Training for your first triathlon, Ironman, or 70.3? Trying to make sure you have all the kit you need?
With three stages, a lot of conditioning, and event strategy to get right, you have a lot to contend with. So, to give you one less thing to worry about, we’ve put together this guide looking at the essential triathlon kit you’re going to need.
Looking at each phase of the event, we’ll explore the triathlon gear used by experienced participants and ensure you haven’t forgotten anything important.
How to make your triathlon gear budget go further
You don’t need to break the bank to get great triathlon gear but be sure your important pieces of equipment are of good quality. After putting in all the hard work required to complete a triathlon, failing to finish because of painful blisters, shoddy footwear, or a rubbish bike will be especially disappointing.
If this is your first triathlon, don’t feel you have to turn up head-to-toe in the latest pro-outfit and a full-aero TT-bike. The best strategy is to ensure the main backbone of your equipment is sound and that your gear won’t contribute to your hardship.
Hopefully, the examples below will help you establish what you need, what you don’t, and where to focus your budget.
Before you start…
Even before the starter pistol sounds, there are a few pieces of equipment you should consider. Transition bags and race belts are a great idea to keep all your gear organised and safe. A digital sports watch, meanwhile, is a valuable tool for staying on pace during the race and throughout your training.
Here are some of our triathlon kit pre-event recommendations:
A good transition bag is a superb investment, even for the triathlon beginner. Keeping all your equipment accounted for and in one place means less worry for you and hopefully quicker transitions. The HUUB Transition Bag's 32 litres of storage provides enough room for all your swim, cycle and run, gear; including your wetsuit.
The value of ensuring you're on pace and having access to detailed data on your performance shouldn't be underestimated. The Garmin Forerunner 935 Tri Bundle captures accurate data specific to your activity and offers 24 hours of battery power.
Whether in the water, on the bike, or during your run, a race belt is a great way to keep all your additional items secure, allowing you to concentrate on technique. The Orca Race Belt features strategically placed toggles to hold your race number, and a storage system for your gels.
During your triathlon, you'll need an energy boost to keep your blood sugar high enough to fuel your muscles. High5's energy gels deliver fast-acting energy. They're easy to open, easy to swallow, and easy to digest with natural fruit flavours that taste great.
Now you have a few essentials under your belt, it's time for your triathlon to truly begin. The starter pistol is ready, let's go...
With over 1.5km of open water ahead of you (if you've entered an Olympic distance triathlon), you'll soon have the sun on your face and the salt on your tongue, so it's time to suit-up. Depending on where in the world you’re competing, a wetsuit may be compulsory for the swim leg of your triathlon.
Even if it’s not required by the event's organisers, beginners should still wear one - especially if you're swimming in open water. As well as keeping you warm, a wetsuit will increase your buoyancy and help you swim faster. For more experienced competitors, a tri-suit will save you time spent at transitions and provide a range of performance benefits (more on these later). They don't help with buoyancy, however, while their thinner chamois can be uncomfortable for the inexperienced.
Beyond a wetsuit, you also need swimming goggles, a swim cap, and a few other items to help you secure a good time in the water.
Depending on the anticipated temperature of the water, some events prohibit the wearing of wetsuits, so make sure you check with the organisers.
Here are some of our triathlon kit recommendations for your swim leg:
Particularly in open water or sea water, high-quality goggles are essential. These Aqua Sphere Vista Goggles feature tinted lenses to protect against the glare bouncing off the water's surface.
Transitioning between disciplines and wet and dry environments is testing for your skin and can often lead to painful chaffing that could end your race prematurely. A comforting balm such as Zone3's Natural Glide offers protection and soothing comfort.
Keep that hair under wraps with a quality swim cap, such as this classic Zoggs cap.
The Zone3 Vanquish wetsuit features cutting-edge design and innovative thinking. The suit provides buoyancy and reduces drag, making it a popular choice among triathletes of all levels.
For the experienced triathlete, the tri-suit offers a number of advantages, including quicker transitions and a low-profile, quick-drying chamois. The Roka Elite Aero II SS Tri Suit offers complete freedom and comfort at all stages of the triathlon with a combination of a breakaway front zip for easier pit stops and a greater number of ventilation options.
It’s time to get on your bike - only 50km to go...
The second leg of the typical triathlon is the one that requires the most gear. Alongside a bike, a helmet, and decent cycling shoes, there are a few accessories to help you make up some time on two wheels. If this is your first triathlon, it's unlikely you'll need a wind tunnel-tested TT bike, but a light, fast, and reliable UCI compliant ride will save you a lot of energy and stress.
Don't lose your bike! Make sure you can find it after emerging from the water by rehearsing the run from water to bike when placing it in the rack before the race begins.
Here are some of our triathlon kit recommendations for your cycling stage:
A high standard road bike doesn't have to cost the world, especially for your first triathlon event. The Razor VRX is keenly priced and offers a light and comfortable frame that's ideal for a triathlon event. You can also add triathlon aero bars to reduce drag and save a few watts, but make sure you practice with them first and that you're able to comfortably sustain the aero riding position for long periods while maintaining control. If not, just adopt your most comfortable riding position.
Socks are a hot topic among triathletes. While they may add precious seconds at the transition station, they also protect you against nasty blistering. Our advice is to practice with and without beforehand to find what works for you.
A well-ventilated helmet is a key piece of kit for your tri event. This Kask Utopia Road Helmet is packed with safety features and designed to be breathable so you can push harder during your event.
High-quality cycling shoes offer a bigger advantage than you may have thought. These Fizik Transiro R5 Powerstrap Shoes allow for super-fast transition, while providing much needed comfort over the 40km of a triathlon cycling leg. If you've decided to use clipless pedals, like those above, make sure you can confidently engage and disengage your cleats before the race.
If your cycling event means pedalling into the sun for long periods then excellent eyewear is essential. But even if you anticipate cloudy skies, the protection against bugs and debris makes a set of tasty shades a worthy purchase.
You're going to need a water bottle, or preferably two. Many triathletes will fill one with water and another with an energy drink with electrolytes. That's our advice, too.
Bib shorts are a must for rides as long as an Olympic 40km triathlon stage. Perfect for several hours in the saddle, these dhb entry-level shorts will combine comfort and performance at a very reasonable price.
Don't set off without a repair kit, and don't go into race day without having made sure you're fully capable of changing a tyre. Many a triathlete have thrown away all their training and preparation by getting a puncture and left unable to fix it.
Just 10km remain; you can do this...
The last leg of the race, and for some the hardest. Your body will be sore but you need to stay strong, focused, and driven for a big surge to the finish line. For that you'll need to be as comfortable as possible. Ensure you have great shoes to make the demanding run less tortuous than it needs to be, while female runners will rue the day they failed to invest in a quality sports bra.
Don't save your new shoes for your first race. Break them in.
Here are some of our triathlon kit recommendations for the run stage:
The final 10km can be the toughest of your life, so make sure your footwear is equal to the task. The adidas Solar Boost uses a 'Propulsion Rail' that works alongside boost foam to increase stability while guiding and propelling you forward.
The dhb Elastic Laces provide a quick, easy, and secure lacing option. Perfect for speeding up transition times, while providing more than adequate stability via the spring loaded locking mechanism. Perfect for all footwear styles.
The Shock Absorber Run Sports Bra is soft with seamless inners, reducing repetitive friction injury. It has wide, padded, non slip straps with advanced features that ensure comfort when you need it most.