The world of triathlon can be intimidating when it comes to equipment. There are three sports rolled into one after all. Many people make the incorrect assumption that thousands of dollars need to be spent in order to try the sport. You could certainly spend thousands but it is not necessary to have a safe and fun triathlon experience. It’s more than likely that you already have most of the equipment you’ll need.
We break down the basic equipment you will need to bring to complete your first few races:
Swim Portion Swimsuit – comfort and speed are the major considerations. You will see all kinds out on the course, chose one that won’t fall off and one that you could envision riding a bike and running in. Remember this is a race, and you will save a lot of time if you swim, bike and run in the same outfit.
Goggles – Any will do as long as they fit.
Bike Portion Bike – a working, safe bike with two working brakes (front and rear wheels) are the rules. It can be a mountain or road bike, whatever is in your garage.
Helmet – a well-fitted helmet with a working chinstrap and no cracks. Safety is the priority and the chinstrap must be done up before you take your bike off the rack and cannot be undone until you put your bike back on the rack after the bike portion is complete.
Water Bottle – Even though you are likely doing a short race, you’ll appreciate having something to drink on the bike (make sure you practice drinking from your water bottle and putting it back in its holder while on your bike)
Shirt – There are no bare torsos allowed in triathlon for the bike and run portions so men, if you wore only a swim suit for the swim portion you will have to put on a shirt when in transition to the bike.
Shoes – Since you just came out of the water you will be barefoot so you will need to put on a pair of shoes to ride your bike. If you don’t have special bike shoes that clip into your pedals, it’s a good idea to wear the running shoes you plan to run in for the run portion, saving time (it’s a race after all)!
Run Portion Running Shoes – You will already be wearing your clothes from the bike ride so now it’s just a matter of putting on your running shoes if you were wearing cycling specific shoes and running.
The following equipment enhances your experience and your speed but are not necessary or required. The amount of time and money spent on equipment is completely up to the individual.
Wetsuit – most of the events take place in “open water” such as lakes and rivers, anything that is not a pool. Water temperatures may be a little chillier than your local community pool. Besides adding warmth, the major advantage of a wetsuit is it adds buoyancy so many weaker swimmers swear by their wetsuits. Wetsuits can usually be rented at race site or at the local tri shop. Just remember, make sure it fits properly. Too loose and water will get into the suit and weigh you down, too tight and it will constrict your movements slowing you down.
Clipless pedals and bike shoes – this is for the cyclists that have a certain level of comfort level on the bike and are looking for more efficiency and speed on the bike.
Sunglasses – Not just meant to look cool, sunglasses keep the wind and any bugs out of your eyes on the bike, and makes the run more comfortable when you don’t have to squint in the sun.
Shorts – Whether for comfort or modesty, many people prefer having bike shorts or running shorts for the segments after the swim.
Socks – Some people have never run in their running shoes without socks or are prone to blisters so you may want to take a few extra seconds in transition and put on a pair of socks for comfort reasons.
Sunscreen – Depending on your race length and time of day you may be outside for a significant period of time and applying some water proof sunscreen before the start of your race is a good idea. Also, putting on a cap or visor before your run is another tip to keep the sun off your head and sweat out of your eyes.
There are numerous training sources available to a new triathlete. We recommend joining a local club or perhaps working directly with a coach, both available on this website. There are also many online training plans available that will suit your current fitness and technical ability.
As always, when starting a new exercise regime you want to check with your doctor to make sure you are at an appropriate level of fitness and health before starting a strenuous activity.
When training for the swim you want to keep in mind that swimming in a pool is different than swimming in a lake or river. There will be no black lines at the bottom to help guide you and no walls to hold on to every 25 metres, you will need to look up out of the water to see where you are going occasionally and be able to swim continuously for 200-300 metres.
Many people have never swam in anything other than a pool and can find the experience of swimming in a lake with other people initially intimidating. One of the many benefits of a club is most clubs will offer open water swimming in a safe environment as part of their programming.
Based on the list of essential items you need to compete in a race we have outlined a basic budget for you. Hopefully you already possess some of these items or you can borrow them from a friend. The prices are an approximate amount to give you a ball park idea of how much you may need to spend if you don’t already have these items.
Race Entry Fees: $50-$100
Swim suit: $50
Bike Helmet: $100
Water Bottle: $10-$15
Running Shoes: $100
TYPES OF EVENTS
There are all kinds of events that include various distances and combinations of swim, bike, run in the world of Multisport. Below we outline the most popular.
Supersprint, Try-a-tri, Give-it-a-tri (300m swim, 10km bike, 2.5 run)
Sprint (750m swim, 20km bike, 5km run)
Standard or Olympic (1,500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run)
Half Iron or 70.3 (1.9km swim, 90km bike, 21.1km run)
Ironman (3.86km swim, 180km bike, 42.2km run)
Sprint (2.5km run, 20km bike, 5km run)
Standard, Olympic, International (5km, 40km bike, 10km run)
Can be in various forms of run/swim/run or just a swim run whereby the swim is 1,000m or less and the runs are 5km or less
Aqua Bike (Swim/Bike)
Usually the same distances as the Sprint and Standard distance triathlons with the competitor stopping after the bike portion of the race.
Usually a Sprint distance event, off-road triathlons consist of an open water swim, mountain bike course, and trail run.
WHAT TO EAT / DRINK
If you are doing your first race you are likely doing a shorter distance like a try-a-tri or a sprint race. Unless you have special nutritional needs, chances are you won’t need to eat or drink anything during the race other than what is provided on the course during the run portion, which is usually water and some type of sports drink.
We recommend you bringing a water bottle that you can fill up with water or sports drink of your choice that you can keep on your bike or in transition for when you come out of the water or off the bike.
Everyone’s stomach and digestion systems work differently, especially during strenuous activity. To avoid cramping or other digestive tract issues during a race we highly recommend practicing consuming whatever products you plan to bring to a race during a workout to see how your stomach handles the food/drink.