As triathletes, we are always searching for something that’s going to give us an edge…faster running shoes, faster bike, aero helmet, disc wheels, a speed wetsuit, power meters, heart rate monitors, etc….the list goes on and on. For some of us, that’s part of the fun of doing such an exciting sport. However, sometimes it is important to step back and figure out if we are spending our hard earned money on what we actually need, or something we want. Here is my personal guide on Need vs. Want broken down into the three disciplines.
NEEDS FOR SWIMMING
Swim Goggles – These are obviously very essential to swimming, no matter what distance you are doing.
Wetsuit – I’m going to put this in the Need category simply because the average triathlete might just sign up for a race where the water is uncomfortably cold. I would suggest a sleeveless wetsuit, like the Xterra Vortex. Sleeveless gives you a full range of motion for your arms while keeping you warm, for the most part, if the water is chilly. It’s a good all around option. If you are a good swimmer and/or will only sign up for warm water races, you might forego this item.
WANTS FOR SWIMMING
Swim Goggle Options – It is nice to have options when choosing your goggles, specifically tinted and non-tinted lenses. If it is bright outside, sighting will be much easier if you have tinted lenses. Overcast and/or dark outside? Clear lenses will provide more clarity.
Wetsuit Options – Triathlons happen throughout the year so it is nice to have options when choosing your wetsuit. If the water is very cold, having a full, sleeved wetsuit like the Xterra Vector Pro Blaze will keep you buoyant and warm. If you think the sleeved will be too warm, your sleeveless Xterra Vortex will be perfect. Warm water? Use your Xterra Lava Pants. Of course, you should always check with the race officials about the legality of any wetsuit.
Booties, Swim Cap – Sometimes, the water is just bitterly cold. There are many options that will help you get through a swim such as booties, neoprene caps, etc.
NEEDS FOR BIKING
Bicycle – Road bike, tri bike, hybrid, mountain bike…..any bike will do! If you want to get into triathlon, dust off the Schwinn in your garage and give it a whirl.
Bike Helmet – This is a must. It doesn’t have to be fancy, sleek, or attractive, but you must have a safe bike helmet.
Sunglasses – Keeping the sun out of your eyes is a plus, but protecting your eyes from flying debris is a must. The first time a rock or stick flies into your eye, you’ll be sorry.
WANTS FOR BIKING
Time Trial Bike – Time Trial Bikes or Tri Bikes, as they are often called, place you in a more aggressive position and make you more aerodynamic. They help you go faster in any triathlon, but I strongly recommend them for longer races, such as 70.3s or 140.6s.
Aero Helmet – There is a debate about these helmets. They do make you more aerodynamic but some people overheat due to the lack of ventilation. I haven’t had issues with overheating and these helmets shave enough time off of my bike times to make it worth it.
Aero Wheels/Disc Wheel – As the aforementioned items, these are all about more speed. They are expensive but will make you faster (if the crosswinds aren’t too strong!) If you have the money to burn, these are a good addition to shave even more time off of your bike splits.
Heart Rate Monitor – Training with a heart rate monitor is very helpful to some athletes, but it is something you must commit to. Spending time learning your “zones” and training appropriately is beneficial but make sure it is something you will commit to before spending the extra money.
Power Meter – These are very expensive units that, when used properly, can optimize your riding. As with the HR monitors, if you decide to use these, make sure you commit.
NEEDS FOR RUNNING
Running Shoes – Shoes are a very personal item for athletes, so whatever you use is the right thing. I am a strong proponent that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” so trust what you know and only make a change if you are having issues with what you currently wear.
Race Belt – This is the easiest way to wear your race number. You attach your number to the belt, pick it up in transition and go! (In some races, you need to wear your race belt on the bike as well, so make sure you read the race rules.)
WANTS FOR RUNNING
Sunglasses – I wear sunglasses for biking and running. Make sure you get a very comfortable pair that works for you.
Hat/Visor – Again, this is a personal choice. I wear a visor for all runs, some people wear hats, and some people don’t wear anything. If you want to wear something in the race, however, make sure you train that way.
GPS Watch – These are good tools to make sure you are running the pace you want to run….not too fast or too slow. It is very easy to burn your legs right off the bike by going out too fast so this tool will help you gauge your pace.
Quick Lacing System – There are several companies, but you can save time in T2 by just throwing your shoes on….no lacing needed. If you decide to use these, put them on your shoes immediately, get them fit right and train in them.
OTHER ITEMS FOR CONSIDERATION
Anti-Chafing Product (Swim)
Ear Plugs (Swim)
Bento Box (Bike)
Arm Warmers (Bike)