Ottawa Triathlon Club presents:
Triathlon Equipment Buyers Guide
for the rest of us
(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.
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
||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
||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
||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
||Suit: See above
||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.
||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
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.
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
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.
Protect your eyes from both the sun and flying
objects like bugs
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
||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.
||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.
||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
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.