Reader To Reader: I Want to Try a Tri

One reader fancies having a go at a triathlon, but wants advice on kit and training. Here's what you suggested


Posted: 27 January 2007
by Jane Hoskyn


Triathlon events have grown fast in popularity over the last couple of years, and this week's questioner is just one of many RW members thinking of giving the run/bike/swim thing a whirl...

"I am a plodder (mainly 2-hour half marathons; FLM last year) and I'm starting to be seduced by the idea of a triathlon. I can swim 1500m in an hour and do the London-Brighton ride each year, so have a bit of experience in the three disciplines. But I need to know on the bike/swim side what kit I would need, how much it would cost roughly and how much time it takes to train for a tri. Are there training plans specifically for triathlons?"shin twigs

Your best answers

  • Just do it
    I did my first novice triathlon three years ago at Stratford, on my 20-year-old racer. All I had to invest in was a cheap tri-suit (£60 I think), goggles (£5) and the basic kit for the bike: spare inner tube, puncture repair kit and a spanner set. I hadn't ridden for about 10 years, so really this was just buying stuff that you've already got as a cyclist. Oh yeah, helmet is compulsory. I've since bought a second-hand road bike for £200. Triathlons are great fun – as a plodder myself I highly recommend you give it a try. This may be of use for training plans: Fun2Tri.co.uk. Good luck! – Chase Runner
  • Join a Tri club
    The cost of doing a Tri can be as much or as little as you like. My one and only bit of advice would be to join a local Tri club if there is one near you. You'll get loads of advice and help from other members, and most normally lay on good training sessions. They will be able to explain what Brick training is – there's nothing worse than that feeling from bike to run when you are not expecting it or trained for it! – Darren Powell
  • You don't need pricey kit
    With that background, you could easily be ready by August for an Ironman, much less any other triathlon distance. There's no need to spend a ton of money on kit. It sounds like you already have swimming goggles and a road bike, so there's not much else to get. Fancy bikes are for ponces, so you don't want to get one of those anyway. There are a lot of books with triathlon training plans out there, or you could try BeginnerTriAthlete.com. Also pop over to the IM 2007 training thread. A lot of people talk training and other stuff there, so it's a well of advice. – Ultra Keg Killer
  • Don't overspend on a bike
    You can use any bike, provided it's road worthy, even a mountain bike. If there is the remotest liklihood of you doing more than one tri, you should buy something mid-range (about £500) like a Specialized Allex or Trek 1000. As with all things, you get what you pay for – but with bikes the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in around £1,000+. The key thing is that the bike fits properly and is comfortable. Other things you could think of getting are tribars (£40+), number belt (£3+), bike computer (£10+), clipless pedals (£30+) and bike shoes (£40+). Clipless pedals and bike shoes and/or tribars are probably the most cost-efficiant upgrades; I'd recommend this after you've done one race or even before. The RW Tri forum is like a virtual club, we also have our own kit... – Bouncing Barlist
  • Stick with a road bike for now
    The geometry of a Tri bike is slightly different to a road bike. The main thing you'll really notice is that a Tri bike just has Tri bars on it, so you can maintain an aggressive aero position all the time. Most people have a road bike to train on all year round, and attach clip-on Tri bars to get a bit more aero. If you're getting just one bike, I'd suggest a road bike is the one you want. Specialized, Trek and Bianchi all do brilliant (and pretty much identical) £500 bikes, and that's pretty much the standard price for an entry-level bike. – Iron JD
  • Get a kitemarked helmet
    I went from being a runner who occasionally cycled a bit, to doing The Longest Day (Ironman), and I spent about £100 all told on everything except the entry. It doesn't have to be a ferociously expensive sport if you don't want it to be, though it is very very easy to be persuaded into buying lots of things you don't need, or where a cheap version would do just as well. If you don't have a bike helmet already, get one. Any BS kitemarked one will be adequate for crash protection; what you pay for is more holes and graphics. Much above £30 and you're paying for looks and gramme savings which could be better made elsewhere. – Duck Girl
  • See if you enjoy it first
    I'll be doing my first tri this year at Stratford, using a ten-year-old hybrid bike, a pair of shorts, a running vest, a cr4p Halfords helmet, a pair of Saucony Grid Omnis and a pair of goggles. I can't even change a wheel. If I get a puncture, I'll push it back and get a bad time. If I like the experience, then I might think about getting some more kit. – Dustboy
  • Practice transitions
    Try running to and from your local swimming pool so you get used to going from one discipline to another, and make sure you can run say four miles – that'll see you through the 5K. In my first Tri I found the immediate transition from cyling to running very strange – try standing up on the pedals towards the end of the ride to make the transition easier. Don't worry about getting fast at swimming; you'll make up far more time on the bike or run. And make sure you don't cycle in transition or disobey other specific rules, or you'll get time penalties which is very frustrating! – Stuart Hathaway
  • Tri on a budget
    A lot of the cost depends on how much of a tri-ponce you want to be. I resent spending £20+ for kit for training in. That said, after the abuse I got for spending last winter training in a pair of leggings from Primark, I've just upgraded to a spandex shiny pair for £3.60 from Accessorise, which make me look like a superhero. I got away with doing Ironman Germany in a pair of trainer liners, again from Primark. Eat jelly instead of gels for the bulk of training; you can switch to gels for the last few rides if you want. Run to work, with as big detours as necessary to make up the miles. Being a grumpy recluse also helps, as you don't feel the need to meet up with other people to train. – ergo phobic
  • Try eBay
    I did my first sprint at Cockerham (small off-road/open water) in Lancs and was hooked. Got my Giant OCR2 bike, less than three months old, from eBay for £260, about half price. Most of my other stuff has come from there as well: pedals, shoes, wetsuit, pirate gear. Just go for it. The Tri forum has been invaluable to me. – holgs
  • Rent a wetsuit
    You can rent a wetsuit for less than £50 for a season. Tri & Run does wetsuit hire, but at the moment all the info on their website seems to be based around renting for a weekend at a time. Have a look around in April, and at the London Triathlon Website. Lots of the entrants are first-time open water racers. – Firestar
  • Crucial kit, me hearties
    Did someone mention pirate buffs? The essential tri kit, still available here. – Mister W


