One of the biggest concerns for first-time triathletes is clothing – which clothing will minimize or eliminate transition times, and which clothes work best for each leg of the triathlon. So, what do you wear for a triathlon? The answer can vary depending on your individual needs and preferences. You can focus on each individual item or choose from specialized tri clothing. However, despite the variety, there are some basic rules to follow, which we have outlined below.
Read on to find out about different triathlon clothing and what you need for each component.
While some opt for swimsuits, wetsuits can be a smarter choice because of their ability to keep you balanced throughout the swimming component of the triathlon. In fact, wetsuits are essential if you’re swimming in cold waters. Additionally, while wetsuits can be more time-consuming to take off, a lot of triathletes report the wetsuits cutting down on swimming time and negating this.
Wetsuits need to fit well without being too tight since that can limit your range of motion and adversely affect timing. While traditional wetsuits can be used, wetsuits that are made with triathlons in mind are a better option since they’re usually lighter and have less resistance in the water. Sleeved options are ideal for extremely cold water while sleeveless wetsuits provide users with more freedom and range of motion.
Many triathletes opt for swimming shorts that they can also bike and run in since this reduces transition time. Unlike regular shorts, tri shorts dry extremely fast and have built-in quick drying pads. They’re also thinner and more flexible than traditional cycling shorts.
Tri tops may be bought separately or in conjunction with tri shorts as a two-piece tri suit. Triathlon tops are usually made out of spandex and are tight-fitting so that drag in the water is minimized.
If you’re not opting for special triathlon tops, you can also use other tops. This can be different for male and female participants, with male participants usually opting for singlets since they’re comfortable for both, biking and running. Female triathletes usually opt for support tops.
However, this isn’t necessary, especially for beginners. Some triathletes just opt for t-shirts, with men simply putting them on after the swimming component and women wearing them over supportive tops. Another option is a cycling shirt – however, this can result in chafing. If you opt for cycling shirts, be sure to use them in conjunction with anti-chafing products.
Dedicated tri suits have become extremely popular in recent years. This is mostly because they can be used in all legs of the race, and so, participants don’t have to change in between, significantly reducing transition time. However, it is important to note that these can be quite pricey and may not be suitable for beginners or those on a budget.
Since tri suits are specifically designed for triathlons, they ensure comfort and can help with speed. If wetsuits are required for the swimming component, triathlon suits can be worn under them. They also dry quickly so that there’s no risk of chafing and usually have back pockets in case you want to carry something small.
Socks are a point of contention for triathletes, with some skipping socks to reduce transition time and others never participating without them. So – to sock or not to sock? That is the question. For beginners, the answer is usually yes since socks ensure comfort and dryness. That being said, it’s important to pick the right socks since not all socks are created equal. Avoid cotton at all costs and opt for breathable, moisture-wicking socks.
Choosing the right pair of triathlon shoes can be tricky – they need to be comfortable, but not time consuming to put on. You’ll be in your triathlon shoes for both, the cycling and running components, so fit is everything. Make sure that your shoes aren’t too big or too small and have adequate cushioning and support.
Most triathletes opt for elastic laces to lessen transition time – instead of tying them, you simply have to pull them tight. In addition to saving time, these laces are also guaranteed to stay tight throughout the run.
Other Triathlon Gear
When it comes to what you wear to a triathlon, the answer isn’t limited to just clothing and footwear – some gear is also involved. Essentials include bike helmets, sunglasses, and goggles.
Bike helmets are extremely important to wear – a good triathlete is a safe triathlete. In fact, bike helmets are mandatory for most triathlons and you cannot participate without them. A triathlon helmet doesn’t have to be expensive, but does need to be comfortable, fit well, and have adequate safety features. You should note that for the running component, you can opt for a cap or visor.
Sunglasses are also an important part of a comprehensive tri outfit and will be necessary for the cycling and running legs of the race. You need protection from both, the glare of the sun and any debris flying into your face. The ideal triathlon sunglasses have wraparound lenses, polarization, fit well, are durable and comfortable and have a protective coating on the lenses.
Goggles are essential in the swim leg of triathlons and should be chosen carefully. The main requirement is for them to fit well. A poor fit will result in them being filled with water or being too tight and uncomfortable. Some triathletes opt for tinted goggles to protect their eyes from the sun.
Our Final Thoughts
With so many options available, it’s understandable that you may get confused about triathlon clothing. We hope that this comprehensive list has answered the “What do you wear for a triathlon” question and has provided you with a guide that can help you make your final decision.