Essential Gear for Your First Triathlon

Triathlon Gear | Essential Triathlon Gear | Tri Kit | Triathlon Stuff |

Let’s check in first.  You have picked the best Sprint Triathlon for you.  Check.  You registered for said triathlon. Check.  Perfect – now we can get to the Essential Gear for your first triathlon.


You really don’t need a lot of fancy stuff to do a triathlon.  You don’t need a special triathlon bike – although they do make those – no need to buy one.  You also don’t need all of the fancy bike computers or activity trackers that give you a zillion data points – which may be interesting – but you just don’t need them to finish a sprint triathlon with a smile on your face.  So – what do you really need for the swim, bike and run?

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The simple answer is a swimsuit, swim cap and googles.  You will be training in a pool and hopefully a few open water swims.   You probably already have a swimsuit – so you will just need to get a cap and googles.  The swim cap is helpful in the pool to keep your hair out of your eyes.  It is useful (even if you don’t have any hair to keep out of your eyes) when you are doing an open water swim for safety purposes.  Googles are essential – but they don’t need to be expensive.  You just need to find a pair that fit your face and don’t let water in.  You can find them at sporting goods stores – or places like Target.

Now – I said the simple answer is a swimsuit – as that is what I wear for training.  When I am racing I usually wear a sports bra and a pair of tri shorts.  Tri shorts are not essential gear – but they are basically spandex shorts with a bit of padding to make the bike ride more comfortable.  They are NOT essential, but I do like the ease and comfort they offer.  Remember – you are going to need shorts when you ride and run – and it can be harder than you think to pull on a pair of shorts when you are wet and in a hurry.  You can get tri shorts at amazonREI or most bike shops in town.



You need a bike (and a helmet and sunglasses).  If you already have one – for a sprint triathlon you can probably use the one you have.  I have seen people on mountain bikes, hybrids, road bikes and tri bikes at races.  It is NOT essential to have a fast, light bike for the race.  What you do want is a bike that fits you and that you have the seat set at the right height.  Remember – you do have to run after the bike.

You want to be able to stand over the frame (although – I say that – and then I know my reality that with my 24” inseam – yep – 24” it is really hard to find a bike that I am not sitting on the frame) – but ideally you will be able to stand over the frame.  You want the seat height so that when the pedal is down position your leg is almost straight – but not locked out.

If you don’t have a bike I will tell you that I have had great luck with Erik’s if you live in the Midwest.  I do like to shop at local places – so find a good bike shop and let them know you are doing your first triathlon.  They will help determine the right frame size and help fit you to the bike.  And – honestly – Craigslist is a great place to find used bikes.  It seems like people who are really into bikes like to get new ones often – so there are usually some good deals there.

Note – you will see people with bike shoes that clip into their pedals.  While this ensures more efficiency in the pedal stroke – it is NOT essential.  If you choose to go that route – please make sure that you have plenty of time to practice clipping in and out.  Not to scare you – but I think that everyone who uses clips has fallen when they forget to clip out.  (Seriously – I haven’t meet anyone who doesn’t have an embarrassing story about slowly falling over at a stoplight still clipped in!  Me included!)


Oh – and remember I talked about tri shorts?  They are NOT essential – but bike shorts or tri shorts have padding to make biking a bit more pleasant.  It is totally up to you – but they are nice.  Or you could purchase a padded bike seat.  Just a non-essential thought.



The biggest thing that you need on the run is a good pair of shoes.  This is not a place to skimp – get a good pair of running shoes.  My favorite place in MN is Run N Fun – they are SO awesome in fitting you and finding exactly the right pair.  However, there are a lot of specialty stores that will do the same thing.  I suggested you go to a specialty shop to get fitted.  It really is amazing how much easier (and better for your body) running is with the right pair of shoes.


Body Glide

Yep – this one gets its own category.  I mentioned in the first post of the series that you should use Body Glide always and everywhere.  When you are doing three different sports there are going to be places that get chaffed.  Places that you NEVER thought would get chaffed.  I have learned this lesson and had to relearn this lesson too many times to count.  Use body glide in training – and absolutely use Body Glide when you race.  My motto – Body Glide always and everywhere.


Now – there are plenty of other things that you might want when training and racing.  You might want a bike repair kit and stuff to change a tire.  You may want a visor or a hat on the run.  You might want the sunglasses with changeable lens depending on the weather.  You might want a bike computer so you can log your speed and miles.  And really – the list of “wants” can go on and on.  Remember – this was about the essentials.  You don’t need to buy all the fancy stuff to do a triathlon.  Promise.


So – now you have registered for a race and you have all the essential gear?  Awesome!  Check back next week when for your basic training plan and you will be totally equipped to cross the finish line with a smile!


Move your body, put good things in and ENJOY every day.


PS – Are you ready to get started now?  Do you have more questions than these blog posts can answer?  Don’t fret!  I was serious about wanting to see the pictures of you at the finish line.  Register now for online triathlon coaching.  You just have to promise to send me the pictures!


PPS – Missed the first post in the series?  No worries – here it is!

PPPS – Missed the post about picking your best first triathlon?  No worries – here it is!

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