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Hi there,
I am a plodder (half marathons mainly 2hrs) did FLM last year, and starting to be seduced by the idea of a triathlon. can swim 1500 m in an hour, do london to brighton bike ride each year so have a bit of experience in the three disciplines.

need to know on the bike/swim side what kit i would need, how much it would cost roughly (as a novice wouldn't want to pay 1000's for a bike) and how much time it takes to train for one,

do you think i could get up to speed on it by the one in august?, are there training plans specifically for triathlons?

your advice would be gratefully received

ta

ST

Posted: 20/01/2007 at 15:01

With that background, you could easily be ready to do an Ironman much less any other triathlon distance by August. No need to spend a ton of money on kit. It sounds to me like you already have swim goggles and a road bike, so not much else to get. Fancy bikes are for ponces, so you don't want to get one of those anyways. :)

There are a lot of books with triathlon training plans out there. Or you could try www.beginnertriathlete.com.

You can also pop over to the IM 2007 training thread. A lot of people talk training and other stuff there, so its a well of advice.
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 15:45

Hi

I did my first novice triathlon 3 years ago on my 20 year old racer at Stratford. All I had to invest in was a cheap tri-suit (£60 I think), googles (£5) and the basic kit for the bike of spare inner tube, punture repair kit and a spanner set. i hadn't ridden for about 10 years so really this expense was just buying stuff that you've already got as a cyclist. Oh yeah, helmet is compulsary. I've since bought a second hand road bike for £200. As UK-K has said, you don't need to spend a fortune to do triathlon. They are great fun. As a plodder myself I HIGHLY recommend you give it a try (sorry about the pun!) Get someone to explain the "transition" to you although they aren't as confusing as they first look.
have a look at the link to see if it's of any use.

http://www.fun2tri.co.uk/

Good luck!
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 16:20

I've picked up this question for this week's Reader to Reader... not least because I fancy giving a tri a go myself one day, but want to know how much kit-based palaver and expense is involved. Awaiting responses with interest!
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 22:30

AS said with your background id see nothing stopping you from doing a tri (Sprint of Olympic, tomorrow).

As far as equipment is concerned the the key items you will need are

Swim

Goggles
Swimsuit (wetsuit if open water)

Bike

Bike
Helmet £30+
Something to cycle in

Run

Running kit.


You can go further by investing in a tri-suit so you dont have to get changed for each discipline, prices from around £40?

You can hire a wetsuit for a whole season from places like triandrun, approx £40-50

You can use any bike providing its road worthy, even a mountain bike. Its up to you how much you spend if you choose to get a new bike but id suggest if there is the remotest liklihood of you doing more than one tri you buy something mid-range (about £500) like a Specialized Allex or Trek 1000. You could of course just buy a cheap racer from Halford for £200? but like all things you get what you pay for but with bikes the law of diminishing returns starts to kick in around £1000+ The key thing is that the bike fits properly and is comfortable.

