Triathlon Gear If you’re reading this, you must have signed up for one of the biggest adventures of your life – racing a Triathlon. Or looking at attempting one. Or just inspired by a friend or colleague and have embarked on the journey to understand more about this endurance sport.
While training for each of the 3 sports is critical, the gear you would use for this endurance event is equally important. Training and racing with the correct equipment give the athlete performance gains, and more importantly prevent injuries and also ensure the athlete is comfortable over the hours of running, riding and swimming.
As with most investments – having clarity on your racing goals is critical to ensure you invest correctly. Looking to race more than a few triathlons or an Ironman? You’re ar better off investing in some good quality high-end gear from reputable brands right from the start. Looking to attempt your first Tri event to test the waters? Don’t spend quite as much! Get the basic minimal equipment and gradually upgrade over time as you get hooked like the rest of us!
A PRIMER ON TRIATHLON SPECIFIC FEATURES
You’ve decided on investing in some tri gear – the standard question we get is “what should I look for?“. With all the choices available in the market, its critical to have a basic understanding of tri-specific features to make a more informed decision on your purchase.
1. COMPRESSION ZONES
Compression zones create a graduated compression directed towards the heart, very similar to how carbon fiber lay-up is done to build a carbon bike. This is done primarily to improve blood flow and ensure circulation to all muscles and extremities.
The material is “tighter” than non-compression clothing and also provides adequate muscle support to help reduce fatigue on long, hot rides.
2. HYDROPHOBIC TECHNOLOGY
Hydrophobic technology on clothing basically repels water. If you pour water over the fabric, the water just rolls off without being absorbed. A fantastic feature when you get out of your swim leg and start off on the bike leg. Your apparel is a lot more comfortable, helps you warm up faster and also ensures your apparel is lightweight as water can weigh you down significantly.
Hydrophobic technology in the triathlon apparel world isn’t new tech but it’s an area that’s constantly seeing improvement. Initially, tri suits with hydrophobic tech had issues with ventilation but nowadays, to overcome this hurdle, manufacturers have employed the use of durable, hard-wearing nanocoating on the fabric surface that allows for good ventilation and water-resistant properties.
3. TRI-SPECIFIC CHAMOIS
Athletes spend a long time riding their bike, typically in an aerodynamic position that can put undue pressure on soft tissue and compress sensitive nerve endings and cause numbness over time. Chamois is the light padding in cycling shorts that prevent this.
Every tri-suit should ideally have a chamois that is comfortable, lightweight, and water-resistant if not waterproof. Traditional cycling shorts have slightly wider and heavier chamois that would rub against the triathlete’s inner thighs and cause chaffing. Tri-suits and tri-shorts have narrower chamois that do not interfere with your thighs.
Aerodynamics is an important aspect for every triathlete as drag and resistance are the biggest factors that slow down athletes during the swim and bike stages and are major buying factors when it comes to tri-apparel.
Contrary to popular belief, the most drag resistant fabrics are not those that are super smooth, but those which are slightly rough. A smooth fabric allows air or water to attach to it at a molecular level, which creates a ‘tugging’/drag on the fabric which causes a turbulent flow around the surface; increasing resistance.
Well designed, fabrics actually ‘induce’ a very thin, controlled layer of turbulent flow over the surface, which acts as a super-slick surface for the bulk of the air/water flow to move over smoothly. New fabric technology for a competitive edge has been developed by multiple manufacturers in the tri-suit industry. They all try to achieve a common goal of reducing drag and increasing efficiency wherever possible.
5. OTHER THINGS TO KEEP IN MIND
U.V protection and heat management are also key features to look out for as the endurance event can span multiple hours, in scorching heat and searing temperates – both of which can be detrimental to athlete performance.
Zippers help keep you cool under the sun. You can get both front and rear zippers that are easy to put on and take off. Moisture-wicking fabrics help maintain optimal body temperature in both hot and cold conditions. In hot conditions, it facilitates the absorption and evaporation of sweat which maintains bodily temperature. In cold conditions, it pulls cold moisture away from the body, reducing the amount of energy required to stay warm.
Since the athlete spends a lot of time exposed to the Sun and harmful U.V Radiation, having suits which have inbuilt U.V protection is a definite positive to look for.
TRIATHLON GEAR CHECKLIST
Whether you’re a pro or beginner triathlete, these are the 10 pieces of kit every athlete needs when taking part in a triathlon.
- Triathlon Suit
- Swim Cap
- Cycling Shoes
- Running Shoes
- Energy Bars/Gel
- Triathlon Multi-Sport Watch
A tri-suit is a multi-purpose item of clothing that you’ll wear throughout the triathlon and comes in either a two-piece or one-piece variety.
- Fabric is similar to spandex – tight but with enough give to be snug fitting and comfortable.
- Breathable, quick-drying & stretchable
- Designed to dry off quickly after the swim
- Provide cushioning for the cycle, and keep you moving freely during the run
- Minimize friction areas by using flat stitched seams or laser stitched seams to prevent chafing.
- Quick to put on and remove to help you breeze through transitions
- Compression materials to lend your muscles a helping hand
As with most items, the more you pay the greater is the quality and feature set offered.
TRIATHLON CYCLING HELMET
Triathlon specific cycling helmets aim at providing superior protection, whilst still being lightweight, aerodynamic and efficient at cooling. You could use any type of cycling helmet for a triathlon but there are a few crucial advantages that tri-helmets give you.
TRIATHLON CYCLING SHOES
Tri shoes often have better ventilation and quick-drying properties than normal road cycling shoes. Other than that, tri-shoes also feature heel loops that help you pull your shoes on and off much faster. Tri specific cycling shoes have dials to adjust the tension on the fly and a modified tongue for an easier and faster ON/OFF action.
Goggles are essential to not only ensure you can see underwater but to also keep water out of your eyes during your swim. Fit is important as incorrectly fitting goggles will be filled with water as soon as you start your swim and will slow you down. Tinted goggles ensure you can see clearly on a bright race day even with the sun reflecting off the water.
Nifty features like anti-fog technology, men and women-specific fits and seal technology for a leak-free, comfortable fit, and reduced marks around the eyes are all important aspects while choosing the correct pair.