Beginner Triathlon Gear Guide - Part 2: Bike Gear
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Part two in this four part series focuses on the gear requirements to train for and execute the bike leg of triathlon. We've listed the core staples (necessary for a successful training block & race day) along with some popular ‘add-ons.' Given we’re trying to remain budget-conscious, the ‘must-haves’ that you should prioritize are in green! The bike leg has the highest cost associated of the three disciplines, mainly due to the bike, but there are certainly ways to remain budget conscious as you begin training.
Triathlon Bike Gear:
The saying goes: the best bike to do your race on is the one you already have in your garage. Whether it's a mountain bike or a 30 year old road bike, if it has two wheels and fits, it can help you start training for your triathlon career.
Bike ($$$$$): For the new triathlete who doesn’t own a bike, it is generally recommended to get a road bike first instead of a triathlon bike (we have another post on the differences between these two types of bikes here). Basically, road bikes are versatile, can be safely ridden in groups with other cyclists and will do just fine in your first few races! Triathlon bikes are very specific to racing, often not allowed in group rides and not as dynamic of a cycling tool. While bike prices exist on a huge spectrum, we'd recommend looking for deals on sites like Facebook Marketplace, which often have local triathlon gear pages. Finding a local bike shop can be extremely helpful in your search as well. Often, local shops will have pre-owned inventory and can help figure out what type of bike is best suited to your body.
Bike Fit ($$$): Arguably more important than the bike itself! A good bike fit will help you train more effectively, avoid injury and have fresher legs when it comes to the run portion of your race. Bike fits usually range from $100 - $300 and are worth every penny! During a bike fit, an expert will watch you ride and ensure your body & form align w/ the particular bike you’ve chosen. They’ll make adjustments to your positioning and the bike components to make you more comfortable and allow you to hopefully ride safely and injury free!
Helmet ($$-$$$): If you’re riding your bike off a training, then you should be wearing a helmet. Helmets range from $50 to $300+ and price based on factors such as safety technology and aerodynamics. MIPS (Multi-directional Impact Protection System) technology is considered the safety standard in the world of bike helmets, so keep your eye out for this when making your purchase.
Clip On Aerobars ($$): If you're riding a road bike, you can still get many of the aero benefits of a streamlined position with clip-on aerobars. These will cost anywhere from $50 - $200 and should be fitted onto your bike and positioning by your local bike fitter as well.
Pedals ($$-$$$): Once you’ve trained on your bike for a bit, you’ll want to get clip in pedals. There are many options out there and it can be beneficial to talk to your local bike fitter about what they’d recommend for your riding style or goals. Take some time to practice clipping in and unclipping prior to really letting it rip on open roads! Clipping into your pedals allows you to be a bit more of an efficient rider by recruiting more muscles and keeping your feet in a steady and stable location on the pedals. Bike Radar did a deep dive into pedals here: BikeRadar Pedal Guide.
Bike Shoes ($$-$$$): Along with bike pedals comes bike shoes allowing you to clip in. Like the pedals, while these aren't absolutely necessary (unless you have clip-in pedals) they’ll allow you to recruit more (and different) muscles in your legs for a more efficient ride. Similar to the theme of this section, it's recommend to go to a bike fitter / local bike shop to get expertise on which pair is right for you ($100 - 300+). There are triathlon specific bike shoes and road bike shoes (where tri shoes are a bit more breathable and easier to slip on and off during transition), but many triathletes (myself included) use road shoes!
Spare Tire / C02 ($-$$): Before embarking on an outdoor long ride, be sure you (1) know how to change a bike’s tire and (2) have a spare tire + CO2 or a patch kit handy on your bike! These aren’t very expensive and can be tucked into a saddle bag or spare bottle on your frame and will save you a massive headache in the event of a flat. Our friends over at GCN put together a handy video on how to change a road bike tire (this is for a tire with a tube in it, tubeless tires exist, more on that here: Tube vs Tubeless Tires).
Bike Trainer ($$$-$$$$): Here’s another one that has many options ranging in price. A bike trainer allows you to ride in place, indoors. Imagine turning your road bike into a Peleton … that’s pretty much an indoor bike trainer! On the entry-level, there are wheel-on trainers that don't require power to operate. These allow riders to spin in place and and log time cycling from the comfort of their home. On the higher-cost end of the spectrum, there are "smart trainers" which provide the rider with feedback on power, cadence & more and can integrate to straining software. One of the most common smart trainers is the Wahoo Kickr Core ($750). There are many smart trainers available on the market, here is a fantastic article comparing them (DC Rainmaker - Smart Trainer Guide). If you decide to purchase a smart trainer, accompanying software such as Zwift or Rouvy will allow you to build workouts, simulate courses and make training more fun and effective.
Bike Kit / Trisuit ($$$): In a triathlon, you’ll likely have your trisuit / kit on all day, but it's included in the bike gear guide since it’s the discipline that takes up the most time! Kits range in value and styles (mainly one-piece and two-piece kids). All in, you’re probably looking at $300 for a race kit, but there’s definitely some flexibility and deals to be found in this space. Plus, it’s not entirely necessary! You can still be quite aerodynamic and comfortable on race day with a t-shirt and bike shorts, all depending on you and your race. Tri kits, like bike shorts, add padding in the seat-area in addition to aerodynamic and body temperature regulating benefits.
Bike Computer ($$$-$$$$): Optional and again, quite a range in tech and pricing, but bike computers have become quite popular in cycling and triathlon nowadays. A bike computer will allow you to display & read your stats (power, cadence, speed, heart rate, mapping, etc) without having to constantly check your watch. The computer doesn’t measure these metrics, simply shows them to you. Pricing can range from $150 - $800+, but again, this is a completely optional component to your training and racing. Here’s a smaller, simpler Garmin Edge 130 Garmin Edge 130 and here’s a slightly larger, feature rich Wahoo Elemnt Bolt. Our friend DC Rainmaker has a fantastic comparison updated for 2021: Bike Computer Recommendations
Power Meter ($$$$): another optional add-on. Power Meters allow racers to determine their power output on the bike while riding off a trainer. Unlike the bike computer, the power meter actually does the power reading for you. It will usually come in the form of pedals or a crank arm, which you’ll attach to your bike, likely with the help of your local bike shop. Having power as a metric is useful to limit exertion during a race and stay in targeted power zones. Training & racing by power is completely up to the individual and his or her coach, but these power meters can get quite expensive, quite fast (starting at $400+)!
Did we forget anything? Let us know some of your favorite cycling gear and we'll continue to add to this guide and make it a living document.