Essential Gear for Triathlons...Beginners Guide

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 Here is the Basic list of essential gear needed for triathlons.  Read on for more important information.

 

1. Bike 2. Tri Clothing 3. Wetsuit
4. Swim Cap 5. Goggles 6. Lubricant
7. Cycling Shoes 8.  Running Shoes 9. Nutrition/Hydration
10. Helmet 11. Sunglasses 12. Sunscreen
13. Flat Repair Kit 14. Running Hat 15. Race Number Belt
16.  Heart Rate Monitors  17. Transition Bag  

 

Triathlons: Recommended Gear

how to gear up for a triathlonAre you new to triathlons? Ready to try a sprint or mini, Olympic or international, half Ironman or even an Ironman. That's a great goal to have. Best of luck in the endeavor.

It takes discipline to train for a triathlon. Triathlons consist of three combines sports of swimming, cycling and running. In addition to the swim, bike and run, the transition between each leg requires preparation. For a successful race, it is important to have the right gear. Here are some pointers of recommended gear.

What type of Triathlon Course should I do?

There are many variations of triathlon race options. For a first triathlon, sprint (or mini tri) may be a good option. Sprints generally consist of a ¼ mile swim, a 6-10 mile bike ride and a 5k run. Competing in a Sprint is a good introduction to triathlons and will help you gage on your ability and what it will take to move up to the next distance you choose. When you feel confident about going further you can try Olympic, Half Ironman, and full Ironman distances.

 

Triathlon Races with Distance Ranges:

Triathlon

Swim

Bike

Run

kilometers

miles

kilometers

miles

kilometers

miles

Sprint or Mini Tri

0.3-0.75

0.24-0.62

8-25

5-15.5

1.5-5

1-3.2

Olympic

1.5

0.93

40

24.8

10

6.2

Half Ironman

1.9

1.2

90

56

21.1

13.1

Ironman

3.8

2.4

180.2

112

42.2

26.2

 

You may want to join a triathlon club or swim group in your area. Triathlon LAB has a resource page listing triathlon clubs by state.

Triathlon Clothing

Mens tri shortsFor most efficiency and ease, triathlon specific clothing is your best choice. Triathlon specific clothing includes shorts, tops and racesuits. They are designed to wear throughout the whole race, including the swim, bike and run. The shorts or racesuits have tri specific chamois that are designed to provide comfort on the bike leg, but not soak up much water during the swim or provide discomfort during the run. They use fabrics and materials that dry quickly and provide excellent moisture transfer and breathability for temperature regulation. Some triathlon clothing options go even further to provide compression to increase blood circulation and muscle support. A pure cycling short chamois will asbsorb too much water and is too big to wear while running. Tri specific clothing should fit snugly as to prevent drag and to limit stretching from water during the swim portion of the race. Although tri specific clothing is a better choice, it is not required to use in a triathlon. This would require changing during the transitions between the swim to run and for the bike to run transition.

If you were to choose just one tri specific clothing piece, the triathlon-specific short ( tri shorts) would probably be the most critical choice. Triathlon LAB carries the top triathlon clothing brands including shorts by 2XU, Zoot Sports, De Soto, Orca, Sugoi and Louis Garneau.



 

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of men's triathlon shorts and women's triathlon shorts.

For another triathlon clothing option, read about Compression Clothing

 

Swimming Gear

Most triathlons begin with the swim. This gives you time to put on your wetsuit if you are using one, and to get in the water to get accustomed to the temperature without rushing. Typical gear for the swim include: Triathlon or swimming wetsuit, goggles, swim cap, anti chafing stick, anti fog, ear plugs, and nose plugs. For colder swim races swim socks, skullcaps and thermal swim gloves may be advised.

Triathlon Wetsuit

triathlon wetsuitsDepending on the water temperature, a triathlon (Or swimming) wetsuit may be advised. Please note, a wetsuit for surfing or diving may actually slow you down due to the loss in flexibility and slickness, so it is highly recommended to only use a triathlon wetsuit which is specific for swimming. In general, wetsuits will provide warmth in cool water conditions, add bouyancy, and reduce drag to improve swim time. In warm water conditions above 84F, wetsuits are not allowed by USAT. There are many types of triathlon wetuits and varying types and thicknesses of neopreneused to achieve different technical aspects of the wetsuit. Sleeveless wetsuits are available for warmer water swims and for those that prefer completely free arms. Long sleeve wetsuits will provide the swimmer with added warmth and added bouyancy.

