The ActivInstinct guide to Triathlon
Triathlons require a huge amount of dedication and training if one is to perform well in what has become an extremely popular endurance sport. Equally one has to pay special attention to their choice of equipment as this plays an important role in determining what sort of performance is attainable. The cycling discipline of triathlon has spawned a variety of specialised cycling accessories designed to provide triathletes with an extra edge. Triathlon cycling accessories are geared toward providing greater efficiency on the bike with a focus on lightweight, ease of use, aerodynamic efficiency and functionality. It all adds up to increased performance on the bike whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned triathlete.
- What is Triathlon?
Triathlon is a relatively new endurance sport (created in 1974) that comprises of three disciplines - swimming, cycling and running. Each leg is done straight after the other and can be raced over varying distances from sprint (750m swim, 20k bike, 5k run) to Ironman distance (3.8k swim, 180k bike, 42k run). Competitors race against the clock, which starts as they enter the swim and stops as they cross the finish line after the run. Triathlon is often reported as having a 'fourth discipline' known as the transition. The transition is the point in the race when competitors change from swimming to cycling (T1), and from cycling to running (T2).
- What distances do triathletes race?
Distances of individual events may vary from race to race, but there are some standard triathlon distances, quoted in terms of swim/bike/run:
- Super sprint - 400m/10km/2.5km
- Sprint distance - 750m/20km/5km
- Olympic (Standard) distance - 1500m/40km/10km
- Half Ironman (70.3) - 1.9km/90km/21km
- Ironman distance - 3.8km/180km/42km
- Competition Status and race categorisation?
Triathletes are categorized in two ways - Elite, the professional triathletes who compete at a very senior or international level, and Age Group - triathletes who are non-professional. The Age Group system allows you to compete against other triathlete entrants of the same age (within a five year band) and sex. Triathlon and duathlon World Championships give all triathletes the chance to enter - they have an Age Group category as well as an elite category.
- The Gear
Having the right gear can help enormously in improving your performance and time, however this shouldn’t be an alternative to the adequete training that a triathlete needs to undertake to complete the race and meet an individual’s goals. The following section will cover in detail the gear each triathlete needs and what to look for when buying.
- The Tri-suit
A tri suit is worn during all legs of a triathlon (worn under wetsuit for swim) - this is normally a lycra based garment and is either a 1 or 2 piece garment. A tri suit will have high quality fabric that will be quick drying, and also a hydrophobic chamois that does not absorb too much water on the swim stage. More expensive tri-suits will display more of these desirable properties. For longer distance races it’s ideal to have pockets on the suit for carrying energy foods, and a front-facing zipper for easy adjustments during the day. In warmer temperatures or pool based triathlons (non-wetsuit races) you will be swimming in the tri suit, and should look for fabric and seam construction that will minimize drag. Some of the best tri-suits on the market at the moment are made by Orca and 2XU. Our complete range of tri-suits can be found in the clothing section within the Triathlon category.
- The Wetsuit?
What should I know about wetsuit?
Wetsuits, made of neoprene, a stretchy synthetic rubber material, are worn during the swim stage of open water triathlons. This is to counteract the cold water and keep the athlete warm and safe whilst swimming. They will normally cover the whole body including arms and legs although some styles which stop at the knees, or don’t cover the arms are available (but less common especially in the UK where the cold temperature of the water warrants using a full body wetsuit). Triathlon wetsuits are designed to be able to be taken off very quickly so that the cycle stage can commence as soon as possible. This often means that they take a while to get on though!
How a wetsuit works?
A wetsuit keeps the user warm by trapping a layer of water in between the body and the neoprene of the wetsuit. This layer of water warms up and subsequently keeps the user warm. One of the properties of neoprene is that it is very buoyant. This means that it can dramatically improve the performance of a swimmer due to the fact that less energy is being used to keep the swimmer afloat.
Which wetsuit should I buy?
When looking for the right wetsuit it is important to consider some key points. Firstly, it is important to make sure that the suit has a smooth coating on the outside (ActivInstinct only sells this type). This will dramatically improve the performance of the suit by reducing drag. Another very important part of the suit is flexibility. Make sure that a suit has a much thinner more flexible rubber around the shoulder area, but thicker panelling on the torso and leg area to give the maximum amount of buoyancy.
More expensive wetsuits will tend to have superior technology, a higher quality neoprene and optimal flexibility, which can help shave off the seconds on the swim. Avoid very cheap wetsuits, where a poor quality neoprene and lack of flexibility could become a hindrance.
Sizing guide of wetsuit?
Wetsuits come in a wide range of sizes as it is very important to have a correctly fitting wetsuit. Too tight and the flexibility and comfort will be affected, too big and the suit will fill up with water and become saturated. Wetsuit manufacturers have detailed sizing guides (found on all the wetsuit product pages) which take into account weight, height, chest size amongst other measurements. Speedo, Orca and 2XU currently make some of the best wetsuits on the market. If you are unsure which bike is best for you and your budget, don’t hesitate to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 08452 702 011 and we can help you select the correct suit and size.
- Goggles and swimming cap?
What should I know about goggles?Goggles are worn during the swim stage so that the athlete can see where they are going during the swim. They are normally worn under a swim cap to stop them from coming off at the start of the swim when lots of swimmers are in close proximity to one another.
What’s my goggle style?
Goggles are a very personal decision, depending on whether the athlete prefers a smaller goggle which fits into the eye socket or a larger goggle which may offer better visibility in an open water swim but is much less streamlined on the water and causes more drag. Goggles also come in different colours - clear, tinted, black and a host of other shades. For beginners, we would recommend larger lens goggles, as these would give you maximum visibility in the water.
