Triathlon buying basics for cycling
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, more people are starting triathlon as a hobby.
Triathlon doesn’t have to be a high-cost sport or need a lot of equipment. But starting triathlon is a relatively expensive sport, with the highest cost coming from the bike itself. Whether you purchase a triathlon bike or a road bike, both are the largest expense for a newbie triathlete.
Below we run through the basics to get you started on the bike for a triathlon.
Purchasing a Road or Triathlon Bike
Beginning from scratch, your first investment can be a rather large one. Triathlon offers many distances but can these can be accomplished on a road bike. When you purchase your first bike, the key is not to spend your entire budget. As your fitness on the bike increases, so will your knowledge. Doing so means, later on, you can start to narrow down precisely what kind of bike you need.
Buying your first bike can be a daunting task of finding the correct size of bike. Most shops have qualified personnel who can help measure and refer the right size frame based on your height or inseam length. There are many brands available, and looking for after-sales support is just as important as purchasing.
Road Bikes typically come in two types of materials, aluminium and carbon. While both have positive attributes, aluminium will offer more significant cost savings during your first investment. The cost of a carbon bike can add to your budget rather quickly but does offer a smoother and more comfortable ride.
Triathlon bikes aren’t so much different from your standard road bike. Your lower end triathlon bike will come with aero bars and a bull horn handlebar (no drop bars) with the gear levers located on the end. Triathlon bikes have an aerodynamic profile to provide speed and have a more aggressive frame angle, resulting in a more forward position of the body. Overall a road bike is more suited to the novice triathlete because of the handling and ease of use.
Get a Bikefit
One of the most overlooked investments 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 can help the body align to its natural riding position.
Removing stress from the neck, arms and back provide a more efficient and comfortable position. The result allows you to run off the bike with ease and to prevent any long-term injuries.
Most bike shops offer some fitting service, and some provide this free of charge when purchasing your first bike. Once you have figured out the correct size of bike for your first triathlon. There are other things to consider, such as cycling shoes, pedals, tools and storage for food.
Pedals for beginners
Most road bikes or triathlon bikes come without pedals. For the beginner triathlete, a standard model is a suitable alternative to clipless. Thus allowing you to build up your confidence and understand the handling of the bike. Once you are confident enough in the bike handling department, standard flat pedals can be replaced with clipless pedals.
Any triathlon race can be completed with any running shoe. While not the most effective, it will do the job and speed up the transition time. If you are somebody that has moved into clipless pedals, a triathlon-specific shoe can be beneficial. Typically designed with a fast entry, these types of shoes come with a single or double strap, to speed up entry and exit of the foot. While these are not important for longer distance triathlon races, events such as a sprint or Olympic can help you save time.
In triathlon, most triathletes will find themselves in a non-drafting race, and they must keep a certain distance behind the competitor. Aerobars help both with aerodynamics and comfort, assisting the athlete to ride faster with a lower effort. But for most beginners, aero bars should come at a later period and when they are comfortable on the bike.
Aerobars tend to affect the handling of the bike since the weight has shifted forward. Like road bikes, aero bars 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.
Food Storage during training and racing
Since triathlon is a three-sport event, eating is a priority and must be readily available while racing. Food must be accessible after the swim, and during the ride before you head off onto the run. There are many options for storage like the bento box, which mounts on the top tube. This type of storage bag allows a single compartment that food can be stored. Other storage designs such as a saddlebag which fits behind the seat providing adequate storage of tools or food.
Hydration systems for long events
Hydration is a big key during triathlon events, the longer the race is, the more hydration is needed. There are numerous hydration systems available on the market today. The most straightforward product is the bottle cage. Anything from 500ml to 750ml drink bottles can fit the downtube of the bicycle.
If you a more experienced triathlete, hydration systems can be mounted on the aero bars. They provide quick access to fluids through a straw connected to the bottle and typically hold anywhere from 750ml to 1.5litres. Hydration systems are mostly used in long-distance events such as a half Ironman or full Ironman distances.
Measure speed during a triathlon
An overlooked product is a simple bike computer. Although not needed, it’s challenging to track your training and improve your speed without one.
This simple device can help the novice triathlete pace themselves better on the bike so that they can complete the run. While showing your speed, these computers also allow you to see the distance travelled, so you know how far of the bike leg you have left to complete.
Nowadays, you have tools such as Garmin watches, which is more versatile using a GPS to track both heart rate 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 needed during the event.
Triathlon tools and spares
During your first triathlon, you never know what can happen. Carrying a multi spare 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. These tools provide you with the main allen key sizes needed. Tire levers are also essential to the triathlete, they help you to remove the tire quickly and safely during an event.
Some countries such as New Zealand, it is illegal to ride without one, other countries such as Belgium and Sweden there are no such laws. While any cycling helmet is sufficient to do a triathlon, there are specific models such as the Giro Aerohead, which helps direct the airflow smoother around the head.
Gas canisters for quick inflation
Whether you are out training or racing a triathlon, at some point, you will need to change your inner tube. Gas canisters are a portable and quicker way to inflate your tire. Using compressed a co2 gas canister can inflate your tube up to around 120psi.
During a race, gas canisters are widely used, saving time needed to inflate the tyre.
Don’t blow your budget
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 triathlon is something you won’t continue to do, a low-end road bike will help complete your first triathlon. Adding then a bento box for nutrition and a saddle bag to carry tools will help you on your journey.