Reader To Reader: I Want to Try a Tri

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: 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 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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