Proper fit is essential to have a good experience using a triathlon wetsuit. Too big, and the wetsuit will fill with too much water and slow you down. Too tight and it will be uncomfortable and restrictive. Different brands all fit differently. Some brands are suitable for larger frames and some seem to suit slighter frames. It can be challenging to put on a wetsuit as they need to fit very tight. Be prepared to spend a little time putting it on correctly. A wetsuit should be as tight as possible without being restrictive. Almost like a second skin. There should be no gapping in the crotch or under arm regions. Your breathing and arms stroke motions should not be restricted. Even with proper fit, some people may get chafing on the neck or arm hole (Sleeveless), so it is advised to use an anti-chafing product such as Bodyglide or Trislide. Also, keep in mind that the triathlon wetsuits have more delicate neoprene than traditional surf wetsuits and care should be take not to tear with sharp objects or fingernails. Please see this helpful video on how to properly put on a wetsuit.

Wetsuit Care: After use, rinse the wetsuit inside and out with fresh water, then hang it inside out to dry. In general, a wetsuit should be stored inside out when not in use. This will protect it from harmful UV rays that can damage the neoprene rubber and minimize nicking and tearing the wetsuit. If you will be storing for a long period of time, then it is recommended to store it flat, lighhlty folded and not on the hanger as it may cause indentions at the arms from the hanger. Also, do not store it in an airtight bag or container or it may get moldy.

Tip:  Check out this video about how to put on a triathlon wetsuit

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of wetsuits.

If you choose to go without a wetsuit, you can swim in a swimsuit or triathlon clothing.

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of men's swimwear and women's swimwear.

Swim Cap

Swim Caps reduce friction and drag to improve swim performance. Swim caps can also provide some warmth and add visibility if bright colors are chosen. For those that swim in open water, bright colors are a good choice. In general, swim caps are usually provided by the race organizers with specific colors for each wave/age and gender group. Triathlon LAB provides both Latex and Silicone swim caps. Latex caps are less expensive than the Silicone variety. The silicone caps are thicker and more durable than the latex. Silicone caps are easier to put on than Latex as they don't stick together as much as the Latex caps.

Goggles

Swim gogglesGoggles are an essential item for triathlons. Goggles will enable you to see better under water and with more comfort. Goggles will also will provide physical and UV ray protection for your eyes. Goggles are designed for different light and water conditions. Swimming in the ocean where you will be required to go through waves will benefit from hybrid or mask style goggles. The larger surface will disperse the pressure from the waves over a larger surface area, and are less likely to be knocked of your face. Smaller size goggles are suitable for pool and lake swimming. Light conditions should be considered when choosing the lens. For low light conditions, clear lens work well. For outdoor and sunny conditions, choose goggles with light tints.

Fit is very important for goggles. If the fit is incorrect, your goggles will leak. For choosing your goggles, look at your face and determine if you have a narrow face ir wide face. How far apart are your eyes and how wide is your nose bridge. If you tend to have close set eyes or a small face, you will need the small sized frame. Most adults fit in the regular size frames.

Most goggles use an anti-fog technology, but if you still have problems a fog cloth or lens cleaner can be used.

Lens Color

Effect

Clear

Clear vision, no change of colors, doesn't reduce glare. good for low light conditions and indoor pools

Smoke

Reduces light transmission and lowers overall brightness without much color change

Blue,Purple

Reduces serface glare in water and gives good visibility in bright light

Amber

Good for indoor pools and flat light conditions

Mirrored/Metallized

Reduces brightness and glare

Red

Enhances contrast

Tip: It's a good idea to have an extra pair of goggles on hand in case a strap breaks, etc. Plus bring a pair with different shades of lenses to account for different lighting conditions you may encounter on race day.

Earplugs and Nose Plugs

Earplugs and Nose Clips will help keep water out of your ears and nose. There are various types of earplugs. There are the silicone moldable earplugs, molded earplugs, and then conical ear plugs.

 

Cycling Gear


Bicycle

Tri BIkeIf you are just starting triathlon, and are not sure you will be a long term triathlete, then a road bike is probably your best choice as it is more practical for hills, and commuting and non-triathlon related cycling. A few added accessories can be added to your road bike to improve your aerodynamics and speed, such as clip on aerobars and disc wheels.

If you are going to be participating in longer triathlons, and want more speed, then a tri bike would probably be a great fit for you. The triathlon or TT bike has different geometry designed to put you in an aero position for improved aerodynamics and efficiency. In addition, the geometry change works your leg muscles differently If you are a serious triathlete, you will probably want both road and a tri bike in your arsenal. You will be spending a lot of time on the bike training and will probably appreciate having both options for different conditions and rides. After all, at this point, triathlon is more than just a sport, it is a passion and a lifestyle. We get it.