Other things you could think of getting are

Tribars £40+
Clipless pedals £30+ and bike shoes £40+ (clipless pedals & bike shoes and/or tribars are one of the most cost efficiant upgrades and I would recommend this after youve done one race or even before)
Number belt £3+
Bike computer £10+

Other incidentals like spare tubes etc will cost another £20 or so.


Why not enter Stratford Upon Avon or Windsor Tri, there are a lot of us from the forum doing these and we can give you advice and support there.

Whatever you decide, good luck.


Posted: 20/01/2007 at 22:33

Chase, if you own google for a fiver, I'll go halves with you!

Well, I am using a ten year old hybrid bike, probably a pair of shorts, a running vest, a cr4p Halfords helmet and a pair of Saucony Grid Omnis and a pair of goggles for my first this year at Stratford.

I can't even change a wheel, so if I get a puncture, I'll push it back and get a bad time. If I liek the experience though, it might be worth getting some more kit.

Oh, and a pirate buff, which is, of course, the only real essential.
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 22:37

There are of course lots of other gadgets and gizmo's you may be tempted to get, I should warn you triathlon is a shoppers dream. In the 3 years ive been doing it I must of spent near to £6000 on kit.

Clothing for training tends to be one of the hidden costs as well as things like energy gels, race entries, travelling for training sessions etc.
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 22:37

a lot of the cost depends on how much of a tri-ponce you want to be.

i resent spending £20 + for kit for training in, although after the abuse i got for spending the whole of last winter training in a pair of leggings from primark, i've just up-graded to a spandex shiny pair for £3.60 from accessorise, which make me look like a superhero. and give me powers. for some reason, my feet aren't particularly fussy about socks either, and therefore i got away with doing ironman germany in a pair of trainer liners again from primark.

eat jelly instead of gels for the bulk of training, you can switch to gels for the last few rides if you want. and run to work with as big detours as necessary to make up the miles, so you don't need to travel to train all the time. being a grumpy recluse also helps with this, as you don't feel the need to meet up with other people to train.
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 22:42

(obviously i had shoes on as well, i wasn't just wearing trainer liners. that would just be silly.)
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 22:44

Transition is said to be a discipline in itself, you goal being to transfer from swim to bike or bike to run as quickly as possible. You can train for ages to knock 2 mins off your run time but with a little discipline and planning you can easily save this in transition

Swim to bike..

Goggles & swim cap off as you run to transition
Wwetsuit off (if open water), this is a technique on its own, pull suit off shoulders, arms out, wrench down to thighs, pull one leg out then stand on empty wetsuit leg for leverage to pull other leg out.
Helmet on, cycle glasses on (put glasses in helmet, helmet on handlebars upside down)
Number belt on
Bike shoes on
Push bike to mount line and go...

Bike to run

Dismount at bike dismount line (can take feet out of shoes before hand if practised but wouldnt recommend for 1st few races)
Rack bike
Helmet off
Shoes off
Trainers on
Go........

Before the race take points of reference so you can find your transition spot easily, ive waisted 2 mins looking for my bike on a couple of occasions (see note re saving time)

For your 1st few races id concentrate on enjoying the experience and having fun and not to worry to much about times.
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 22:45

As I found the key to speedy transitions is having a plan and running through it as you finish your swim or bike. If no plan you just end up wasting time faffing about (as I still often do).
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 22:48

Barley, that has to be the most useful thing I have seen on here in ages.

Do you have to wear a swim cap? Are they supplied?
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 23:07

Swim caps are always supplied, and you always have to wear one, theyre primarily for safety I guess but obviously useful for restraining flowing locks, keeping your head warm and being slightly more slipstreamed.

Swim cap is usually given out at registration.
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 23:10

And, sorry to hijack, but have been wondering for a while, should I get a number belt?
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 23:15


JD.
yeah, it does make life easier. not sure i'd want to pin a number to my trisuit and then have a wetsuit over the top of it.

put your numberbelt on and then your wetsuit over the top. of put it on when you come out of the swim. have it it flapping around on your back on the bike. dismount. turn it around for the run. you can also put gels in some of them. but i couldn't get my gels to fit the ironman number belts.
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 23:22

Yes deff get number belt, useful for just runs to as no saftey pins damage your running vest/top.

