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Review: All the essential tri gear you'll need to race your first triathlon (part 1)

Posted Jan 22 2011 12:28pm

Gear Editor's Note: We recently started poking around the internet statistics for this web site and we noticed that a lot of athletes like to read reviews. In fact, a lot of you seek out both race and product reviews.

It seems that you are looking for useful information for making purchasing decisions based on what other athletes, such as us, have written about the products (read triathlon toys) that we use and like.

You are looking for insight and critical reviews of the plethora of products and gear that you’ll need to purchase to be a successful (or dare we suggest) more successful triathlete.

In a blatant attempt to increase readership, and provide you with our staggering wealth (read best educated guess) here in the complete Everyman Tri Gear Review Guide in race (read swim, bike, and run) order.

The Swim:

1) Goggles:

You need them. If you are like many newbie triathletes, you’ve wondered if you do indeed need swim goggles. I can tell you with a great degree of confidence that indeed you do. I would even go so far as to suggest that they are pretty important unless you enjoy getting dirty water in your eyes.

Now some of you may be grateful for that hard-earned bit of advice, but a few of you may be wondering to yourself what kind of goggles does the Everyman Triathlete endorse? What brand is the best and provides the most bang for my goggle dollar, euro or yen?

Goggles2 What a great question. And I have a great answer which is...the kind that don’t make you look like Aquaman or Aquawoman. You worked so hard to get that triathlete body so don’t spoil it by getting a set of poindexter goggles. Basically,as any world class swimmer will tell you, it is not about how well you can see out of the goggles, but how good you look in them.

Triathletes in particular have missed the boat on this all important issue and seem to favor massive goggles that look as if they could be worn on a cross-country dirt bike adventure. You’ll notice that any swimmer, who is anybody, always favors the small Swedish style swim goggle. These are the teeny tiny little goggles, with tiny little rubber straps, that have no rubber insulation between your eyes and the plastic goggle lens.

When worn properly, they only leak about half of the time while providing at best a dirty keyhole view of the underwater world. But that’s completely irrelevant as they make any newbie triathlete look like Ian Thorpe, Amanda Beard, or Michael Phelps.

If these names don’t ring a bell for you, you should probably stick with the dirt bike uber-goggles and keep reading.

Exterra 2) The Wetsuit.

Many newbie triathletes will often ask me if they really need to invest several hundred dollars in a typical triathlon wetsuit. Some will point to the numerous athletes who compete very successfully in their swimsuits.

To answer this question I like to ask another question. Do you enjoy being cold? If the answer to this question is a “yes,” the wetsuit is really unnecessary. If you are the type of person that enjoys a good shiver, or if you really like the sound of chattering teeth, or if you really enjoy the feeling wet goose bumps, or if you relish a heart –stopping plunge in frigid water, you may as well skip to the next item.

On the other hand, if  you don’t like any of these, you may seriously consider purchasing a triathlon wetsuit soon.

Some of you may say “while that may be true Roman, you are forgetting the most important part of wearing a wetsuit, that being the positive buoyancy it provides as well as the hydrodynamic benefits thus making the athlete much faster in the water.”

“Au contraire Monsieur,” I say to you in my best Pink Panther accent. You are forgetting that any potential hydrodynamic benefits a wetsuit provides are easily lost when you try to remove the damn thing on typical sandy beach with your heart rate pounding just a bit north of 200 BPM.

So now that we can agree that a wetsuit is really handy for anybody who likes being warm, you maybe wondering what type or brand of wetsuit I would recommend. I am of course very eager to try out my new XTERRA wetsuit as soon as some of the local snow melts.

However did you know that black is the new black? That’s right, call me old school but you just can’t go wrong with a plain, black wet suit.

A friend of mine recently raced in a very old school wet suit that included some pretty funky nineties neon colors. I just can’t help but feel that had he purchased a mostly black wetsuit “in the day” he’d not only still be warm today but also stylin’.

3) Swim Cap:

Many race directors seem to still require them so you might as well get used to wearing one. However, I still remember my first race when the guy standing in the water next to me at the start solemnly asked, "You’re not gonna wear that black swim cap?". "I was planning on it" I replied a bit confused. "You don't want to do that," he added with a knowing nod. "Why" I said a bit wide eyed? "Because they won't see it go down when you drown," he added and swam away.

I looked into the dark murky water where he had been standing and considered this, removed the cap, and threw it to the shore. Only after the race, I realized that I have dark hair. For swim caps, white is the new black.

*Tomorrow I review all the important clothes and gear you’ll need on the bike portion of the triathlon.

Roman Roman Mica is a columnist, journalist, author, and managing Editor of When he's not reviewing tri gear or cars for , you can find him training for triathlons and writing about endurance sports. He recently had a new book published, entitled "No, Seriously, My Training Begins Tomorrow: The Everyman's Guide to IRONFIT Swimming, Cycling & Running." Both books are also available from by clicking HERE .

Follow on twitter @ everymantri or view latest videos on YouTube .

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