are 21.1 km, and full Ironmans are 42.2 km. Either way you need some shoes to get you going.
When looking for running shoes they should be extremely comfortable. You can run up to a marathon if you are in an Ironman race, so you want a shoe that fits properly and can even be worn sockless if desired.
Some shoes even come with elastic laces, which tie up quickly with one simple pull so you can quickly start your run.
The shoes should also have fast drying material. Sometimes your feet will be wet from the swim, or you will be biking and running in rain.
Prices can range from $50 to $250 depending on the brand.
Triathlon shirts, or singlets, are worn under your wetsuit so they can be worn after your swim for the rest of the race. The shirts are usually extremely breathable and moisture-wicking, which allows you to cool off easier during the bike and run.
When looking for a singlet, you should consider the fit. It needs to fit snug onto your upper body so it does not create any drag while running or biking.
You should also look for a shirt with a zipper and pockets. Unzipping allows for a larger neck hole which lets you move around easier. Also, pockets are used to store food and gels.
Prices can range between $13 and $70.
After their swim, some tri-athletes choose to go sockless for the remainder of the race. However, this is done because many of them are experienced. If you are new to racing, it is always good to protect your feed with some socks.
When looking for some socks, it is all based on personal preference. You can choose a thickness based on whatever feels most comfortable for you. However, you should always look for socks that have moisture-wicking material such as merino wool or synthetics.
They can cost between $7 and $50.
After your swim, you have to strap on your shoes and get to biking. But what else can help aid you from certain elements like the sun and wind? A pair of quality sunglasses.
In triathlons, sunglasses are worn during biking, if it is not already attached to your helmet, and running. They help block wind, UV rays, and glare. Some glasses come with different lenses for different conditions. To save you the trouble of changing out the lenses, you can buy sunglasses with photochromic lenses. These automatically transition whenever you step into light or dark conditions.
These cost between $50 and $260.
During swimming events, caps are used to keep your hair dry. If you have a shaved head, you do not need to wear a cap.
Swimming caps are usually made out of three different materials: latex, silicone or lycra.
Latex is the least expensive, but also the least durable. They are usually thin and provide less drag when swimming. Another downside is that they tend to stick together. They cost about $5.
Silicone is thicker than latex and is moderately durable. It will not pull your hair as much as latex and it resists sticking. Silicone caps cost about $10.
Lycra is made out of swimsuit material and is the most durable. It will not pull your hair and it also resists sticking. The only downside is that there is more drag produced. Lycra caps can cost up to $22.
Aiming to swim to the best of your ability means you need to do so with your eyes open, and this cannot be done unless you have swim goggles. The curved lenses of the goggles help with your peripheral vision and filter out UV rays.
The main qualities to look for when buying goggles are the fit and style. The lenses should feel comfortable and snug on your face. The goggles may or may not have a nose piece so you can also adjust the height. The straps should be adjustable and should lie right above your ears.
As far as style goes, different goggles have different purposes. Here is a table that talks about different lenses and their effects.
|Clear||Clear vision, no change in color|
|Smoke||Lowers light transmission and brightness without a lot of color change|
|Blue||Reduces glare; good visibility in bright light|
|Yellow/Orange/Red||Removes blue; good for indoor pools|
|Mirrored||Lowers brightness and glare|
Swim goggles can cost between $10 and $45.
Towels are used to dry you off after your swim, but they can also be used strategically. Many triathletes place their towels and biking and running gear at a distinct location at the end of their swim so they can quickly dry up and go. This is called setting up your transition area.
For this, you will need a towel that stands out so you can easily spot it once you get out of the water. This will save you a lot of time.
These can cost between $15 and $30.
A tri-suit is a piece of equipment that tri-athletes wear for the entire triathlon. It is made to be worn during the swimming, biking and running portions of the race. This saves you time from changing, which can significantly impact how you finish.
When buying a tri-suit you should consider different elements. First, would you prefer a one-piece or two piece?
Some benefits of owning a one-piece include:
Benefits of a two-piece include:
When fitting for a tri-suit, it should be tight. The last thing you want is the material to be flopping around during the race. This will create extra drag that you do not need. While biking and running, high quality suits allow you to have free range of motion, and they dry easily.
Prices can range from $50 to $300.
Hydration is crucial to staying in the triathlon. Your body can break down if not properly hydrated, so it is important to have a water bottle with you on your bike ride and run.
For your bike ride, water bottles can be placed in different areas on your bike. For example, there are special water bottles that go on your aero bars that allow you to lean over and take a sip without picking the bottle up. Bottles can also be placed behind the saddle, or on the frame.
To place water bottles here, your bike should have cages, but sometimes you will have to buy your own.
Aero bar water bottle set ups can cost about $70. Cages can cost about $8 to $15, and simple bottles are about $6.
During the swimming portion of a triathlon, you may be dealing with conditions that are everything but ideal. The water may be extremely cold, so it is helpful to invest in a wetsuit.
Some water gets in the wetsuit, and that creates a warm layer between you and the suit, so it helps insulate your body and keep you warm. It also increases your buoyancy and reduces drag to help you swim faster. The downside is that it can take some time to take off between transitions.
When looking to buy a wetsuit, the style can be with sleeves or sleeveless, shorts or full length and one piece or two pieces.
You also need to get the correct size. Getting a size that is too long in the arms, legs and neck-to-groin can make these areas bulge and this slows you down.
Prices can range from $40 to $500 depending on the style and brand.
There is not too much equipment needed for a triathlon. Socks, sunglasses, pull buoys, race belts, elastic laces, water bottles, shirts, and towels are all optional pieces of equipment. They are not necessary, but they may significantly help you get through each activity! Sunglasses can prevent a glare from the sun while biking and running, elastic laces help you transition from biking to running more quickly, and a water bottle will keep you hydrated throughout your race. You'll definitely need running shoes, a bicycle, a wetsuit, and goggles for your race.
Triathlon equipment is unique from the equipment of other sports because it must be able to survive three different sports combined into one: cycling, running, and swimming! Since these activities are all completed consecutively, and within the shortest amount of time, triathletes do not want to take time between each activity to change their outfit and equipment. The equipment must be adaptable and serve multiple functions.
The most important pieces of triathlon equipment for you to purchase are:
These pieces are necessary to complete each activity in the triathlon. The running shoes allow you to run with support for your feet, the bicycle allows you to cycle, and the swim goggles allow you to see underwater while you are swimming. The wetsuit is typically worn throughout each segment of the race, giving you the mobility to cycle and run but keeping you dry in the water.
Similar to the equipment involved in other sports, triathlon equipment cost varies with quality. A high-quality triathlon bicycle could cost over $1,500, but a typical mountain bike for a beginner may only cost $150. Triathlon wetsuits cost around $100, but need to be re-purchased as you grow and wear them out. Many of the other pieces of equipment can be purchased for lower prices, and many you may already own from your involvement in other sports, like track and field or swimming!