So your considering signing up for your first triathlon and you are thinking of what kit do I need to complete the race. The list can be very overwhelming with the volume and different manufacturers of items to purchase. Here is a quick overview of the essentials that you will need above and beyond the basics a bike, helmet, running shoes and goggles:
Triathlon Kit: This would comprise of tri shorts and top or even a 1 piece triathlon suit depending on your preference. The benefit of triathlon kits is they are designed for you to swim, bike and run in with comfort in mind for both the bike and run.
Triathlon Watch: Can also be known as a multi sport watch but the ability to time your swimming, cycling and running in your training is an essential item in your training and race day performance. Without this, you are left to guess work on improvements and are you maximizing your race day performance based on your training for that event.
Wetsuit: This is a key purchase for those training or racing in the early or late stages of the season for warmth. A wetsuit will give a significant buoyancy advantage which translates to improved speeds. A consideration will be on full length or sleeveless suits and this depends on personal preference and comfort with shoulder range of motion and temperature.
Body Glide: This is very useful to apply before putting your wetsuit on as it helps with getting it off and on. Additionally it reduces any friction on the skin around the neck as you swim.
Helmet: This is a mandatory purchase as you cannot race without a helmet. You don't need an aero helmet in the beginning but they do make you faster so when time becomes important to you then this is a consideration.
Flat Fix Kit: At least one spare tube, CO2 cartridge, tire levers, multi tool and small hand pump will be required on the majority of triathlon distance events. With a CO2 cartridge you could go without the hand pump.
Chamois Cream: This is very useful for protection of your private parts and apply liberally.
Clipless pedals / shoes: Whilst not mandatory, clipless pedals and cycling shoes will make a big difference in your bike times. You don't need triathlon specific shoes to help with mount / dismounting the bike to start off with and as time becomes more important this may become a consideration.
Heart Rate Monitor: A heart rate monitor that is Tri specific (Swim, bike and run) can be a very useful training and race day aid to ensure you are keeping your tempo in the right zones so you can maximize your training and race day performance.
Sunglasses: A good set of sunglasses that gives road visibility in dark or sunny light is essential to keeping you in control of your cycling at the desired pace. Additionally, they will provide protection to your eyes from the sun and any debris that is kicked up off the road.
Wool Socks: Getting the right socks will be the difference between an enjoyable or painful experience with blisters. Normal cotton socks will have a higher probability of a blister experience wheras good wool socks reduce this probability.
Run Belt: This will avoid using pins to attach your race number to clothing but can be a multi purpose tool with storing gels, salt tablets, drinks and your race bib.
Bike Trainer / Online training tool: Having a bike trainer for the off season training, bad conditions or late night training is very benefical as it provides flexibility and continuity in your training. Ideally a smart trainer coupled with an online tool like Zwift enhances the experience by riding with other virtually and getting a more realistic experience.
Bike Computer: Having a bike computer on your bike whilst riding will simplify your experience and give you the data points (Time, pace, heart rate, power, distance etc) at a glance without having to look at your watch or use guesswork.
Transition Bag: As you can see from the above, triathletes bring a number of things to races and we need a simple and effective way to carry our kit to and from the race. A good transition bag will carry everything on race day from wetsuits to helmets.
Nutrition: You now have all the kit you need but the fourth discipine is nutrition for the race. This will include what are you eating for breakfast, pre / post swim, on the bike and then on the run. Most events will have on course nutrition and the key will be training your body to take in this nutrition or you choose your own nutrition strategy and bring this to the race. This is a critical element of the training and race day experience to be properly fuelled to maximize all your efforts to get the best goal you can.