The Top 10 Triathlon Essentials for Beginners

The Best Triathlon Gear for Beginners

A low price tag and a quality build make the Zoot Z Force 1.0 ideal for newbies. "It's an affordable suit and eliminates open-water swimming fears because of its buoyancy," says Aaron Hersh, the senior editor at Triathlete magazine. A full-sleeve design makes it warm enough for cold-water dunks and also reduces drag by creating a smooth surface for water to slide over. The suits come with gender-specific, ergonomically-shaped panels for women and men.

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The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners | K-Swiss Blade Light Race

Regular running shoes can work great for tri, but shoes with quick-closure lacing systems should be worn for faster transitions. The Blade Light Race have an oversized Velcro tab that seals in a blink. The lightweight shoes, about 9 ounces each, work well for sprint events. K-Swiss' proprietary sole, which has "blades" of foamy rubber, is low-profile, yet cushiony enough for long runs.

The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners | CLIF SHOT BLOKS

They look and taste like candy, which makes the 33-calories-a-cube CLIF BLOKS a great introduction into the world of energy food. Made mainly of organic brown rice syrup and evaporated cane juice, the gummy treats pack carbs and electrolytes into an easy-to-eat form. I recommend the new Citrus flavor for its tart, fruity burst of flavor.

The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners | TYR Nest Pro Swim Goggles

The polypropylene frame on these svelte swim goggles is said to mimic the bird nest architectural design of the Beijing Olympics' main stadium. Wide lenses offer better side vision, and a conforming silicone head strap keeps them comfortable and tight. Soft gaskets provide a watertight fit over the eyes—with no hard edges to irritate as you move around.

The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners | Smith Optics PivLock V2

These performance shades will stay in place and give full coverage when you’re leaping through a trail run or tucking into your aerobars, according to Aaron Hersh of Triathlete magazine. The shield-style glasses have three lens types that can easily be changed in a quick two-step process. A rimless design allows for a wide vision range and added protection.

The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners | CEP Compression Sock

Should you pay $60 for a pair of socks? Many triathletes are now saying "yes," as the compression-sock category gains momentum with its tight-fitting, cramp-fighting designs. Experts say the socks as provide faster and more efficient blood flow, which may help prevent things like shin splints and Achilles tendon issues. The CEP Compression Sock is made by a medical company and has a six-month everyday guarantee, meaning they will squeeze and support at the same level even after 180 wearings, or your money is returned.

The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners | Felt Z85

Store owner Kevin O'Connor at Gear West Bike & Triathlon in Long Lake, Minn., said the Felt Z85 is a popular pick at his shop for beginner triathletes. "On top of the list is the comfort of the bike," he says. "A taller head tube allows cyclists of all abilities to ride with comfort and confidence." A more upright position is the result, though riders can still tuck and pedal for speed. An aluminum frame and carbon fork come standard, and help weigh in at roughly respectable 19 pounds (in 56cm frame size).

The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners | 2XU Long Distance Tri Suit

Due to concerns over fit, two-piece triathlon uniforms still outsell one-piece suits, according to Kevin O’Connor at Gear Wes Bike and Triathlon, "but the trend is changing as the one-piece clothing choices are growing and the fit has improved," he notes. Two-piece kits—essentially running-type shorts and a separate top—look and fit like universal workout wear. One-piece getups offer a streamlined, race-only fit and feel. One good option, the Long Distance Tri Suit from 2XU offers a tight fit with slight compression of the muscles. A triathlon chamois pad provides support on the bike while remaining discreet for the run. For hot days its fabric has a phase-change ingredient that cools when it gets wet. The company says it can lower temperature on the skin by up to 5 degrees F.

The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners | Garmin Foreunner 310XT

Triathletes need a watch that's waterproof for the swim plus has tracking capabilities for the bike and run. There are only a handful of current models that fit that bill, said Ray Maker, founder of popular endurance blog DCrainmaker.com. Garmin's Foreunner 310XT is one of the best. Its features track time, pace, distance, heart rate, and speed for each of the three triathlon legs. A Garmin GPS chip offers real-time stats for training or during a race, and the device stores data in multiple sports modes so you can upload wirelessly to a computer at home and then get geeky analyzing your splits.

The Gear Junkie's Top 10 Triathlon Gear for Beginners |

Experts interviewed for this story all recommended getting a book to learn about tri in-depth. Written by Chris Carmichael and Jim Rutberg, The Time Crunched Triathlete (Velo Press, 2010) offers training programs, nutrition advice, and methods for preparing for your first tri in as few as 8 hours a week. If you want something a little more 2012, check out Matt Dixon’s Sprint Triathlon Training Plan for The Outside Challenge, which comes complete with videos and daily workout advice.

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