Like most anxious little type As, I did a lot of research before my first sprint triathlon. I googled my heart out, read some guides on Beginner Triathlete, and went to a few Triathlon Clinics at a local (okay it was a chain) sports store.
While I did learn a lot, at the end of the day, the triathlon clinic was there to sell me shit I might not need. Nice to have, but not need to have. Now, first I am no expert in triathlons. I do however enjoy running, biking and swimming. To date, I’ve only done one and while I did not take home any age group prize, I consider it a success. I didn’t drown and I made it to the finish line. In the end, unless you’re an elite athlete, that’s all that matters for any race you do. I do races because they’re fun, not because it’s my job (because otherwise I might have to starve and beg for change on the corner).
Like any addictive habit, its easy to empty out your wallet into many negatives collecting gear for fear of missing out, or just things that are nice to have. In the end, to find a balance between everything I love, I try to first separate what I need to have and what’s nice to have. Sure my collection of nice to have has grown, but it’s been growing over three years, and not in one day. Maybe it’s the accountant in me, but I don’t have a Warren Buffer trust fund to inherit, so I must spend my pennies carefully.
You Do Not Need a Trisuit – One piece, two pieces, & all the brands are hard to tell what you need. Sure, they’re nice to have and if you plan on doing more triathlons, they will be a nice investment, but if you’re only planning on doing 1 a year or less, I don’t think they’re required.
I wore a sports bra and a pair of shorts I love for all three legs of the triathlon. I ended up putting a running shirt on for the bike and run to avoid sunburning my ghostly skin that sees no sun. Otherwise, I have no clothing issues, even if I wasn’t wearing $180 trisuit on.
You Don’t Need a Wetsuit – Okay this is only half true since it depends on the weather, time of year, and where you’re swimming. I’m an awful swimmer and I didn’t find much advantage in the buoyancy for a short distance. Only benefit to me would have been warmth if it was too cold. However, if you are swimming midsummer in a pond or lake where the water is in the 70s, you don’t need a wetsuit. In fact, unless you’re A. used to swimming in a wetsuit (the sleeves can be constricting) and B. great at pulling it off in transition areas, it might just slow you down. After all, the swim leg is probably the shortest in a sprint triathlon ranging from 1/4th to 1/2 a mile. Also, if the water is too warm, you might not even be allowed to use said wetsuit.
Don’t rent one out on race day just because the race company keeps sending you emails about the rental option and wetsuit benefits unless you tried it out at least once the day before the race. Just as with any sport, you shouldn’t try anything new on race day. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.
And best advantage of no wetsuit? I didn’t have to worry about forgetting to retie my time strap on my leg. It might not look sexy, but neither do wetsuits ;).
You Don’t Need a Fancy Road Bike – Yes a road bike will be faster than a mountain bike. A fancier road bike will be faster than a lower tier road bike, but at the end of the day it is the carpenter and not that tools that make it work. I saw a kid blast past me on a mountain bike, and while I didn’t blast past many, I definitely passed more than a handful of roadbikes during my race.
A beginner road bike can start at $1,000 with everything included and unless you’re planning on going longer distance, and love road biking, it’s not really worth the investment. I’ve had my hybrid for 5 years and only recently upgraded to a roadbike because I wanted to start biking more than 20 miles at a time.
Similar to the roadbike, you don’t need the clip in pedals and bike shoes if you’re not used to them. It’s extra time at transition and clipping in and out can be tricky if you’re not used to it.
In conclusion there is a cost/benefit to every piece of gear from the bike to shirt to the Garmin. Things that are nice to have tend to be for a reason that’s beneficial in one way or another. However, it’s important to not get lost in the gear and stick to the basics to enjoy the sport. Or at least your budget. As with running, the further distance your triathlon goes, the more beneficial certain gear will be. If you’re doing an Ironman, I’m pretty sure you need to be pretty talented or miserable to get through it without the three things listed above.
One thing we can all agree that you need on race day is fun!
What’s your favorite piece of Triathlon gear?