Beginners Guide to Triathlon Equipment

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Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK… maybe even the whole world, many people are keen to take up the challenge of this ‘new’ sport but one of the barriers is often perceived to be the equipment you need to take part.  In this brief guide we will look at what are essentials to get you swimming, biking and running.


The tri always starts with the swim and depending on the distance you choose this could be from 400m in a pool to 3.9km in open water (IronMan distance). If you are swimming in open water, more often that not you will need a wetsuit.  It is important that you wear something that is comfortable, but also doesn’t ‘drag’ in the water.  Although this may not make a huge difference when you are swimming a few lengths in your Bermuda shorts in the local pool – if you are trying to save energy for later (and also fitting your clothes under a wet suit) ‘hydro dynamic’ clothing is a good start.  This could be as simple as a pair of Speedos, however these are not everyone’s choice.  You can get specific triathlon shorts that are a cross between bike and swim shorts that are made of quick drying fabrics and will fit comfortably under any wetsuit you may want to wear.  Good brands include Orca, Pearl Izumi and IronMan.  For both ladies and gentlemen, you can also get an all in one tri suit, that solves many of the clothing issues for a triathlete – but you have to be brave to wear one!

The other essential is some swimming goggles.   You can either get conventional style goggles, which are great for pool swimming or a mask – which is a cross between a diving mask and goggles.  The mask allows for greater vision as it covers more of the face and is recommended for open water swimming.  Good brands to look out for are Speedo, Boggs and Aqua sphere.


Lance Armstrong entitled his first book ‘It’s not about the Bike’ and coming from a former triathlete that doesn’t apply here – it would be kind of difficult to do a tri without one.  However, it doesn’t matter, to begin with if you do you first tri on a mountain bike or a road bike… but it has to be road worthy.  A road bike will offer you several advantages over a mountain bike – thinner tyres will allow you to go faster and you will be in a more aerodynamic position on a road bike.  The only ‘problem’ with a road bike is that you could spend a fortune – as the materials involved get more and more exotic – words like carbon and titanium start to get more common place as the bills get bigger.  Things to look for on a road bike include:

  • Aluminum frame (or carbon . titanium if money isn’t an issue)
  • Combined brake / gear shifters – safer and faster to ride
  • Aero bars – will help you to get into a more streamlined position

 The other thing you will need is a good bike helmet.  Make sure it fits – a helmet is not a fashion item and shouldn’t be worn halfway across the top of the head.  Helmets these days are much more lightweight and cooler than 15 years ago, when Tour de France cyclists like Greg LeMond fist bought them to the fore.  Look for helmets for lots of air vents to help keep you cool.  A secure buckle and correct sizing are also important.  Check the helmet for damage as well.  Also make sure your helmet carries the correct safety standard.  Look for ANSI Z90.4, SNELL B90, EN 1078 or an equivalent national standards. (NOTE: a CE mark is NOT an approval mark.)  Good brands are Giro, Specialized, MET and Selev.

Clothing wise – make sure you have some padded shorts – a comfortable and warm top – you will be a bit chilly after the swim.  At this stage we won’t go into bike shoes and the like as this is just an introductory guide


Clothing wise, most people wear what they have worn on the bike!  The most important thing however, is the shoes you run in.  Your beat up old trainers are just not good enough.  Make sure you wear a ‘proper’ pair of running shoes suitable for your style of running.

Very few people are lucky enough to run totally neutral – i.e. their foot hits the ground in a totally even way.  Most people will hit the ground with one or other of the edges of their foot and the foot will roll to compensate for this. This is known as pronation.  A good bet is to get a friend to watch you run to work out what you are, or go to a local running shop.  Once you know what style of runner you are – you can buy the right shoe.  My advice would be find a brand you like and stick to them!  You don’t need to go mad – a good pair of running shoes can be bought for about £40 – and maybe even cheaper if you don’t care about colours or seasons!  I always pick up my shoes on eBay!

And that’s basically it!


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