Gearing Up

I often hear people advocate running as an ideal exercise activity because the gear required to participate is minimal: all you need is a pair of shoes. Avid runners, however, know this isn’t quite the case. We need specific shorts, tops, and socks to run comfortably. Winter requires another set of clothing and accessories entirely. A good watch and water bottle are also helpful, as are rehab tools like foam rollers. So when it comes to triathlons, where three disciplines are involved instead of one, one can imagine how much gear (and expense!) is involved.

If we go back to the minimalist model, one could say triathlons require three pieces of equipment: a swimsuit, a bike, and running shoes. Though I had all of these items, when I actually started training and preparing for my first triathlon, I realized I need more than just these basics.

To train for the swim portion, I swam a few days a week at the Y. I had a swimsuit, a swim cap, and goggles, which are about all you need to swim in an indoor pool. Triathlon swims take place in open water, however, without the luxury of lane lines, clear/calm water, and heat. Because of that last fact, and the fact that the Detroit River averages about 65 degrees this time of year, I decided to invest in a wetsuit.

Triathletes often wear wetsuits during the swim portion of a race for two reasons. The suits keep them warm in often frigid open water and provide a bit of buoyancy to help power through the water. Triathlon wetsuits are made out of neoprene like those for scuba diving or surfing, but are more lightweight and designed to allow the athlete more freedom of movement. I was lucky casino real money enough to find a good deal on an introductory wetsuit from Xterra for only $99.

The next portion, the bike, obviously requires a bicycle (and a helmet, as races usually require all participants to wear one). Serious triathletes spend thousands of dollars on triathlon-specific bicycles that put the rider in an aerodynamic position and often feature super lightweight carbon frames. Local races will feature these hardcore athletes as well as the first-timer riding his mountain bike or 1970s era Schwinn and everything in between. I already had a decent Giant road bike, but in order to get the most out of it, I decided to make the transition to clipless pedals.

Serious (and even semi-serious) cyclists use clipless pedals to generate more power on the bike and keep themselves pedaling smoothly. Because their shoes actually attach to the bike while they’re riding, they can push and pull with each pedal stroke.  It’s somewhat confusing that “clipless” shoes actually mean shoes that clip into the pedals, but the etymology of that term is a history lesson for another day.

Basically, to get riding clipless, I had to have three things: cycling shoes, a cleat that attaches to the cycling shoes (it’s the piece that actually clips into the pedal) and the pedals themselves. There are a few different systems of cleats and pedals that work together, and at a triathlon you will see different athletes using different systems because it is mostly personal preference. In order to save money, I borrowed some old pedals and cleats from my dad. I did buy new cycling shoes, and chose to go with road shoes that were triathlon specific (they have features that make them easier to get into and out of quickly in transition).

The wetsuit and the cycling shoes/pedals/cleats were the biggest purchases for my first triathlon, but I also bought a pair of triathlon shorts (kind of like bike shorts, but less padding and quicker drying), which are more expensive than one might think. Of course gear is only part of the equation when it comes to a triathlon (training being way more important!), but with my new equipment I felt more prepared on my quest to become a triathlete.