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Equipment Guide

 
   
The Triathlon Equipment Buyer's Guide (for the rest of us)
 

 
Triathlon magazines are great but their buyers guides are not something we can really relate to.  If someone with a nascent interest in our sport picked up the magazine they would see the cheapest bike is $2000 US and come away with the belief that the sport was simply too expensive for them.  Contrary to that example, you don't have to spend a lot of money to take part in the sport of triathlon.  Of course, if you like to spend your money, the sport presents plenty of opportunities to do so!  This page is designed to give you a little help in making your decisions and is based on over 20 years in the sport.  It was originally published on another of our sites, TriathlonOttawa.com.

Priorities
The most common sales pitch used for triathlon equipment is that it will make you faster.  That is an important matter to many triathletes as where they finish relative to others is the framework for their primary goals.  To most participants though, where they finish relative to others is not important.  For them we recommend the following general priorities when purchasing equipment: comfort, value, durability.

Jump to Bike Buyer's Guide

 
 
 
Clothing  
Must have: Swim Suit: Any comfortable suit will do.  You can bike and run in a swim suit but it might not be all that comfortable, so another option is to pull on a pair of spandex shorts over the swim suit in the transition zone then bike and run like that.
Shirt: A basic cotton tee-shirt will work but...(see below)
Highly recommended: Shirt: Make it a micro-fibre shirt that helps to keep you cool and dry.
Tri Shorts: These are spandex shorts that are designed for all three sports so you can swim, bike and run in them.  They have a small chamois to make the bike ride a little more comfortable and elastics on the legs so they don't ride up.  The fabric also helps to wick the moisture away from your body helping to keep you cool.
Other stuff Tri Shirt: This is a spandex shirt that increases comfort and fits well under a wetsuit. Some tri shirts are designed without back pockets so you can swim in them without a pocket catching water and slowing you down.  We don't recommend trying to put a spandex shirt on in transition to the bike as tight spandex is awfully hard to put on a wet body using stiff arms.  Like the shorts, they wick moisture off the skin.
One Piece Tri Suit: Same as tri shirt and shorts but one piece.  Some upper end tri materials also repel water to make you more aqua-dynamic.
Socks: If you have used your cycling or running shoes a lot before with socks, you can often get away without using socks as long as you train this way a bit as well to allow your feet to grow accustomed.  If you use socks, we recommend the micro-fibre variety as cotton will get wet from the water on your foot in transition and cause comfort problems.
Bra: This is a personal preference and there are now lots of choices out there.  Many women will wear a sports bra under their bathing suit and leave it on for the rest of the race
 
 
Swimming  
Must have: Suit: See above
Highly recommended: Goggles: It will make your life much easier.  Protects your eyes and allows for better vision and comfort when swimming.  Find a pair that fits your face correctly.  A more expensive goggle will feature greater adjustability, better durability, increased field of vision and anti-glare/uv protection.
Other stuff Wetsuit: It will keep you warm when the water is cool but most wear them to increase buoyancy and speed. If you are doing any unsupervised open water swimming, many will say these increase your safety. Finding the proper fit is the key to buying a wetsuit.  As you go up in price there are a ton of potential features including: increased flexibility in key places, variable thickness, fast and secure zippers, and a pull panel on the forearm.  Don't believe it if you're told you 'must have' a wet suit to participate in triathlons.  Just pick a race in which the water warm enough to be comfortable without one.
  Cap: Keeps long hair out of the way, preserves a little heat if the water is cool, and increases your visibility to others (ie lifeguards).  They come in both silicone and spandex versions and some are even more fitted to your head.  Most races supply a cap in your race kit. 
Biking  
Must have: Bike: This is generally the most expensive and complex piece of equipment required for the sport.  For that reason we have developed a separate bike buyers guide.
  Helmet: Make sure it's CSA approved to provide the safety it is principally designed for.  Then it's mostly about comfort - find one that fits well and has enough vents to keep you cool. The more expensive helmets bring in benefits such as more adjustments, lighter weight and increased aerodynamics.
  Shoes: Firstly, you can use your running shoes; no rules against that at all.  The advantage of a stiff soled cycling shoe over a running shoe is that it increases the amount of power transfer from your push to the pedal, resulting in less wasted energy.  As far as cycling shoes go, like any form of footwear, comfort is number one - make sure it fits well and provides sufficient support to your feet.  The venting of the shoe is important to keep your foot cool and a light weight shoe can obviously be advantageous.  A more expensive shoe will have additional features including heel loops and reverse closures to help in transition, and stronger and more durable materials.
Highly recommended: Glasses: Protect your eyes from both the sun and flying objects like bugs
  Water bottle: There's no rule to say you must have a water bottle - there should be.  Dehydration is extremely dangerous.  Carry water and sip regularly.
Tool Kit: Technical problems in a race or training can mean a long walk home unless you have a tool kit that includes materials to change a flat and do basic mechanical repairs.  Of course, many tempt fate by not carrying one as it does add weight to the bike.
Other stuff: Cycle computer: It helps you to monitor your training and racing by telling you speed, distance and time.  More expensive models can include features such as cadence and power, things that are very beneficial if you have the money and understand their use.
Running  
Must have: Shoes: Start by choosing the right shop; one in which the salesperson looks at your feet in motion and can properly determine the level of support and cushioning you require.  Then it's all about fit - find the most comfortable shoe in your price category.  Breathability and durability are additional considerations.
Highly Recommended: Elastic Laces: Who cares that they save you 5 seconds tying your shoes in transition, the key benefit here is that they are often more comfortable than traditional laces as they flex and give with the foot.
Other stuff Hat: Protect yourself from the sun but make it a lightweight hat that doesn't cause you to overheat.
  Fluid System: Some like to play it safe and have their own supply of water to supplement the aid stations.  From water belts to water bags with straws, there are lots of choices.
 
     

 
 
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