Triathlon is one of the fastest growing sports, and more than ever more people are signing up for their first triathlon. Whether it be an Olympic distance Triathlon or an Ironman Triathlon, more and more
people are getting into triathlon as a hobby. Triathlon doesn't have to be a high-cost sport or for that matter equipment heavy. Getting into triathlon is a relatively expensive sport, with the largest cost coming from the bike alone, whether it be a specific Triathlon bike or a standard road bike both come to the highest expense for a newbie triathlete.
Below we run through the basics to get you started on the bike leg for triathlon and some of the equipment needed for your first triathlon.
Road or Triathlon Bike
Starting cycling from scratch your first investment in a road bike can be a rather large one. While in Triathlon you have many different event distances typically all can be accomplished on a Road bike, without looking for a specific
Triathlon model. The key to buying your first road bike for Triathlon it's important not to spend your entire budget, as your fitness on the bike grows so will your knowledge on specific models of bikes. This will help, later on, narrow down the search on what type of bike you are looking for.
Buying your first bike can be a daunting task, the biggest aspect of your first bike purchase is to purchase the correct size of bike. Most shops now days have qualified personnel whom can help measure you up and refer you to the correct size frame based on your height or inseam length. There are many brands available nowadays, and looking for after service once purchased is just as important as your first bike.
Road Bikes typically come in two types of materials, aluminum and carbon. While both have positive attributes, aluminum will offer bigger savings in cost for your first investment. While the cost of a carbon road bike can add to your budget rather quickly, carbon does offer a smoother and more comfortable ride, while typically weighing less than that of its counterpart, Aluminum.
Triathlon bikes aren't so much different from your standard road bike. Your lower end triathlon bike will typically come with aerobars and a bull horn type handlebar (no drop bars) and gears located on the end of the aerobars. These bikes have a more slightly aerodynamic profile of the tubing. This helps with aerodynamics and typically adds extra weight to the frame. Triathlon bikes have a slightly more aggressive frame angles, resulting in a more forward position of the body. While a Triathlon bike will most probably help you go quicker during the bike leg, but overall a road bike is more suited to the novice triathlete because of the handling and ease of use
One of the most over looked investments of a newbie is a bike fit. A bike fit can help both comfort and performance on the bike. Setting up things such as the saddle position, saddle height, stem length and so forth can help the body align to its natural riding position, remove stress from the neck arms and back while providing a more efficient and comfortable position, allowing you to run off the bike with ease and preventing any long-term injuries. Most bike shops offer some type of bikefitting service and some provide this free of charge when purchasing your first bike
Once you have figured out or had help with the correct size of bike for your first triathlon. There are other things to consider, such as cycling shoes, pedals, spare tubes, tools, compartments to store your food and of course aero bars.
Typically, most road bikes or Triathlon bikes are usually sold without pedals. For the beginner triathlete, a standard pedal is a suitable alternative to start with. This allows you to build up your confidence on the bike changing gears and the handling of the bike while allowing freedom of movement of your feet. Once you are confident enough in the bike handling department, standard flat pedals can be replaced with clipless pedals. The clipless pedal is a pedal which connects to the cycling shoe allowing you to fix your pedal during riding, both increasing comfort, and power on the bike, while being able to disengage when needed.
Your typical triathlon race can be completed with a typical running shoe, while not the most effective it will do the job on the bike and speed up the transition time to the run. If you are somebody that has moved into clipless pedals a Triathlon specific shoe can be an added bonus. Typically designed with a fast entry, these types of shoe usually come with a single or double strap, to speed up entry and exit of the foot. While these are not needed for longer distance triathlon races, distances such as sprint or Olympic distance can speed up the transition time notably.
In Triathlon, most beginners or more experienced triathletes will find themselves in a non-drafting race, meaning they must keep a certain distance behind the competitor in front of them. Aerobars help both with aerodynamics and comfort helping the athlete during an event to typically ride faster with a lower effort from that on the brake levers. But for most typically beginners riding their first road bike, Aerobars should come at a later period once you are comfortable on the bike as aerobars tend to affect the handling of the bike since more weight is shifted forward.
