Part One: The Everyman Tri Gear Guide

With the start of a new race season around the corner, a lot of newbie age-groupers as well as seasoned vets will be searching for useful triathlon product and gear information. Perhaps you're looking for insightful and critical reviews of the plethora of triathlon toys that you'll need to purchase for racing -- or, dare I suggest, becoming a more successful triathlete?

In an attempt to provide you with a staggering wealth of knowledge (really just my best educated guess), here is part one of The Everyman Tri Gear Guide. We'll start off in race order with the swim.

Goggles

You need them. If you're like many newbie triathletes, you might be wondering if goggles are, in fact, a necessity. I can tell you with a great degree of confidence the answer is yes. Unless you enjoy getting dirty water in your eyes, I would go so far as to suggest that they're pretty important.

Now some of you may be grateful for that hard-earned bit of advice, but a few of you may be wondering, "What type of goggles does the Everyman Triathlete endorse? What's the best brand? Which provides the most bang for my goggle dollar, euro or yen?"

What great questions. My answer? Choose goggles that don't make you look like you're on the lookout for Aquaman. You worked so hard for that triathlete body -- you don't want to spoil it by getting a set of poindexter goggles. Basically, as I'm sure any world class swimmer will tell you, it's not about how well you can see out of the goggles, but how good you look in them.

Many triathletes have missed the boat on this 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 big-name swimmers always favor the small Swedish-style swim goggles. These are the teeny tiny goggles with thin rubber straps that have no insulation between your eyes and the plastic goggle lens.

When worn properly, they only leak about half 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 (at least from the neck up).

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

The wetsuit

Many newbie triathletes often ask me if they really need to invest several hundred dollars in a triathlon wetsuit. Some will point to the numerous athletes who compete very successfully without them.

Like the Socrates that I am, I will answer this question with a question of my own. Do you enjoy being cold? If your answer is "yes," then the wetsuit really is unnecessary.

If you're the type of person that enjoys a good shiver, really likes the sound of chattering teeth, relishes being covered in wet goose bumps, or looks forward to a heart-stopping plunge in frigid water, you may skip to the next item.

On the other hand, if don't like any of the above mentioned conditions, a wetsuit is the way to go.

Some of the more experienced triathletes might say, "True Roman, yet you are forgetting the most important part of wearing a wetsuit -- the positive buoyancy it provides as well as the hydrodynamic benefits, which together make for a much faster athlete in the water."

"Oh contraire, Monsieur," I say to you in my best Pink Panther accent. Lest you forget that any potential hydrodynamic benefits a wetsuit provides are easily lost when you try to remove the damn thing on a sandy beach with your heart rate pounding just a bit north of 200 beats per minute.

Now that we agree a wetsuit really is handy for anybody who likes being warm, you may be wondering what type or brand of wetsuit I would recommend. Well, I'm very partial to black. 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 black wetsuit.

A friend of mine recently raced in a wetsuit that featured some pretty funky nineties neon colors. I can't help but think that back in the day, had he purchased a mostly black wetsuit he'd not only be warm, but also stylin' today.

Swim cap

You might as well get used to wearing one since many race directors seem to require them. 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, are you?"

"I was planning on it," I said, a bit confused.

"You don't want to do that," he said with a knowing nod.

"Why?"

"Because they won't see you go down when you drown," he answered before swimming away.

I looked into the dark murky water where he had been standing, considered what he had said, then removed the cap and threw it to the shore. Only after the race did I realize I have dark hair.

Thus, for swim caps, white is the new black.

Next time, I'll review all the important clothes and gear you'll need on the bike leg of the triathlon, including my brilliant idea for bike shorts.


Roman Mica is a amateur Clydesdale triathlete who lives and races in Boulder, Colorado and has his own Web site; www.EverymanTri.com. He is also one of the founding members of www.raceAthlete.com and last year had his first book published, entitled My Training Begins Tomorrow: The Everyman's Guide to IRONFIT Swimming, Cycling & Running.

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