Equipment and Gear

All triathlons include swimming, cycling, and running. Because of this you will need the appropriate equipment and gear for each part. This includes running shoes, wet suits, and a bike. Here's an overview of what you need to know.

Running Shoes

Here are several factors you need to consider when buying a new pair of running shoes.


With the current trend for more natural-feeling running, flexibility has been increased in many shoes, with some models having lengthways grooves designed to help guide your foot gently in a straight-forwards line.

Arch support:

Many manufacturers are paring down their support features but you’ll still see plastic arch bridges in some to help control excessive pronation (rolling in) and to aid a smooth ride.


Durability and traction are the two things you want from your outsole: sticky, black rubber compounds should help you claw over wet concrete while more aggressive tread patterns can help if you run off road.


The fabric part of the shoe should be breathable and quick drying. Overlays on the upper can help add support, while special lacing designs locking into the upper can help cradle your foot for a more secure feeling.


In traditional every day running shoes, the midsole contains most of the technology you’re paying for: light, bouncy foam or gel for shock protection and denser foam or plastic units to help control pronation.


The inside of the shoe should be seam-free to keep you clear of cuts. Look for soft, brushed material, a thick, padded tongue for comfort and, in more expensive shoes, plush sock liners for extra cushioning.

Wet Suits

In open water, swim areas are often cold and because wearing a wetsuit provides a competitive advantage, specialized triathlon wetsuits have been developed in a variety of styles to match the conditions of the water. For example, wetsuits that are sleeveless and cut above the knee are designed for warmer waters, while still providing buoyancy.

Wetsuits are legal in sanctioned events at which the surface water temperature is 78 °F (26 °C) or less. In non-sanctioned events or in "age group" classes where most racers are simply participating for the enjoyment of the sport instead of vying for official triathlon placing, wetsuits can often be used at other temperatures.

Wetsuits will sometimes be banned by race directors if the water temperature is above 84 degrees. Participants can overheat and that can become dangerous for the participants. Other rules have been implemented by race organizers regarding both wetsuit thickness as well as the use of "swim skins;" which need to be considered by those participating in future triathlons.


Triathlon bicycles are generally optimized for aerodynamics, having special handlebars called aero-bars or tri-bars, aerodynamic wheels, and other components. Triathlon bikes use a specialized geometry, including a steep seat-tube angle both to improve aerodynamics and to spare muscle groups needed for running (see also triathlon equipment). At the end of the bike segment, triathletes also often cycle with a higher cadence (revolutions per minute), which serves in part to keep the muscles loose and flexible for running. It is believed, though, that the primary benefit to cycling in a triathlon is that the strain of the effort is placed disproportionately on the slow-twitch muscle fibers, preventing the athlete from accumulating an oxygen debt before the run.

What are the differences between a road bike and a tri bike? Considering your first bike purchase? Cycling guru John Cobb explains the differences in bike geometry and why you might want to choose one over the other.

Mountain Bikes:

It is common to see a lot mountain bikes raced used for the bike leg of a sprint triathlon. Although capable of completing the relatively short distance, it is not ideal for going fast. Some minor modifications can make a difference. Replacing the thick knobby tires with thinner slick ones will reduce rolling resistance, while a clip-on aerodynamic bar attached to the existing handlebar will allow you to lower your torso into an aerodynamic position, reducing air resistance. Adding clip-less pedals will increase the efficiency of your pedal stroke and transfer of power from the bike's drive train to the road.

Road Bike A road bike's design is better suited for general riding --- maneuvering in a peloton, ascending or descending hills, or commuting than triathlon racing. However, modifications to a road bike for short course triathlon competition are possible. Aerodynamic bars when clipped onto existing handlebars and a lighter saddle tilted slightly forward will help position the rider to reduce wind resistance.

Triathlon Bike:

A triathlon bike's design allows the rider to maintain an aerodynamic position in relative comfort and efficiency throughout the bike leg of the competition. The frame geometry of a triathlon bike differs from that of a road bike. The angle of the seat tube is sharper, typically 76 to 78 degrees, providing more room between the riders thighs and lower torso for easier breathing, reduced stress on the lower back, and tension in the leg muscles, especially the hamstrings. This is important because the hamstring muscles arrive fresher at the run leg of the race. That said, triathlon bikes are not as maneuverable, nor do they climb as well as road bikes.

Compression Garments From training to racing, compression clothing helps your body recover better. Compression garments help reduce muscle fatigue and post-exercise soreness by speeding circulation back to the heart where blood can be re-oxygenated.