Like Road bikes aerobars are widely available and come in different shapes and sizes depending on the size and flexibility of the rider. Brands such as Profile make a fully adjustable aero bar (profile T2) which can be adjusted in length and width, while adjusting the elbow pads to the correct position, helping the athlete get the correct position on the road bike.
Food Storage/bento boxes
Since Triathlon is a 3 sports event, eating is a must and must be easily available to an athlete while racing. Food must be readily available to be eaten directly after the swim, and during the ride before you head off onto the run. There are many options for storage such as the Bento box, which is located on the top tube behind the steerer tube. This type of storage allows a simple area that food can be stored in while allowing access to the storage in both the aero bars and brake levers.
Other storage designs come from both a saddle bag which is located behind the seat which is fastened against the saddle rails. While this type of storage is accessible, it's a better location to store such things as tools, spare tubes since it is harder to access while holding your handlebars.
Hydration is a big key during triathlon events, the longer the event is, the more important hydration and access to fluid is. There are numerous hydration systems available on the market today. The most common on simple method is the bottle cage. This allows anything from 500ml up to 750ml size drink bottles mounted on the downtube of the bicycle. If you a more experienced triathlete, hydration systems that can be fixed between the aerobars are a safe alternative. This allows quick and easy access to fluids through a straw connected to the bottle. These systems typically hold anywhere from 750ml up to 1.5litres of fluid and are easily filled through an open port using another drink bottle or similar.
Hydration systems for the aerobars are typically used by triathletes in longer events than Olympic distance but this can also depend on the weather conditions.
An overlooked product of the beginner triathlete is the simple bike computer. Although not typically needed, it's difficult to track your training, improve your performance, and estimate your finish time and pacing without one.
This simple device can help the novice triathlete pace themselves better on the bike so they are able to complete the run. While showing your speed, these computers also allow you to see the distance traveled so you know how far of the bike leg you have left to complete. The cheapest computers use wires which connect to a sensor on your fork, which then you locate the head unit either on your handlebar or stem.
Nowadays you have more complicated tools such as Garmin watches, which is more versatile using a GPS allowing you to track both Heartrate and speed/distance. Their multisport watches such as the Garmin Forerunner 305 also offer distance and speed in both running and cycling, which can limit the number of gadgets during the event.
Tools and spare tubes
During your first triathlon, you never know what can happen. Carrying a spare multi tool and inner tube can go a long way to getting through the event hassle free. Most bicycle company's design a multi tool that is low in weight and small enough to fit in a storage bag (behind the saddle as we mentioned earlier). These tools typically provide you with the main Allen key sizes that any part of the bike needs, Phillips and flat head screw drivers and in some cases a chain breaker.
Tire levers are important to that of a newbie, these help you to remove the tire in a quick and safe way during an event, the last thing you want to do is to be stuck on the side of the road because you were not able to remove your tire.
While some countries such as New Zealand and Australia, it is illegal to ride without one, and other countries such as Belgium and Sweden there are no such laws. Nowadays all sporting events involving cycling, helmets are made compulsory. While typically any helmet is sufficient enough to do a triathlon, there are some specific models such as the Giro Aerohead, which helps direct the airflow smoother around the head. Providing aerodynamic improvements typically these helmets are used with a Triathlon bike to gain as much aerodynamic advantage as possible during the bike leg of a Triathlon. If you are new to Triathlon, looking for a MIPS or country approved helmet is the way to go.
While most people know a tire is inflatable meaning if you puncture and need to replace the tube air is needed. Whether you are out training or racing a triathlon, at some point you will puncture and need to change this out on the road. Gas canisters are a portable and quicker way to inflate your tire, using compressed co2 a typically gas canister can inflate your tube up to around 120psi. During an event, a gas canister is widely used, both saving time and preventing the athlete from sitting on the side of the road pumping a tire up to 100+psi.
While the list can go on and on, don't go and blow your entire budget on your first bike or the next top-level triathlon bike. If you are not too sure whether Triathlon is something you will continue to do in the near future, a low-end road bike with some flat pedals and a cheap bicycle computer will go a long way to completing your first triathlon. Adding a bento box to the top tube of your bike for nutrition and a saddle bag to carry a replacement tube and tools will help both ease of eating and fix any problems that may arise during the event with your bike.