Shop Triathlon LAB's tri-bike selection

Cycling Shoes

Cycling shoesCycling shoes are designed to be efficient in power transfer from leg to bike. This is accomplished witha stiff sole design and using clips on the bottom of the shoes that attach directly to the bike pedals. Beginners will sometimes use toe straps on pedals which are used with regular running shoes. However, toe straps are not as efficient as clip on cycling shoes and energy will be wasted. There are cycling specific shoes and cycling tri shoes. The main difference is that cycling shoes designed for triathlons are easier to take off because of the wider single or double strap system. In addition, they typically are seamless inside to make it possible to wear without sock. Tri specific cycling shoes will also usually have a loop in the back of the shoe to aid in pulling off the shoe during tranisition to the run..

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of bike shoes.

Helmet

bike helmetHelmets are absolutely necessary to participate in traithlons. They are required during the triathlon, and should always be worn during cycling to protect your head in case of an accident. There are many types of helmets to choose from. Helmets with more vents will be cooler and more comfortable in warm weather conditions. For longer triathlons where you will be spending a long time on the bike in aero position, you may want to consider an aero helmet. These helmets are designed to reduce drag and increase cycling speed. For short triathlons and regular cycling, a road helmet is probably the best choice.

 

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of bike helmets.

Sunglasses

Don't forget your sunglasses in your transition area. Sunglasses are important to use as they offer your eyes protection from the wind, debris, UV rays and glare. Your best choices are sport sunglasses with light frames and the correct shape that will be compatible with your bike helmet. Choose your lens type based on your need. Some sunglasses come with multiple lenses for different light conditions. Some come with photochromatic lenses which change tint based on light conditions, which are very convenient as there is no need to change out lenses with changing light conditions.

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of sunglasses.

Tools and Tire Repair

Tri Tool kitIt is important to have spare tubes on hand and the tools required to change or repair a tube in case you get a flat on the course. Some triathlons have race support on the course and can help change out flat tires, but it is better to be prepared in case help is unavailale. Make sure you know how to change a tube. It would be very frustrating not to complete a triathlon due to a flat tire. Here is an instructional video on "How to change a tire and tube". Triathlon LAB has short free workshops on "How to replace a tube". Check our facebook page for dates and times. Here is a list of recommended items.

  • Spare tubes (2)
  • Tire levers (Set of 2)
  • Co2 cartridge & adapter or hand pump
  • Bike Multi Tool
  • Saddle bag (To store the items)

Cycling Gloves

Not required, but are designed to offer comfort and sometimes warmth. Cycling gloves are designed to reduce pressure on the Median and Ulner nerves. If you are spending extened time on the bike, then cycling gloves are highly recommended. Cycling gloves come in full fingered or half fingered gloves. The full fingered gloves are ideal for cold weather conditions, where as the half fingered gloves are the best choice for warmer weather.

Race Number Belt

Race number belts add convenience during the race transitions. The number is attached to the racebelt in advance, simply requiring you to snap the belt on prior to the bike and run legs. Otherwise you will need to use safetypins to attach the number to your clothing. Most triathletes don't want to put safetypins through their technical triathlon clothing and cause damage to the clothing. So for added convenience and clothing care, race nnumber belts are a recommended inexpensive item.

Running Gear


Running Shoes

Choosing the right running shoe is not simple. There are many different philosphies as to the best running form, which coincide with different types of run shoes. There are three main types of foot strikes: Heel strike, midsole strike and forefoot strike. The shoe drop typically dictates which type of foot strike. Zero drop or low drop shoes will promote a midsole or forefoot strike, and shoes with a larger heel drop will promote a heel strike. Some philosphies tout zero drop shoes to create a more natural almost barefoot run style. Others prefer more cushioning in the heel as they prefer a heel strike technique. In addition, there are stability shoes designed for pronators. Your shoe choice will depend on your running philosophy and what works best for you. There are running shoes designed for triathlons. Typical features you will find are seamless interiors to provide comfort while running without socks. Bungee laces or cord locks are a good lace option as you do not have to worry about laces becoming untied during your run and they are quick to put on and tighten.

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of men's running shoes and women's running shoes.

Running Pack (Hydration Belt)

Most triathlons will have several aid stations along the course to provide hydration and sometimes food (longer courses). However, it may be a good idea to carry hydration and energy foods with you so you can use your favorite type and have it when ever needed. See below for nutritional tips.

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of running packs.

