Does What You Wear Matter? Yes and No.
My first season of triathlon, I entered the sport absolutely clueless. The spectacle of a multisport event was daunting and sorting out the essential gear and clothing was a challenge. Race after race I experimented with swim suits, soggy bike shorts, and cham-less spandex, always on a borrowed bike with a pair of cracked fashion sunglasses. I looked like a completer, not a competitor. While playing the unsuspected threat was fun, it sure was nice when I discovered sport-specific, high performance gear that moved with my body and didn’t slow me down or chafe.
A good, light chamois that won’t retain water
Legs that stay in place but don’t make your feet go numb!
A neck and armpit line that don’t rub or pinch
Light but durable fabric
Sunglasses that fit with your helmet and keep your eyes from watering on the bike
Rear jersey pockets for energy gels
Pockets deep enough to hold said gels
Flat seams that won’t cause unnecessary chaffing
Grip cuffs to prevent arms or legs from moving around
Grip cuffs that don’t itch
Enhanced moisture wicking around chest, back and armpits
Pull string if zipper is on rear
For two-piece kits, a high waistband or one designed to prevent the uncomfortable belly-fold that with riding in the aero position
Once the essentials are covered, it’s fun to look at the specific perks of various attire. Personally I’m a fan of a one-piece tri suit. Not only is it more aerodynamic, but it stays put through wetsuit stripping and prevents the top from riding up while you run. However, for longer events with bathroom breaks, or if gastric distress is a known issue, two-piece kits may be a good option.
Finally, design. Coming from my cracked sunglasses and “roughing it” mentality, I was surprised by how design really can have an impact. Showing up on race day in something that looks slick and resonates with who you are as a racer can bolster confidence and the mental game. This year I’m rocking a Hyperthreads custom kit that when it’s go-time, all I have to do is take a quick look at myself in a bright and confettied kit to remember this year’s race mantra: “Sage is here to party!”
Like I discovered that first season, you really can race in just about anything, but choosing race attire smartly sure can save you a lot of discomfort. To summarize the advice I wish I’d gotten that first season of triathlon:
Find race attire that is specific to your sport and race distance.
Make sure it’s comfortable with no irritants to distract
Chose a look that resonates with your identity. You want to be psyched to jump out of bed at 4am race morning just to put it on!