Rookies guide to... Triathlons...

Post your questions about bike maintenance, bike problems, kit issues, goggle issues – anything to do with the kit you have which isn’t quite going to plan and you’re looking for an answer why.

Rookies guide to... Triathlons...

Postby Sir Conehead » 07 Apr 2011 04:52

This is not meant to be a definative guide or replace quality coaching - but if you've found your way here then we think it only prudent to outline some of the basics involved in a triathlon. The most important thing to get to grips with first is;

DON'T PANIC we'll try and give you a bit of a start here so you feel a little bit more prepared.

A quick run down including some rules...

Swim - in a pool or open water
T1 - Transition 1, here is where your bike and run kit is - its called T1 as its the first of two transitions. Exiting the swim here you will grab your bike and head out into the bike leg. You'll need to have your helmet on and done up before touching your bike, you also have to run with your bike to the 'bike out' exit. Riding your bike through transition (as Mrs C did at her first triathlon) will result in a DQ
Bike - self explanatory, you need to stay 10m away from the bike in front or you may be deemed to be 'drafting' which is benefiting from them taking the brunt of any headwind
T2 - Transition 2, back into transition to change over from the bike to run. Again you're not allowed to ride through transition OR take your helmet off until your bike is racked
Run - self explanatory, try and remember to take your bike helmet off before heading out onto the run...we've all done it at some point...

Basic essentials

Triathlons can seem quite daunting, especially with the array of kit not only on show in transition at a race but for sale in shops and magazines. The price is also equally as massive as the variety of things you can buy! Before you go an remortgage your house - here is a basic list of the kit you need and possible things you can substitute for them;

1. Wetsuit and/or tri-suit - if the swim portion of the race is in open water (OW) then you'll need a wetsuit if racing in the UK: due to the temperature of the water, wearing wetsuits is almost always compulsory. When it comes to a wetsuit you may have a surfing or windsurfing shortie lying around - this can certainly do the job and if you think you can cover the swim distance in your trusty surfing wetsuit then do so. If you do decide to buy a wetsuit, then buy a triathlon specific wetsuit. I could write an entire book on wetsuit fitting and buying, but the main take home point with a triathlon wetsuit is you do get what you pay for and you MUST try one on and be correctly fitted. An ill-fitting £500 wetsuit will be much slower than a perfectly fitting £100 wetsuit - this is where some time and effort spent in a reputable triathlon shop or with a triathlon coach can pay dividends as you end up with a well fitting suit rather than saving money by buying online.

Some races however have the swim portion in a swimming pool - so you don't need a wetsuit, only what you would ordinarily swim in a swimming pool with such as swimming trunks. Of course some people choose to by something called a tri-suit which is a one piece (or two piece) lycra suit which you can wear for the swim, bike and run. The advantage of this is that it saves you time getting changed as you can wear this under a wetsuit (if you are wearing one) and the rest of the entire race. But, before you go and spend anywhere from £50 to £150 on a tri-suit consider your chances of continuing in triathlon - try and make do with what you have to hand and see if you like the sport before spending a fortune.

2. Goggles - if the swim is in a pool then some trusty pool goggles will work just fine, however if the swim is in OW your tiny shaded speedo goggles won't afford you much in the way of vision in a murky lake or river. So if the swim is in OW invest in some large clear goggles which will give you the best chance of seeing where you're going

3. Bike - almost all triathlons (except Ironman) will let you race with any bike as long as it doesn't have an engine. My first triathlon bike was £400, but you can get a triathlon specific bike for up to £10,000 :shock: The point is you need a bike, any bike that will get you around and introduce you to the sport. Ensure your bike is in good working order, the brakes work, all the nuts and bolts are done up. Its not good getting to a junction then discovering your brakes don't work. SPD pedals require special shoes (bike shoes) which you clip into the pedals - you don't have to have these as normal pedals with toe clips and running trainers can do the trick for the run after the bike.

Helmet - for the bike leg, helmets are compulsory - as in a cycle helmet not a full face motorbike helmet. As per your bike this needs to be in good working order and not cracked.

4. Something to cycle in - besides a helmet if you're not wearing a tri suit you'll need something to get changed into for the bike. As long as your comfortable in it, it can be anything. As long as you're not naked.

5. Number belts - are simply an elastic belt which you attach a race number to, which is rear facing on the bike leg and when heading out on the run you simply move the belt around so the number is at the front. However simply pinning the number to front and back serves the same purpose. You often see people at triathlons with numbers on them front and back - totally cancelling out the point of a number belt. So before you lash money on a number belt, can you make do with pinning it to your kit? It only has to be on for the bike and run - during the swim your number will either be in your hat or a timing chip will record your time.

6. Something to run in - such as trainers and running kit, again if you're rocking a tri suit then all you need is some trainers to run in after the bike. This is down to whatever you feel comfortable running in

Where to buy - most triathlon shops offer all in one deals, where for a fixed price you can buy all the major items you'll need for a triathlon from bike through to wetsuit. These packages also vary in price such as a 'bronze' 'silver' and 'gold' packages - with the higher levels costing more but offering more expensive kit. Its actually a good way of getting everything in one go and if you leave it until around Jan or Feb you can bag some real bargains, every February around the first weekend is an event called TCR help at Epsom race course. This is a triathlon expo and all the major brands and triathlon shops have stabds where major bargains are to be had, especially if you're buying the 'package'

As mentioned, buying wetsuits online AND bikes is a big no no. On our rookie training days at least 1 in 2 people have incorrectly fitting wetsuits and 1 in 5 has the incorrect size bike. That's a signifcant cash investment in things which don't fit.
Sir Conehead
Posts: 3322
Joined: 06 Jan 2010 18:21

Re: Triathlons.....

Postby Sir Conehead » 08 Apr 2011 22:27

Got a question you want answering? Go to the 'general discussion' part of the forum and canvas the massive. We're all here to help.
Sir Conehead
Posts: 3322
Joined: 06 Jan 2010 18:21

Return to Technical FAQ

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests