Gear to help your first triathlon
Your first triathlon can be a daunting enough experience without it breaking the bank as well. If you’ve ever spent even a few minutes looking at a triathlon shop or website, you’ll see a mindboggling array of highly expensive gear available. Beyond the basics, there are a few inexpensive items that will have a massive improvement on your race day performance.
The swim doesn’t need much equipment, but there are a few items that may help on race day.
- Goggles – good goggles are a must for any triathlon.There is nothing worse than having to stop mid-swim to get the water out of your goggles or have them fogging up. I’ve done it on many occasions!
The difference in price between a mediocre pair and a great pair of goggles isn’t huge. The best goggles on the market cost around $100 and the cheapest is less than $50. It’s well worth the investment.
- Wetsuit – Triathlons, unlike ocean swims, allow competitors to wear a wetsuit provided the water temperature isn’t too warm. A wetsuit does more than just keep you warm in cold water. It also adds significant buoyancy, which means that you are able to swim faster. Woo Hoo! However, a wetsuit is an expensive item to purchase for just one race. The cheapest wetsuits start at around $150 and go up from there. Unless you’re doing a longer distance triathlon or swimming in very cold water, I suggest either renting or skipping a wetsuit for your first triathlon. A tri suit might be a better first off purchase. But, if you’re more than just tipping your toe in the water (cry), then a wetsuit is a must.
The bike is the most expensive piece of race day equipment you’ll need. While you could spend thousands on new equipment, unless you’re going all out, its probably not worth the effort for your first triathlon. Here are a few reasonably priced add-ons that will get you through the first few races.
- Frame Bag – A framebag is a small pouch that straps to the frame of your bike. They are very useful for carrying gels, food and other little bits and pieces. Prices start at $30 to $40.
- Cleats – if your bike doesn’t come with cleats (i.e. they have flat peddles you use with normal shoes), then adding cleats may be the bet bang for you buck available. Flat peddles only produce power as you push down. Your foot is a passenger on the way back to the top. Cleats allow you to generate power all the way around the pedal stroke, producing more forward momentum for each rotation. You will need clipless pedals, shoes and cleats. Different pedal manufacturers produce different systems, so make sure they match. Clipless pedals start at around $60. Shoes start at around $70.
- Areobars – don’t those tri bikes look fantastically fast and sexy? Being more aerodynamic hugely reduces the amount of draw you generate on the bike and hence the amount of energy you expend. Basically it means you go faster for less effort! Luckily you can purchase clip on aero bars for your road bike. As far as “bang for you buck” goes, you’ll get the most benefit for the amount spent.
- Elastic laces – Of all the money you could spent, investing in a pair of elastic laces for your running shoes gives you the best return on investment. They allow you to slip on your running shoes after the bike. No laces to tie up.
- Race Belt – a race belt is an elastic band that you clip around your middle that you attach your race number to. This is a massive time saver when going from the bike to the run.
Other useful triathlon gear
There are a few other pieces of equipment, that while not essential to finishing your first triathlon, might be a good purchase along the way.
- Tri-suit – While you can complete a triathlon in swimmers and normal exercise gear, the addition of a tri-suit makes the race faster and potentially more comfortble. A tri-suit is usually a one piece suit that has a pad for more comfortable bike riding, but one that is small enough to allow you to run and swim effectively in it. The advantage of a tri-suit is that you don’t have to change between the swim, run and bike, saving time. The downside is they are made from skin hugging Lycra and I tend to bulge in all the wrong places! An entry level tri-suit can be purchased for less than $100.
- Heart rate monitor. A heart rate monitor can be very beneficial as an aid to your training and are a relatively inexpensive purchase. The cheapest are around $35. By knowing you maximum heart rate, you can set training zones. From a training perspective, you want to spend time a mix of training zones. Sometimes all out, sometimes easy paced. A HRM helps you determine that.
- Turbo trainer – A turbo trainer is a training device that means you can ride your bike at home. Prices start around $100 and go to several thousand. They are especially useful if you live somewhere where getting out for ride is hard (e.g. in snowy conditions or the inner city). I use mine a lot, as it saves time and allows me to train when I want. You are able to link some turbo trainers to software such as Sufferfest and Zwift. These programs help structure your training for better results.
Your first triathlon is an exciting time but it doesn’t have to be an expensive affair. There are a few pieces of race day gear that, for a small sum, can greatly improve your race results. If you’re looking for somewhere to purchase triathlon gear, use Wiggle, as its a great site for all triathlon gear.
To ensure you don’t forget anything, use the LongTri gear checklist here.