Your first triathlon can be an intimidating experience. Aside from all of your training and mental preparations for the big race, you also need to think about your race gear…and things can get expensive…fast.
Breaking the bank on a sport you haven’t yet really tried isn’t the smartest move, so we’ve put together some beginner triathlon gear essentials that will help you get kitted up in style without putting yourself in the poorhouse.
Beginner Triathlon Gear Essentials
The importance of good goggles can’t be overstated. You don’t want water leaking in as you compete in the first, and often most intimidating part of your race. The litmus test for goggles is whether they stick to your eye sockets (without a strap) after you press them in place. We personally like goggles that give us greater peripheral view than the traditional. Some tint to the lenses is also preferred because glare can be a distraction on a sunny race day.
Jammers or Tri-suits
Swimsuits aren’t optional in a triathlon, unless you are at some sort of endurance-racing clothing-optional resort. We wouldn’t suggest hitting the water in your loose board shorts or bikini either, as these are neither optimized for drag nor optimized to stay on after getting pulled and kicked by your fellow racers (it happens). Tri-suits are the preferred item of clothing of male triathletes, but another alternative is Jammers or Tri-shorts. Jammers are relatively low cost and create little drag in the water. Women should go with a durable bathing suit (not prone to a “wardrobe malfunction”), tri-shorts + sports bra that can be worn under water or a tri-suit.
Don’t buy a triathlon wetsuit for your first race, rent. Most races have rentals on site. Wetsuits not only protect you from the cold, they also provide some helpful extra buoyancy. Most races include color-coded bathing caps in your race kit, so you won’t need to purchase.
Triathlon bike selection is a whole topic onto itself. The big question that faces more casual triathloners is whether to invest in a road bike or a dedicated triathlon bike (the geometry is different on both). Our suggestion for your first race is not to buy a bike at all, but rather use whatever bike you already have (be it a mountain bike, an old road bike) or borrow a race bike from a friend. The bike should be a good fit for your body type though, so you might want to take the time to visit a bike shop and get a sense of the frame size that is best for you, or self size yourself using this tool.
Still there are those that start a sport and have to get the gear, and so if you are a gear hound, know that many triathletes find the ubiquitous Cervelo P2 to be the best tri-bike for the money.
A moisture wicking shirt
You need will need a tank or a tee to wear during the bike and run (some races force you to wear one) here you can go the inexpensive route or go for a bona fide tri-top. Tri-tops are definitely pricier, so if it is your first tri we recommend something basic.
You are required to wear a skid lid while competing in a triathlon. Remember: you aren’t going for a leisurely Sunday ride, this is a race and there are crashes. Choose a helmet that fits snugly yet comfortably with ample ventilation so that your noggin doesn’t overheat.
A Number Belt
Many would say that this isn’t essential, and we suppose they would be right (you can use safety pins to attach your number to your shirt), but these can be a sub $10 item is an inexpensive convenience, and we find them very comfortable. Reminder that you can be DQed if you aren’t wearing your race bib, so don’t forget it.
Make sure to eat during the bike if you are doing a race of significant distance. We find energy bars too dry to eat on the bike. Energy chews are a great bet (be sure to open the package for easy access before you start the race). We like Gu Chomps
The “Right” Running Shoes
Buying a good pair of shoes is a must and this is an area where you shouldn’t skimp on research or money. This isn’t to say that your ideal shoes need to be $200…quite the contrary, as some elite runners swear by lower-priced runners. But you should take the time to determine the best shoes for you and be willing to invest in the ones that are most suited to you and comfortable. Considerations when buying running shoes include your arch shape (high arch, normal arch or flat footed) and your running biomechanics (Neutral, pronation, supination). We suggest that you go to brick and mortal store dedicated to running or endurance racing first and work with an expert to determine the best shoe for you. Then, price the shoes online to make sure that you are getting a fair deal. Click here to learn more about how to buy the running shoe that is best for you.
Though not a necessity, speed laces are a great, low-cost addition to your running shoes, allowing you to save some time in the transition area(you can pick up some speed laces here)Also, if it’s sunny, a light running hat will give you a little protection from the sun.
Those are the beginner triathlon gear essentials, we hope it was helpful and that you enjoy your first triathlon.