Here’s our take on triathlon gear, what you need and what you can do without.
THE BIG THREE:
Bicycle – the pricey one! Well lets be honest they aren’t cheap, but if you get a few years use out of it you will certainly get your money’s worth. Find out if you qualify for ‘cycle to work’ which can save you big money on the cost of a bike, or you can go 2nd hand and pick up a decent bike for a fraction of the price. Comfort and fit is most important, then if you want to go fast and lightweight with all the bells and whistles (excuse the pun) its going to really increase the price for limited extra advantage for novices or the average triathlete. I laugh when people before a race are discussing which bike they are going to use and which wheels they will add… I have 1 of everything so my choices are limited! Im still laughing when I pass them on the bike later 😉 As the saying goes “No point having a 5,000 quid bike and 50p legs”.
Wetsuit – the vast majority of triathlons in the UK / Ireland will require wetsuits to be worn during the swim. Just as well for the poor swimmers amongst us as they increase buoyancy! Once again they aren’t cheap but you can probably get a reasonable brand for around a hundred quid. If you are just starting out you might want to get a lend of one to try out the sport before investing too much. I swam for my first triathlon year in a windsurfers wetsuit… the fact that he was national champion didnt seem to reflect on my swimming! However you will really notice the difference in a decent and well-fitting wetsuit and you local store will size you up Above and beyond the basics its really not worth spending a fortune as it’s not going to make a difference to an average swimmer, unless you just want to look like a good swimmer until you get in the water!
Runners/trainers – when you start increasing mileage and entering races the old runners that you’ve had for years and “Have never let me down” wont do anymore. Spend a few quid and the reduction of running related injuries will be more than worth it. Get yourself to a decent run shop and get your gait analysis tested then find a shoe that works for the way you run. You can opt for a slightly cheaper brand or last years colours but don’t but cheap runners as you will live to regret it. I generally hope to get about 6 months or 600 miles out of a pair before I have to replace them, but I will feel it in my legs when it is time to change.
Helmet – don’t get on a bike without one! I came off my bike last year at a low speed and cracked open my helmet, which could easily have been my head. Once again you can go higher spec and aerodynamic for a lot of extra money but for most of us it wont make much difference so just get a good fit and a decent brand for reasonable money…. And of course make sure the colour coordinates with your bike 🙂
Cycling Shoes – they aren’t a pre-requirement but clip-ins will make a big difference to your cycling and help you use more muscles so transition to them as quickly as you can.
Swim Cap – most races will give you a free one which denotes your race wave, but depending on the water temperature you may well need another one to prevent brain freeze. Also depending on your vulnerability to the cold you may need to get a silicone cap (thicker than latex) or even neoprene. The prices are higher but they will give you a little added comfort and keep your head warm even if the rest of your body is freezing.
Watch – as long as its waterproof and has a stop watch its fine! Some people swear by heart rate monitors and GPS watches but they are very pricey and again for limited extra benefit for most athletes, as you start to clock up more miles you may find extra investment worthwhile and it can be useful to start gauging your heart rate zones, your speed etc.
Anything else you could probably do without or go really cheap, but they can make a big difference to your performance and enjoyment of an event.
Goggles: These can be expensive and generally don’t last long if you are using them lots. Ok they would probably last a lot longer if you cleaned them after races and stored them properly but who does that?! Get yourself a good pair and we like the wide face ones as they don’t leave plug marks for hours on your skin. Find out what else works for you in the water – ear plugs, nose plugs etc, not necessary for some but a life saver for others.
Tri suit – You don’t absolutely need a tri-suit but they are made specifically for triathlon and again they make your life a lot easier. They have some padding for cycling, are quick drying and have storage pockets on the back. It’s not worth spending a fortune on one of these for limited extra benefit, just make sure you get a good fitting one.
Race belt – gain not absolutely necessary but in a triathlon you are supposed to have your number on your back for the cycle and on your front for the run so it’s a lot of hassle and a lot of holes on your gear. With a race belt you just attach your number to the belt and can spin your number around if required. You can also store some gels on the belt for easy access. Check out our race belt here
Tri Bag – some will argue they are a waste of money and its fine to use old sports bags or storage boxes. Your choice but trust us as we have attended hundreds of events across the UK and Ireland, you will save a lot of time and hassle by having a triathlon specific bag. Generally when people buy one they wonder how they ever did without it. Naturally we could recommend our own X2Bag but there are other options out there. Check out our triathlon bag blog to see what features you should be looking for here
Excerpt from British Triathlon Rules 2016
“c.) Competitors should only bring into transition what is required. Boxes may be provided by the Event Organiser, any other boxes used to bring equipment into transition should be removed. A small soft-sided bag such as a rucksack may be used and remain in transition, though it must not impede the progress of another competitor”
Vaseline – experts tell us that it might damage your wetsuit, but ive been using it for years with no ill effects and its about one tenth of the cost of the ‘glides’ that you can buy so ill stick with it. Great for around your neck when swimming, and nipples / undercarriage when running. SLAP IT ON!
Baby wipes – a strange one but these are a life saver if you cant have a shower straight after the race. They let you freshen up if you are hanging about for prizes, a drink afterwards or just the journey home.
Others – sun cream (in the unlikely event that the sun comes out); sunglasses; a good towel like this one; a transition mat or Dry Mat ; and finally a cap or hat for the run… or you can use one of these which also doubles as a hairband / headband.
Spares – some people feel it necessary to have spare back-ups of everything in case anything goes wrong. You don’t and it’s a waste of time lugging extra gear about. The necessary spares would include tubes for the bike, socks if you want to wear them during bike/run, goggles and a towel.
Lastly is WHERE you buy your gear. You have lots of options and many decide to buy though large online retailers. However these guys do little for your club or community and the same goes for discounters such as Lidl or Aldi. So I would urge you to shop local and support your local tri/cycle/run store. OK they might cost an extra 10 or 20% but the service is worth it, they will take good care of you and will be much more likely to support local triathlon clubs and events across the UK and Ireland.