Triathlon is a sport with endless amounts of gear and gadgets and in the tri shop we sell most of them. A part of me, the businessman, want’s you to buy one of each or maybe you need two or three or four or one in every colour… The coach and triathlete in me rails against all the fluff and faff and thinks that if the new technologies cause complications and take from training time it’s better to keep it simple (aka K.I.S.S)
With that in mind here is my list of favorite kit, essentials (KISS) and not so essentials (Fluff and Faff) I’m sure I’ve missed lots of stuff but if you leave comments with your own take on your favorite kit, the stuff you couldn’t do without and the nice luxuries I’ll add them into the post.
Swim K.I.S.S: What I use all the time in training and racing.
- Speedo’s; I go old school, none of the new fashion jammers or boxer leg swim shorts for me, or a swim suit for the ladies
- Paddles; These are one of my favorite pieces of kit, like a secret weapon for improving the swim
- Pull Buoy; Sometimes a crutch, sometime a good training aid
- Band; It’s a rare day I enjoy using this but like paddles it’s a great piece of kit as far as getting results
- Kit bag
- Tri-suit or tri-shorts & top
- Swim hat
- Nose clip; I tend to suffer a bit from pool chemicals and use a nose clip pretty much all the time now.
- Mesh bag for swim toys
- Drinks bottle
- Frontal snorkel
- Finis tempo pro
- Neoprene swim hat for cold open water swimming
- Swim gloves for cold open water swimming
- Swim socks for cold open water swimming
- Short fins for kicking and drills
- Anti fog wipes or spray
- Kick board
- Ear plugs
- I have a winter bike with full mudguards but if you only have the one bike I recommend getting a decent set of race guards at a minimum if you live somewhere with a wet season.
- I have started riding with lights both day and night for safety reasons. I don’t think you can be too visible. No.1 tip is to run several rear lights, you can’t see what’s coming behind you so it’s very important to be ultra safe.
- Gloves, I have several types ranging from full waterproof and windproof ones for extreme conditions to light Spring or Autumn full finger ones. No.1 tip is to keep some light surgical gloves in case of extreme cold. When layered with a heavy winter glove these keep my hands toasty.
- Overshoes; again I have several different ones ranging from neoprene to waterproof to lightweight Spring or Summer ones. My No.1 tip for dealing with cold feet is layer up, in exactly the same way as you would with your upper body I wear 2 pairs of overshoes on very cold or wet days. Combining a pair of warm neoprene with a pair of wind and waterproof seems to be the best combo.
- Winter tyres; I actually use these all year round. When training out and out speed is much less important than not wasting valuable riding time stuck at the side of the road changing tubes with fingers that are hardly functional because who ever punctures when it’s toast and warm? It’s usually either Baltic or dumping down.
- Helmet. This is an area that I don’t skimp anymore. Several years ago I was hit by a car about 2 weeks after I decided that I no longer needed to train wearing a helmet. I thought that I was a good enough rider and wouldn’t be likely to crash. I hadn’t taken into account other peoples stupidity. I landed on my head but was lucky enough to walk away from it with no worse than bruises and road rash.
- Winter jacket; I typically wear a windproof and shower proof, heavy, warm jacket in the winter. I also always carry a fully waterproof and breathable jacket in case of very wet or extreme conditions.
- Base layers; I have several types from light mesh vests for summer to full on winter thermals.
- Mid layers; I typically ride with several layers and my outer and mid layers will usually have long or full zips to allow for cooling while climbing or riding hard and to hold in the heat on a descent.
- Bib tights; I only wear tights and shorts with a bib (with the exception of tri-shorts) the bib serves to hold the tights in place so you don’t have friction or chaffing from them slipping around.
- Winter socks; No.1 tip for socks is to go long, no I don’t mean in your training, long socks. I discovered if I wore socks up to my knees my feet stayed warmer, don’t know how or why but I’m not arguing with the results.
- Skull cap; Should be light and thin enough to fit under a helmet comfortably.
- Neck gaiter, Buff or scarf: I’ve recently started wearing a buff or fleece neck gaiter on very cold rides and was very pleasantly surprised at the results.
- Glasses; Most versatile is a pair with inter-changeable lenses so they can be worn in rain or sun.
I have a summer road bike and a tri bike and one of the most common questions I’m asked is whether someone should train on their tri bike and the answer is yes, all year round. I turbo on it in the bad weather and switch to using it for all my rides from about four to five months from race season. A tri bike not only takes adaptation to the different position but also to the way that it handles so it’s crucial to be not only comfortable in the position but also to how it rides.
- Bib shorts; As I mentioned above all my shorts with the exception of tri-shorts have a bib. They are much more comfortable and pretty much eliminate the danger “backside exposure”
- Mesh or light base layer; Light base layers even on a hot day help regulate temperature by wicking moisture from the skin and creating a barrier against getting chilled when descending.
- Short sleeve jersey; Cycling purists would shudder at the thoughts of sleeveless jerseys and nothing screams triathlete more than a tri top. So depending on whether you want to fit in with the euro cool cyclist or flaunt your multisport background the choice is yours.
- Mitts; As counter intuitive as it might seem hands are often the first thing to hit the ground in the event of a fall and mitts can save them. Torn up hands can not only keep you off the bike but out of the water, so no swimming either.
- Arm warmers; If like me you train in the early mornings it can start out much colder than when you finish. Arm warmers allow you cool off in stages.
- Turbo trainer; A turbo trainer is for life, not just the winter. An hour on a turbo is like 90 mins to two hours on the road if you do a good structured workout. You don’t have tail winds, downhill, freewheeling or drafting. You are constantly working against the resistance of the trainer so there is no place to hide. It’s one of the best performance “short cuts”
- Bike computer with cadence; I find that cadence is one of the most useful metrics on a bike but you can work it out by simply counting your pedal strokes on one side or the other for 15 seconds and multiplying by 4.
- Also optional is more new bikes, always a good idea.
- T-shirt, long sleeve T or singlet
- Water proof jacket
- Wind proof lightweight jacket
- Winter gloves
- Technical run socks
- Crop top or running bra (For the girls)
- Sun screen
- Run hat
- Garmin or similar gps watch
- Head torch for night runs
- Bottle or gel belt for hot conditions or long runs.
- Treadmill; Nice to have but unless you live somewhere that running outdoors is difficult or impossible it could be seen as a luxury albeit a useful one.
- Heart rate monitor.
- Calf guards
- Running backpack; For long runs or commuting
- Body glide or Vaseline
- Plasters for nipples for long or wet runs (this one’s for the boys)
I have a set of Olympic weights, barbell, squat rack and dumbbells but these fall very much into the nice to have but not critical part of the kit list. Most people would have access to a gym with these so if they are a part of your training they can be incorporated in the gym.
Foam rollers and trigger point balls. For me these fall squarely in the “needed” kit as I manage niggles and minor injuries in between sessions.
If you have any essential, non essential or just plain old favorite kit leave it in the comments and I’ll add it to the list.
I have written a report examining how 5 of the most successful Irish Ironman triathletes have qualified for Kona an incredible 29 times. You can access it free here.
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