Hat

Run hats or visors provide protection for your eyes from sun and rain. Some hats and visors have built in sweat bands to help keep sweat out of your eyes. Most run hats are made out of breathable cool fabric.

Heart Rate Monitors, Fitness Trackers, and GPS Watches

heart rate monitorHeart rate monitors and fitness trackers are useful devices. Heart rate monitors are important tools to measure how hard you are working your heart. It will let you know if you should speed up or slow down. In addition, these devices will track distances and pace. A bare bones Fitness tracker will give you time and pace measurements. A heart rate monitor usually requires you to wear a strap around your chest to measure your heart rate, but there are some types that only require a wrist bracelet to measure your pulse. GPS enable watches will accurately track true distances travelled and even elevation gains.

See the Triathlon LAB Expert Advice article on How to Choose a Fitness Monitor to learn more, or shop Triathlon LAB's selection of fitness monitors.

Pre Race Prep and Gear

Transition /Tri Bag

Because of the three discliplines of a triathlon, there is a lot of gear needed to have with you on race day or during training. Triathlon specific bags are designed to carry your required gear and to separate wet from dry gear. Most tri bags will have a wetsuit or wet department that is separated from the dry area. Some are simple duffle bag style, where others for the very organized individual will have multiple compartments for shoes, helmets, sunglasses westuits, etc.

 

Towel and Water Bottle

You should pack a towel for the transition area to stand on while you are putting your shoes on.  In addition, have a water bottle on hand to rinse of your feet after the swim prior to putting on your cycling shoes.

Anti Chafing / Lube

Anti chafe products are a triathletes best friend. Products like Bodyglide and Trislide are useful in preventing rashes from wetsuits, or other types of skin rashes caused by friction during swimming, biking or running. To prevent rashes from wetuits, apply the anti chafing around the neck region, and if you are wearing a sleeveless wetsuit, around the arm holes of the wetsuit. The anti chafe can also be used to facilitate wetsuit removal by applying on the wrists and ankles under your wetsuit,

You can also apply lubricate any part of your body that rubs against other body parts or clothing that causes irritation. Blistershield applied in shoes will help prevent blisters during the run. Chamois cream applied inside cycling shorts will prevent chafing during the bike ride.

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of skin care products.

Sunscreen

sunscreen for triathlons

Protecting your skin from sun damage is important. Sunscreen that is designed to stay on during excercise is important, or it will just sweat off. And while you want to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, which cause cancer and premature aging, you should also care if the sunscreen itself is damaging to your body due to harmful chemicals. Consider a sunscreen that is certified to be free of biological harmful ingredients. Be sure to apply according to the directions on the bottle prior to the swim, then re-apply after the swim and before the run. Even though a sunscreen may be labeled as waterproof, it may still need re-application due to sweating or rubbing.

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of sunscreen.

Nutrition

Leading up to the triathlon, make sure you stay hydrated. Hydration is best not left till right before the race, but as a steady process. Muscles are more prone to injury and cramping when you are dehydrated. When you are dehydrated, you will fatigue faster. For the night before the triathlon, don't eat processed or foods high in fat or fiber as they take longer to digest. Stick with foods you are familiar with and don't try anything new. You don't want any digestive surprises during your race.

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of energy food.

Arm and Knee warmers / Arm Coolers

For cool weather riding and conditions, arm warmers will provide you with warmth and protection from the wind and sun. The nice feature is that they are easy to remove if you start to get too warm. Knee warmers are another option to procide warmth on cool rides. They too can easily be removed if you start to get too warm. For warm weather condtions, consider arm coolers. The material for arm cooers is designed to protect you from the sun and to keep you cooler.

Tip: Keep a vest in your transition area. If it is windy and cold, you will appreciate the warmth especially while still wet from the swim. There are some very light weight vests that can be caried in small pockets if you need to remove during the ride.

Shop Triathlon LAB's selection of warmers.

Compression Clothing

Triathlon compression clothing is designed to improve blood flow throughout your body and to provide muscle support. True compression clothing should have a graduated compression that will help push blood from the extremeties to your core and back to the heart. This is more pronounced when you are not moving and why compression clothing is especially good for recovery and why it is good for blood circulation. During activity, the compression clothing will provide muscle support and help push out lactic acid from your muscles to reduce fatigue. Medical compression clothing is not designed for triathlons and is not recommended for use during activity.

Triathlon LAB carries a line of 2XU technical compression apparel including ankle sleeves, socks, compression tri tops and shorts, and even compression arm sleeves.

 

Race Day Tips

See Triathlon LAB's Race day checklist to make sure you don't forget anything crucial for the race.

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