Ask anyone who's raced for a few years—it's easy to get stuck in the triathlon spin cycle. If you've completed all your goals for the season but find yourself looking for a breath of fresh air, off-road triathlon is a great way to reignite your love for the sport.
Off-road triathlon is just different enough to keep things fresh and fun while allowing you to capitalize on your skillset and fitness. The swim usually takes place in a lake or open body of water, the bike course features mixed terrain with a high degree of technicality and the run includes dirt trails with natural obstacles.
Here are a few reasons why this dirtier, less-popular side of triathlon may be just what you're looking for.
New Gear1 of 9
Don't worry, much of the triathlon gear you already own will work for an off-road tri. However, there are a few key pieces you'll need to pick up along the way. Swap your running shoes out for trail runners—the added traction is crucial for all the ascending and descending on loose terrain. Also, full-fingered gloves and extra layers are always appreciated after swimming in cold, alpine waters. Buying a first-aid kit for any mishaps on the trail isn't a bad idea either.
New Bike2 of 9
Most triathletes already follow the N+1 (N being the number of bikes you currently own) rule, and off-road triathlon is no exception. We know you're going to miss your expensive, aerodynamic triathlon bike, but let's face it—triathlon bikes aren't exactly comfortable. An off-road triathlon requires a comparatively plush mountain bike, complete with knobby tires, flat handlebars and a suspension system to handle the technical single track on the bike course.
Exotic Locations3 of 9
Most mainstream triathlons are centrally located around big cities due to their proximity to hotels, restaurants and other amenities. Off-road triathlons flip the script and take advantage of the trail networks and remote bodies of water in less-traveled rural areas. Many athletes camp near the finish line and make a race-cation out of the weekend, exploring nearby areas and parks along the way. Search and explore our list of off-road triathlons here.
Laid-Back Atmosphere4 of 9
If you're tired of the sometimes machoistic, performance-fueled vibe at classic triathlons, the laid-back atmosphere of off-road triathlon will be a welcomed change. Athletes arrive ready to seriously throw down, but it's much more of an "us vs. the course" approach rather than competing amongst each other. Family and friends gather in the woods along the bike and run courses to cheer on (and heckle) their athletes, with hilarious hijinks ensuing.
Bike Handling 1015 of 9
All triathletes know how sketchy the bike leg of a triathlon can be, especially around the mount and dismount line due to the bike's aggressive geometry and many athletes' lack of bike handling skills. Cross training on a mountain bike for an off-road triathlon is a great way to hone your bike handling skills. The skills learned on single track will translate over to traditional triathlon; you'll react faster, handle imperfections in the course better and take corners more confidently.
New Friends6 of 9
Don't get us wrong, we're not telling you to say goodbye to your usual triathlon buddies. But the off-road triathlon scene seems to attract a different breed of triathlete. It's an inclusive community with less of an ego, and its members appreciate fitness and competing just as much as bombing down hills and getting muddy.
Adventure Awaits7 of 9
Just like traveling to the many far-flung off-road race destinations, the course is an adventure in and of itself. There are no set distances that are applied to every race, and each course will have its own special characteristics. From crossing streams to scrambling uphill, it's important to be prepared for any and all conditions.
Beer, Beer, Beer8 of 9
As mentioned before, an off-road triathlon has a seriously laid-back atmosphere. It's not uncommon to see hecklers handing beer out to athletes on the course, and many races include post-race beer gardens featuring craft beer from local breweries. If you've already consumed your wristband-worth of small batch IPA, veterans of the sport likely have a cooler full of cold ones waiting back at the car.