Now that race season is just around the corner I thought it would be prudent to write a blog post on some great pieces of equipment for multisport athletes. Triathlon is a relatively new sport and as such its very cutting edge and there are a lot of things to spend your money on, some are great investments and some are just a waste of money. I'd have to say the triathlete side of me is the gear junkie that uses carbon fiber, aero equipment, and a power meter to derive speed, whereas the roadie side of me is the side that just tells me to HTFU up the hill. What you should do is try and find a balance between the two.
So in ascending order of price, here are a few things that you should consider picking up new or used once you decide you want to commit to the sport (I'm not going to say things like goggles, helmet, or shoes, you know that already).
The little things that count
Body Glide- If I had to choose between rolling deoderant on or Body Glide on before a race I'd choose Body Glide 100% of the time. Deoderant makes everyone else more comfortable, Body Glide makes me more comfortable. You basically apply it to every conceivable point of friction on your body, in your shoes, back of your neck (where wetsuit zipper meets skin), and of course between/under your legs for the bike ride. Its also great to apply on top your wetsuit so when you pull it off, it slides a lot easier (Shirl came up with that one!). You can find this at any tri or run shop, and it comes in a roller format similar to deoderant.
Easy laces/lock laces/bungee laces- These can be life savers in the frantic chaos of transition between the bike and run. Rather having to tie your laces or do the classic "finger under heel stomp down because I'm too lazy to untie my shoes" move, elastic laces allow you to pull up the tongue of your shoe, slide your foot in, tug the lace, and be on your way. In the time it took you to read that sentence you'd literally have both your shoes on and be ready to go. Any tri shop will have these.
Number or Nutrition belt- A number belt is simply that, a belt with a clip that you put your number on. Its a beautifully simple piece of equipment that identifies the rookies from the veterans and keeps you from sticking safety pins into the same article of clothing you'll have rubbing against your body for a couple hours. A number belt also prevents you from having to listen to that piece of paper crinkling every time you move. Add some bottles on to the concept of a number belt and you have a nutrition belt which is an invaluable tool for gels/liquids/ipod on long training runs where you don't have the luxury of a supported course.
Okay, so how do I spend my tax return?
Garmin 305/310xt-This is my desert island piece of equipment that I hate to go without. the Garmin 305 is an obtuse looking wrist watch that you can pick the Garmin 305 up at MEC for $160. The beauty of it is that it is a GPS watch that can tell you your heart rate, speed, distance, time, cadence on the bike, etc etc. With the 305 you can basically forego the need for a bike computer since this does all that anyways. If you have a little more money to burn you can pick up the 310xt which you can wear swimming, and which will read the power data off an ANT+ power meter (more on that later). Both of them have multisport modes that allow you to swtich seamlessly from one sport to another in triathlon races.
Tri Suit- This is a great piece of clothing that can save a lot of time and hassle in transition. If you watch any of the ITU races you'll see that the athletes simply swim, bike, and run wearing the same article of clothing. Tri suits/shorts always have some degree of padding "down there" to make sure you're somewhat comfortable, however not so much padding that it feels like you're doing a 10k in a pair of huggies. In any race above 15C I can almost definitevely say that this is all you need to wear (except maybe a wetsuit depending on where you live).
Sunglasses- These are not luxuries, they are must necessities. It doesn't matter if you pick up a $20 set of Ryders or a $220 set of Oakleys, sunglasses are necessities on the bike for several reasons. First and foremost, if you crash the composite materials glasses are made of won't shatter in your eyes. I know that sounds dramatic but two years ago I endo'd pretty bad on a descent and ground my face into the pavement, my Oakleys were badly damaged, but my eyes weren't. Secondly, if you've ever got a bug in the eye at 30km/hr you'll know how scary that urgent need to get it out can be. Thirdly cycling glasses may reduce the glare of sun blindness which can cause you to lose sight of other riders and the course.
I'm not planning to save for retirement anyways, what do I buy?
CycleOps Powertap- Full disclosure, as you can see on the right hand side of my page, I'm sponsored by CycleOps. I recommend CycleOps powermeters because they're cheap and since they're hub mounted, you can switch them between bikes. As I talked about in one of my earlier blog posts, cycling with power will completely change how you ride. I'm not going to say much more about it but I'll tell you, if I had to choose between riding with an HR monitor and a power meter, power meter and I'd never look back.
New Bike- The formula for the number of bikes a cyclist should have is "s = n + 1" where "s" is the number of bikes the rider should have, and "n" is the number of bikes the rider already has. This can also be stated as "S = sn - 1" where "s" is the number of bikes they should have, and "sn" is the numerical constant at which the rider will be single if they buy another bike. If you only have a mountain bike, you should buy a road bike, if have a road bike and a mountain bike, you should get a tri bike, if you only have a tri bike maybe pick up a mountain bike... You get the picture.
So thats all for now, my next blog post will be a quick race report on the Police Half which I'll be running this Sunday. And my next post after that will either be on choosing the right bike for you, or choosing a good coach or training group. It depends on what strikes me first.
Anyways, stay warm everyone and I'm wishing especially good luck to anyone racing Boston, London, or the Calgary Police Half this weekend!