There are many reasons people get into the sport of triathlon. Many individuals start out in single-discipline sports like running or cycling, and the idea of combining these activities piques their interests. For others, triathlon is a great way to mix up their endurance training or help with weight loss and maintaining optimal body composition.
Whatever the motivation may be, triathlon is a sport that can quickly become a lifestyle. Not only is it fun, but the concept of training for three different sports – swimming, biking, and running – keeps things fresh and exciting.
If you’re interested in pursuing the sport of triathlon, then there are a few pieces of gear that you’ll need to get started
Road or Triathlon Bike
Having a bike that is designed for paved road surfaces – such as a road bike – is crucial if you’re getting into triathlon. You could go one step further and invest in a triathlon bike or time trial bike, which puts riders in a more aerodynamic position. But any skinny-tire road bike will foot the bill, especially if you are a beginner just getting into the sport.
If you opt for just a road bike, consider getting clip-on aero bars. These can be easily attached to any drop-bar handlebars, which are most common with road bikes. Aero bars will enable you to get into a more tucked aerodynamic position which is preferred for triathlons. Because drafting is not allowed, the bike leg of a triathlon is considered a time trial effort and any aerodynamic advantage you can get will save you significant time.
In addition to having an adequate bike with aero bars, you can also realize significant aerodynamic and speed gains by investing in an aero helmet. Unlike traditional road cycling helmets, aero helmets are designed to cut through the wind more efficiently, enabling you to shave time off the longest leg of the triathlon – the bike.
Studies that researched the benefits of aero helmets in a racing scenario found that helmet shape and head position dramatically influence drag forces. This is likely because the helmet is the uppermost part of a cyclist, so it is more susceptible to drug-induced wind resistance. Given these variables, research has revealed that properly used aero helmets can save between 30 and 60 seconds over an hour of cycling.
Unless you’re sticking to short-course triathlons, like Sprint distance which involves a short 750-meter swim, you may benefit from having a triathlon wetsuit. In addition to helping, you tolerate colder open waters, having a wetsuit can help keep you more buoyant and streamlined. In short, triathlon wetsuits can help you go faster.
This can make a considerable difference in long-course triathlons, like Ironman, where the swim leg distance is over 2 miles. Even proficient swimmers will require nearly an hour to complete just this swim portion of the event. But having a quality wetsuit will shave minutes off your time compared to no wetsuit at all. The difference between a men’s and women’s triathlon wetsuit is considerable. They are designed very differently based on male and female body types, so don’t just opt for any wetsuit. Do your research and find something that matches your fit and budget.
While good running shoes are obvious, investing in triathlon cycling shoes is often not top of mind for beginner triathletes. Bike shoes come in many styles, but the overarching idea is that they have cleats attached to the bottoms that can clip into pedals on the bike. This helps cyclists maximize their power output by generating force on the up stroke of the pedal movement.
Unlike road cycling shoes, triathlon bike shoes are designed minimally with just one or two over straps and larger heel loops for efficient entry and removal. Road shoes, on the other hand, commonly use two to three straps or dial tighteners. Because triathletes need to quickly get in and out of their bike shoes when transitioning from swim to bike and from bike to run, triathlon cycling shoes are designed to enable seamless wear.
You may think that using just any pair of swim goggles will work just fine for a triathlon. But it’s important to make the distinction between traditional pool swimming goggles and triathlon goggles.
Swimmers who train and compete in a pool environment swim in very different conditions compared to triathletes, who often compete in open water. In simple terms, triathlon goggles are meticulously engineered and designed specifically for open-water swimming. Any blooming triathlete who wishes to maximize their performance should equip themselves with the right pair of triathlon-friendly goggles to meet their training and racing needs.
Get Started in Your Triathlon Endeavors
Owning the right gear is one thing when getting into triathlon. But putting in the time and effort to train is another. Triathlon requires a high level of commitment and discipline, even when training for short-course races. This is often why triathlon and multisport become a fitness lifestyle for some. So, if you plan to finish strong and achieve your potential, be ready to log several hours per week in training to maximize your fitness and performance.