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Why is Triathlon Gear Unique

Audience: Beginner triathletes

Why is triathlon equipment different than traditional running, biking, and swimming gear?

For those that don’t already know a triathlon is comprised of three sporting disciplines swimming, cycling, and running combined to form one sport. Distances range from 13 miles to 140 miles for one race. For those of you just getting into the sport you may have done one or all three separately but never all at one time. So you probably already have gear and clothes to run in, to swim in, and maybe to cycle in. The point at which you mix these sports is when you run into issues where your gear isn’t quite right any more. Here we’ll talk about some common considerations for triathlon gear.

Swim The swim portion of a triathlon generally takes place in a lake or ocean; occasionally shorter races will take place in a pool.

  • In colder lakes and oceans a wetsuit is preferred and sometimes required. Here are some special technical considerations for a wetsuit.
  • Triathlon wetsuits are designed for surface swimming and speed. Thus, the buoyancy distribution is unique.
  • Unlike surfing and diving wetsuits triathlon wetsuits have more flexibility in the arms and legs.
  • Clothing is generally form-fitting so it can fit under wet suits.
  • Outfits must be durable because they are exposed to salt water and the elements.
  • Clothing is designed to shed water so the racer can stay dry when transitioning to the bike and run portions of the race.
  • Goggles designed for comfort, visibility and durability. Salt water considerations.
  • Electronic watches and monitoring devices must be water proof.
  • Quick drying towels are preferable to zip through transitions.

Bike The bike is commonly the second leg of a triathlon; it comes immediately after the swim portion.

  • Triathlon transition bags are specifically designed with wet/dry pockets, a helmet catch, and other special features to make sure that you don’t lose any items through a transition and that you can carry everything in one bag. Many bags even come with a mat and some come with a chair for convenience.
  • In order to get a faster time athletes generally wear their cycling outfits under their wetsuit or swim in their cycling outfits.
  • There is generally padding in the crotch for triathlon shorts; however the padding is generally thinner than traditional cycling shorts. This is because triathletes must also run and swim in the same outfits so they need a wider range of mobility
  • Many triathletes have specialized biking shoes to get through transitions more quickly. Some features that they look for include:
  • Tabs at heal for quick slide on.
  • One strap for quick tightening.
  • Water resistance for quick drying because many triathletes ride without socks.
  • You may notice that some triathletes have special aero dynamically designed bikes. These bikes are called time trial or triathlon bikes due to there special design for speed. In order to make a traditional bike more aero many triathletes will add aero bars to their bikes to achieve a more aero position.
  • A helmet is required for almost all races. For most people any bicycle helmet will suffice. For those that are looking for speed, special Aero Helmets are aerodynamically designed to give triathletes every edge to get to the finish faster.
  • Pockets and pouches on the bike and outfit are common for triathletes, they are ideal for storing nutrition on longer races.


  • Elastic Laces allow for quick changing of shoes.
  • Long distance racers take notice to comfort and speed.
  • Pockets for carrying nutrition and hydration are needed.
  • A good visor or hat that is comfortable over long distances.


  • Generally athletes wear the same outfit for swimming, biking, and running so they can save time from changing into different outfits. This isn’t always the case for athletes who prioritize comfort over speed.
  • Nutrition needs to be easy to absorb and chock full of energy. A key component of endurance races is to have the proper nutritional intake.
  • Good sunscreen that is water resistant and strong. Keep some in your transition bag.
  • Sunglasses that will fit under a helmet and be comfortable on a run.

Like any sport you can see there is a real need for specialized gear. The good thing is that there are affordable ways to gear up. As well, a true diehard can deck themselves out with the newest high tech gear. Whichever route you take be sure to consider the basics listed above.

One category of triathlon gear that isn’t mentioned in detail is nutrition. Even with all the gear above it is difficult for any triathletes to complete a race without the proper nutrition. Since nutrition is such a large topic on it’s own I suggest looking up another article on how to gear up with the proper nutrition.

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