What to Wear for a Triathlon
Here’s all the details on what to wear for a triathlon:
So…you’ve signed up for your first triathlon! Good for you! You’re about to embark on an athletic adventure that is going to challenge your body and mind. Along the way, you’ll discover a supportive (maybe slightly crazy) community of fellow triathletes who will help you train, answer your questions, and make your first tri a great experience.
Speaking of questions, you probably have a lot of them. Some may be technical (“Do I need those funny handlebars on my bicycle?”). Some may be logistical (“Where do I put my stuff during the race?”). One question many first-time triathletes seem to ask is actually one of the most important: what to wear for a triathlon?
If your race has an open water swim, you may want to wear a triathlon wetsuit. Wetsuits can help keep you warm in colder water and can make you more buoyant. If you expect to do several tri races, investing in a wetsuit is a good idea. For newbie racers who aren’t ready to buy, you may be able to rent one. Whether or not you wear a wetsuit is often a race-day decision, and can depend on the water temperature and other factors.
Once you’ve answered the wetsuit question, you may still be wondering, “Ok, but what do triathletes wear?”
Ideally, you want to wear the same thing throughout the race, from start to finish. Triathlons include two transitions, known as T1 and T2. At T1, you come out of the water and prepare for the cycling leg of the race. At T2, you drop off your bike and helmet and head out for the run. Transition times are included in your overall race time, so you want them to be short and efficient. You do NOT want to be struggling to pull a bike jersey over a still-wet bathing suit. And you do NOT want to be taking anything off (other than your wetsuit, of course!), as the transition area is usually an open space with no privacy.
The good news is that there are lots of triathlon-specific clothes available – you just need to do a little research and find out what works best for you.
As with many other occasions in life, men have it pretty easy when dressing for a triathlon! The most popular thing for men to wear is a pair of tri shorts. These are similar in material and construction to cycling shorts, but they have lighter padding and are made of quick-drying fabric. Tri shorts can be worn throughout the race; a cycling jersey or performance top can be added for the bike and run legs. Some choose to wear a men’s triathlon wetsuit, which is an all-in-one garment with a sleeveless top and tri shorts.
A common choice for female triathletes is triathlon shorts with either a bra top or a tri top, depending on your preference. Some racers wear a sports bra and tri shorts for the swim and then add a shirt for the bike and run legs of the race. Again, keep in mind that you’ll still be wet when you get to T1, so if you’re going to add a shirt, you should practice your transition and make sure you’re able to dress quickly.
Tri tops provide more coverage than a sports bra and are available in a variety of styles. Tops feature fast-drying fabric and some have small pockets for race essentials like energy gels. All-in-one tri suits are also available for women. Those who need more support can layer a sports bra under a tri top or a women’s triathlon wetsuit.
Keep in mind one important rule of triathlon (or any sport, really): NO NEW GEAR ON RACE DAY! Everything you use on race day, from your swim goggles to your water bottle to your running socks, should be gear you’ve used and tested. You want to focus on your race and you don’t want any surprises.
As you get ready for your first triathlon, talk to other athletes about what they wear and what they prefer. Whether you shop in stores or online, try out different sizes and styles until you find what is best for you. Train in your gear, get comfortable with it, and by race day, you’ll be ready to go!