A few tips when choosing goggles include:
- Be sure you're not allergic to any materials before purchasing. If you're allergic to foam or latex, you might end up with huge rashes under your eyes or worse.
- If they aren't a good fit, tightening the straps won't do any good. Straps that are too tight create headaches.
- If you have a small head or face, you may want to try children's goggles to ensure the best fit.
- If you swim outdoors, you may want to purchase tinted goggles. They are great for protecting eyes from the sun.
- Adjust the nose piece. Most people believe the strap is the only way to adjust your goggles, but by adjusting the nose piece you can get a much better fit.
Do I need a swim cap?
Whilst it is not critical in order for one to start and complete the race, most race organisers issue the competing triathletes with a coloured swim cap to group them (different colours for different groups). In addition it helps keep your goggles on during the swim. Even if you are to be issued a swim cap for a race, it is worth getting one for training. They don’t cost much and will make you more streamlined when swimming (assuming you have hair!). They often come in one size and latex ones are the most popular.
- What trainers do I need for the run stage?
- The bike
When choosing a bicycle there are a number of factors to consider depending on how much you want to spend and how competitive you are planning to be. The main factors to take into consideration when purchasing a bike are the materials used to make the frame and the components used for the drive train, brakes and gears. Road/Triathlon bicycles are designed for outright speed with aerodynamic efficiency and frame stiffness for great energy transfer and climbing capabilities. Trek, Cannondale and Felt all make triathlon bikes suited to all levels of rider with a mixture of materials and components tailored to the specific needs of beginners, intermediate and expert riders.
Materials: Triathlon bikes are made from two main materials. The high end bikes are made from Carbon Fibre which has the highly desirable properties of being extremely light and very stiff making it ideal for those who are highly competitive. The bikes at the lower price points feature a construction from aluminium which is also a very light and strong material in its own right. It is however marginally heavier than Carbon Fibre and slightly more flexible but for intermediate or beginner riders this material will easily hold its own and provide for a great riding experience.
Some bikes will use a mixture of the two materials with an aluminium frame and Carbon fibre front forks allowing riders to get some of the benefits of Carbon Fibre without breaking the bank.
Components: The Components used on triathlon/road bikes are extremely important with the main factors to consider being weight and reliability. Typically the higher the price, the lighter and more reliable the components will be. Whilst the components used on the lower end bikes are not exactly up to the standard of the top bikes they are usually still very reliable if a little heavier. Components include Derailleurs, chains, brakes, and shifters. Triathlon bikes, being designed for outright speed rely heavily on the components in the drive train and the gears as this is the power delivery system from your legs to the wheels. The elements of the drive train and gears include cranks, chainrings, cassettes, shifters and derailleurs.
It is important to get a group set of components for optimal reliability as they work together in a system for optimum performance. Shimano are the most popular manufacturer of components and their group sets include the Dura-Ace, Ultegra, 105, and Tiagra lines.
- Bike sizing guide
Bikes sizes are generally measured according to the length of the seat tube. The measurement is taken from the centre of the bottom bracket to the top of the seat tube.
You can establish which size is suitable for you by measuring your height and inside leg. For the inside leg measurement, take off your shoes and stand with your feet flat on the floor with your legs straight and vertical, then take a measurement from your crotch down to the floor.
Height (Feet and Inches) Inside Leg or Inseam (Inches) Fram size (Inches & cm) 5.1+ 27-29" 18" 48cm 5.3+ 28-30" 19" 50cm 5.5+ 29-31" 20" 52cm 5.7+ 30-32" 21" 54cm 5.9+ 31-33" 22" 56cm 5.11+ 32-34" 23" 58cm 6.2+ 33-35" 24" 60cm
- Helmets and other bike accessories
Helmets: Top end helmets will generally be lighter and equipped with better ventilation and fitting systems to go with a more aerodynamic shape for top performance. The most important factor to consider is the fit of the helmet. If the fit is not correct it won’t protect you properly in the event of a crash. Helmets also come in smaller sizes to fit ladies and children.
Computers: Cycle computers provide you with vital information during your ride including average speed, current speed, odometer and trip distance. The more sophisticated the computer the more programmes available to the rider, helping them achieve results and monitor their performance through advanced functionality.
Aerobars: Aerobars are designed to get you riding in an aerodynamic tuck position and potentially shave time off of your ride and enhance your overall performance.
Water Carriers: Water carriers are extremely important as it is essential for triathletes to stay hydrated at all times. There are various options when it comes to water carriers ranging from inexpensive bottle cages and lightweight bottle cages through to Camelbak devices.
- Nutrition – energy gels, nutrition bars and drinks?
Nutrition is very important. An athlete can do all the training in the world but have there race ruined by not taking on the correct nutrition before and during a race. Depending on the distance of the race, an athlete needs to take on a certain amounts of calories and electrolytes to keep their body performing at a high intensity and not cramping up or blowing up during the race. It is also very important to take on lots of carbohydrates before the race in order to have a good energy base before starting a race. Nutrition such as energy gels, and electrolyte tablets are good way of taking on extra energy and salts without having too much bulk and getting a stitch.
Extremely popular products amongst triathletes include items from the Powerbar range and also those form Science in Sport .
We strive to provide you with the most useful and accurate information in aiding you to select the right triahtlon gear for you, however we are always looking to improve our offering and services to our customers. If you have any recommendations on how we could improve our guide please send an email to email@example.com. We always welcome your feedback.