How to Pick Your (triathlon) Bike Gear
^ on a bike ^
The proper bike and gear will offer you comfort and speed. Yep, I said it! You can BUY speed.
But for real, if a bike fits right, you're more likely to enjoy cycling, reduce injuries, and increase comfort!! And having comfortable and convenient gear will make your overall ride happier and stronger.
Bike: this is a whole post in its own so I'll keep it simple... There are several "kinds" of bikes ~ the most popular: mountain bike, road bike, hybrid bike, and transition bike (or triathlon bike). For the purpose of this post, we are talking specifically about TRIATHLON BIKES. The #1 Number One NUMBER ONE is SIZE and FIT. Different brands go by different sizing charts. Your specialty bicycle shops will have the information for the brands they retail. So maybe step 1 is decide what brand (for whatever reason) is the right for you... Step 2 is go to your local bike shop that carries that brand and get fit for it. If you buy your bike elsewhere, take it to a retul or bike fitting specialist. It's not cheap, but it's WORTH it. If you have lots of questions about purchasing a bike, email me. Because seriously, we could write for days...
Helmet: once again, fit is everything with a helmet. If it's too small or too big the purpose is defeated. Measure your head and match it with the brands sizing chart. Helmets are like goggles, SO many choices! This is another piece of equipment that will buy you speed so consider an aero dynamic choice. Most important factor though is size/fit ~ low, level, and snug.
Shoes/Pedals: you can actually ride a bike in any shoes you want. But if you want efficiency, control, strength, and speed, you'll want cycling or tri shoes with compatible clipless pedals. Most clipless road bike shoes or tri shoes use either a 3-hole cleat system (Look, Time, or SPD-SL styles) or 2 hole cleat system (SPD, crank brothers, or Time styles) and then they match with compatible pedals. This is another personal choice. Read reviews and decide which is going to work best for you. And then PRACTICE in them. Get on and off the trainer before hitting the road. Also know it's not IF you fall, it's WHEN you fall. Cause at some point, we all forget we're clipped in (DOH!). Your bike shop or Coach! can help you pick the right pedal/shoe combination for you!
Cycling Attire: we are triathletes, wear your tri kit! No, you don't need cycling specific shorts. Will you race in those? No, you'll race in a tri kit, so TRAIN in your tri shorts. Cycling jerseys are great for the top but wear your tri shorts on the bottom! You're looking for comfort, fabric ~ lycra, flexibility, sleekness, moisture wicking, quick drying, (and some offer) UV protection. Your kit should fit snugly. Read more on that here.
Sunglasses: these aren't required but I HIGHLY recommend them! Wind, dirt, bugs, harsh sunlight...you don't want any of that in your eyeballs! So what do you need to look for? Cycling/triathlon/sport specific glasses have been developed with a range of features and materials designed to make your ride safer and more comfortable. These include characteristics such as lightweight frames, shatterproof lenses, and reflective coating.
So, fit... you want the glasses to sit closely against your face (make sure your eyelashes don't hit them), resting on your nose, cheeks and forehead. The arms should grip the sides of your head firmly, but not too tightly. Make sure your peripheral vision is not obscured by the frame and when low on your bike, the top frame doesn't obscure your view. Secure but not tight; put them on and shake your head, bob and move your head around. If they don't move, they feel great, you can see, and you look fabulous ~ they're yours!
Aero Bars: tri bikes already have aero bars! Make sure you get fit on your bike to ensure reach, height, and comfort on your aero bars. If you're cycling on a road bike, consider material (carbon vs. allow), length, and shape. That magic word ~ comfort.
Race Wheels: you don't have to have race wheels but they will shave off time. Benefits also include reduced weight and aerodynamics. So what are you looking for? Quality and affordability for sure. Honestly, I've not met a set of race wheels that don't offer you the benefits you're looking for. Keep in mind here that you get what you pay for.
Trainer: key factors include sound or noise, smoothness, portability, ease of use, and affordability. It's also a piece of equipment that you don't NEED but it's reallllllly convenient to have. There are 4 types of trainers: wind, magnetic, fluid, and rollers. The two most common for triathletes are magnetic (affordable and quiet ~ fixed resistance) and fluid (quiet and expensive ~ progressive resistance). So as mentioned, what to consider when picking your trainer: functionality and ease of use, smoothness and sturdiness, portability, and affordability.
Uh Oh Bag: I'm not going to get into specifics of every item, just informing you what you need in it... 2 tubes, 3 air canisters, 1 air doohicky (an inflator), a set of levers, and a bike tool. I also keep a dollar bill in there (in case of tire blow out).
There are a lot more great add ons for cycling ~ aero water bottles, power meters, Di2 shifters, and on and on. Like most gear ~triathlon~ the more money you (can) put into it, the better your performance and increased comfort. You definitely get what you pay for. I'm not condoning buying the best of the best, but definitely put the money in to get the most from your equipment.