You sometimes get them free in race goody bags
Posted: 20/01/2007 at 23:37

For me to go from being just a runner who occasionally cycled a bit, to doing The Longest Day ('ironman'), took:
- wetsuit - donated, but can hire cheaply as Barlist said
- swimming costume
- goggles
- silicone hat - wearing 2 keeps your head warmer. Put talcum powder inside these after each use, or they die quickly.
- I already had an adequate bike (contrary to what everyone thought on the day, it is NOT a 'mountain bike') - but with flat handlebars & no cleats. This was not a problem for me but some may disagree!
- Other people also seem to like cycle computers (£20-30 will get you a decent one, and if you buy it from a proper bike shop they will fit it if you ask).
- For training purposes you may also want bike lights, in case you are stuck out after dark.
- A bike repair kit, best kept in a seat wedge, and 2 spare tubes, & a lightweight frame pump (unless you muck around with CO2) are essential. Add to the bike stuff a packet of jelly beans or spare fuel of choice, ibuprofen, a bit of money, a 20p coin and maybe a mobile phone. If you can jam it in an ultralight windproof has been very useful for me.
- If you don't have a helmet already, you should get one. Any BS kitemarked one will be adequate for crash protection, what you pay for is more holes & graphics (I now work in a bike shop, mostly on the strength of TLD). £20-£30 should get you a decent one with enough ventilation - much above £30 & you are paying for looks & gramme savings which could be better made elsewhere.
- Extra bottle holders for bike - essential but cheap.
- Bike top - this is the only bit of clothing I brought specifically for the event. These have 3 really big pockets on the back, for malt loaf & puncture kit.
- Bike glasses - useful even in dim weather for eye protection. Again, more than £30 is spending on style above function.
- Clothes wise the other things I wore were a standard running sports bra & lycra shorts (right through - including under wetsuit), & a club vest for the marathon, & 2 pairs of socks (dry ones for the run).
- if you are already a runner you don't need any more kit for the run.

I spent about £100 all told on everything except the entry, including things like swimming tickets & extra food (veggie jelly beans). I did scrape by on minimum kit & got a few things donated (thanks - you know who you are!), but it does not have to be a ferociously expensive sport if you don't want it to be, though it is very very easy to be persuaded into buying lots of things you don't need, or where a cheap version would do just as well.
Posted: 21/01/2007 at 00:05

Did someone mention pirate buffs? The essential tri kit, still available here.
Posted: 21/01/2007 at 07:59

oh, also essential is a cup of tea and almighty flap-jack or bacon sandwich from the 'friends of such-and-such club' table. it's very easy to take for granted all the organisation that goes into organising and marshalling events.
Posted: 21/01/2007 at 09:12

Also see the BIG Triathlon index (see list of BIG indexes on the left of this page)
Posted: 21/01/2007 at 09:15

thanks guys for all your replies

i am def. going to give it a go.

haven't got much spare time for research today but will have a good trawl through the site in the week you will be seeing me pop up on the tri threads with lots of stupid qustions next week, be kind to me !!


ta
ST
Posted: 21/01/2007 at 18:01

i am def. going to give it a go.

We'll see you at Stratford in May then!
Posted: 21/01/2007 at 21:54

My one and only bit of advice would be to join a local Tri club if there is one near you. Loads of advise and help from other members, and most normally have good training sessions laid on. They will be able to explain what Brick training is - theres nothing worse than that feeling from bike to run when you are not expecting it or trainined for it!! Cost for doing a Tri can be as much or as little as you like. Try a sprint first and see how you get on.
Posted: 22/01/2007 at 16:57


K8t
Hi there

I am also thinking about doing a tri this year and happened to be was looking on Amazon today and found a forthcoming book called either ...'Idiots Guide to Triathlons' or Triathlons for Dummies'. It's not out yet but you can pre-order. But can I find it again can I bug*er!
Posted: 24/01/2007 at 13:22


K8t
Found it... The Complete Idiot's Guide to Triathalon Training (Complete Idiot's Guides (Lifestyle Paperback))"
Steve Katai; Paperback; �8.68

You can already tell I will be well suited to this book!


Posted: 24/01/2007 at 13:26

My personal experience of joining a tri club was mixed though guess it depends which club you join.

The Tri forum here is like a virtual club, we also have our own kit (see pic to the right of this post).

Id hazzard a guess that there is more information, support and advice on the tri forum than youd get from any tri club or perhaps even a book.

If you want to know anything then ask, doesnt matter if its a silly question like do you wear underwear under a tri suit or a technical question like what heartrate should I be doing my long rides at someone will be able to help.

