The sport of triathlon revolves around 3 pieces of equipment: a bike–ideally an aerodynamic tri-bike, a trusted pair of running shoes, and a wetsuit that keeps you warm and more buoyant in the water. Beyond that, you can do a tri with whatever other gear you need or have on hand. But there are a few items that shouldn’t be overlooked. In fact, they could shave seconds (or minutes!) off your overall race time and make your day a little easier. They are an aero bike helmet, cycling shoes/cleats and pedals, sports sunglasses, swim goggles, and a transition bag. Certainly, other triathlete gear could be considered necessary, but our list is a solid place to start building out your race day kit.
Free Speed: The Aero Helmet
You don’t necessarily need a full aero helmet like the Rudy Project Wing, worn by top triathletes and time-trial bike racers. But choosing to wear an aero road helmet such as Rudy Project’s Nytron still brings time-shaving aerodynamic benefits to the wearer. Based on Rudy Project’s calculations, wearing the Nytron could shave as much as 30 seconds off the bike leg in a half-Ironman triathlon (56 miles). That may not seem like a lot, but in a big race, that could mean moving past several competitors thanks to your helmet.
Efficient Pedal Strokes: Cycling Shoes and Pedals
Before you opt to put aero bars on your road bike or even consider purchasing a dedicated tri-bike, invest in cycling cleats and pedals. Like ski bindings, cycling cleats snap into the pedals and stay put. This ensures you can deliver power throughout the pedal stroke: pushing down, then pulling up. This makes every pedal stroke more efficient and smoother since you use almost your entire leg motion to propel you forward.
Easy on the Eyes: Sports Sunglasses
In an iron-distance triathlon, you may spend 10-12 hours or more in the heat and sun of the day on the bike and on the run. A high-quality pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from wind, dust, UV rays, and glare—all of which will reduce eye strain throughout the race. Even better, prescription sports sunglasses allow wearers to forgo contacts and enjoy clear vision throughout the event. Adjustable and flexible specs like Rudy Project’s Cutline glasses feature strategic ventilation holes to let air flow through the lenses and expel heat. A wide lens provides clear vision in all directions, and customizable and flexible nose and temple pieces allow wearers to dial in a perfect fit.
Deep Vision: Swim Goggles
Like sunglasses, swim goggles protect your eyes and help you see. And like sunglasses, different lens colors work better in different conditions. If you’re swimming in bright sun in a lake or ocean, blue lens tints will cut glare and help you see better. Amber is best for low light—think an overcast morning or dawn start. Mirrored lenses of any color further cut glare. On race day, bring two pairs in case one breaks while pulling it on.
Find It Fast: The Transition Bag
Months of hard training and intense efforts on race day can be undone in seconds with a poorly organized transition bag. Fumbling around trying to find bike gloves or socks or the necessary amount of sports gels for your run means precious seconds lost for no good reason. The solution: Use a duffel bag or a couple of simple gym bags (one for each sport) to organize your gear. What bag you ultimately use is up to you. The key is to keep it organized by keeping each leg (bike, run) separate and complete to minimize your time in the transition area.
The Other Stuff
The gear not mentioned here: nutrition, water bottles, spare tubes, clothes, hats, socks, and gloves, are all critically important for race day. But the short list above singles out five items that will help your performance–and boost it in some cases. As you build out your own triathlon gear kit, keep this checklist handy as a pecking order of gear to acquire and use in your training and racing. You’ll be glad you did.