An author asked me today what purchases I'd suggest triathletes make to help them improve and grow based on their ability and experience levels. This is a tough one as there are many, many possibilities and points of view. And, of course, not knowing who the athlete is makes it all that much more difficult. Trying to make suggestions for fictitious people is always difficult. There are many "it depends" on this. But, nevertheless, here is a quick and dirty list off the top of my head of suggested purchases for triathletes by their levels of ability and experience (which can be a bit of a contradictory combination--for example, athletes with lots of experience don't always have lots of ability).
Primary purchases advise: Focus on the bike and learn about triathlon.
- Join a tri club. This is the cheapest and best investment you can make for becoming a triathlete.
- Buy a basic tri bike. Used only. Don’t buy a new bike. Ask around at bike shops, races and tri clubs. Keep it to under $500, if possible. Wait a year for a better bike. You'll learn a lot.
- Buy aero bars. Clip-ons are great if your bike didn’t already come with these.
- Custom bike fit. Having a decent bike and riding efficiently and effectively are not the same. A professional bike fitter will make you much more comfortable and faster.
- Rent a wetsuit for races. Find out what you like and don’t like about them.
- Read Your First Triathlon by Joe Friel. (A bit of self-promotion--with more to come...)
Primary purchases advise: Refine swim and run techniques, become more aero on the bike and get professional help to improve faster.
- Buy a nice triathlon-specific bike. Focus on getting one that fits you better than the first one you bought. Sell last year’s for close to what you paid for it.
- Join a masters swim group with a stroke-knowledgeable coach on deck or take swim lessons with an instructor who uses an underwater camera. You'll improve faster by working on technique than on "fitness."
- Buy a training plan for your A-priority race. This is an inexpensive way to get guidance from a knowledgeable coach (go to www.trainingpeaks.com).
- Buy “fast” race wheels. Look for used ones before buying new.
- Buy an aero helmet. Besides wheels and frame, it will make your overall race time faster than any other purchase you can make.
- Buy a good wetsuit based on what you learned after renting a few the first year.
- Read The Triathlete’s Training Bible by Joe Friel.
Primary purchases advise: Focus on purchases that will help you to improve your limiters along with your planning and analysis of training sessions and races.
- Hire a coach. If you want to race fast you need someone who knows how to get you there. It will take you half as long to achieve high goals with a coach as compared with self-coaching.
- Buy a power meter for your bike. You may not think you need it. You’re wrong. For your first such a purchase, ask around for used ones. It’s best to have one that can be easily changed between triathlon and road bike, assuming you have both. The longer your race is, the more important it is to have one to race on.
- Read Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Allen and Coggan so you learn how to use the power meter.
- Buy a speed-distance device for running. You can then do more training based on pace rather than heart rate or perceived exertion alone.It will also improve your ability to analyze your running.
- Buy WKO+ software (available at www.trainingpeaks.com). This will allow you to upload your heart rate monitor, power meter, speed-distance device and any other training hardware you may have to one source where you can analyze it without having to learn how to use several companies’ software.
- Hire a nutritionist to tweak your diet. This will help you to recover faster and therefore train harder.
- Read Your Best Triathlon by Joe Friel.