There are two races this year that many of us are doing as theyre specifically newbie friendly.

The threads for these races are..

Stratford Upon Avon Sprint Tri 13/5/07

Windsor Olympic Tri 17/6/07


If you want to enter you can meet up with us and we'll help you along and cheer you round the course.
Posted: 24/01/2007 at 13:39


dib
My brother did a triathlon with no specialist kit. He changed the tyres on his mountain bike to racer type ones and that seemed to suffice. One observation he did make is that Bermuda shorts were no good for the swim - the weight of them after two lengths of the pool were nearly drowning him, so invest in a pair of speedos! He got major cramp near the end of the run and was last by a mile but still finshed with a smile on his face. I suppose the kit issue is a relative to your finishing ambitions are.
Posted: 24/01/2007 at 13:48

I'm afraid Windsor is now sold out but you can still enter Stratford. There's loads of us doing it so you'll have plenty of support.
Posted: 24/01/2007 at 14:50

Why not do the Big Woody Ironman Distance Race in September. There's plenty of time and many people have done an IM as their first Tri.
Posted: 24/01/2007 at 14:58

True Gumps, thats the spirit.

and..

Believe it or not you can actually get ready for and complete an Ironman with only a 6 month build up.
Posted: 24/01/2007 at 15:25

I'm new to triathlon - I did my first ( and only so far )sprint at Cockerham ( small offroad / open water ) in Lancashire and was hooked, went straight home and entered the big woody.

I've probably spent more than most but then again I only had running gear.

Got my Giant OCR2 bike ( less than 3 months old from Ebay )for £260, about half price

Most of my other stuff has come from there as well :
pedals
shoes
wetsuit
pirate gear ( non ebay and non essential probably - please don't make me walk the plank for saying that ).

But again I think as with any sport you can spend as much or as little as you want - I mean with running not everyone has £100 Kayanos or a £150 gore jacket.

Just go for it and hopefully you'll really enjoy it, and as Barlist says there is a multitude of friendly people on here willing to give advice - The Tri thread has been invaluable to me.
Posted: 24/01/2007 at 16:48

Oh, I'm so glad I found this forum. I went to an amazing half ironman last year and vowed to do it this year, but got pregnant instead. Three months after baby and I'm desperate to do a triathlon. I used to be a fairly decent runner (45 mins 10k), swam when I was a lot younger and have virtually no cycling experience. Really really confused about buying a bike. Should I steer clear of a hybrid, if not what is good? Or should I definitely get a road bike? Post baby means I don't have much money or a great deal of time (say three training sessions a week possible) and have started running about six weeks ago (up to five miles now). I'm moving to the south coast (near Southampton) shortly and looking for anyone who might be able to offer me advice. Thanks very much in advance.
Posted: 24/01/2007 at 22:17

I would get a road bike and when you get confident on it slap on some tri bars. You could buy second hand but I suppose you need some experience or a friend with experience to know what to go for.




Posted: 24/01/2007 at 22:32

thanks guys
just having a read through the posts.
the stratford one is when i am on holiday
however, there is a south coast tri which i am going to enter !
just not sure whether to go with the classic and fork out on a wet suit or the next one down.

ST
Posted: 25/01/2007 at 13:03

you can rent a wetsuit for less than £50 for a season.
Posted: 25/01/2007 at 13:06

oooh
where'd you get em from?
Posted: 25/01/2007 at 13:23

errr, there are a few places. Tri and Run does wetsuit hire but at the moment all the info on their website seems to be based around renting for a weekend at a time. I guess that's because it's out of season. If you have a look around in April you will be able to sort it out. Have a look at the London Triathlon Website. There is always info there because so many of the entrants are first time open water racers.
Posted: 25/01/2007 at 13:25

Tri UK are doing them for £25 for the season (1st March - 14th September). Click on this link.

No connections to the company etc etc
Posted: 25/01/2007 at 13:31

ST - you can do the South Coast Tri sprint distance without a wettie - maybe even the oly distance as well - I did just that as my first tri a few years ago.........

all depends on sea temperature and what you'd be happy with - and the waves at Seaford can be quite large - they had to cancel the swim as it was thought too dangerous to launch a safety boat if needed so it became the South Coast Duathlon............

only problem with the event is the lapped bike course on a shite road surface - 12 laps for the Oly!! otherwise is fine
Posted: 25/01/2007 at 13:53

"12 laps for the Oly"

Did they have a safty car for dizziness!
Posted: 25/01/2007 at 13:55

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