Signed up for your first triathlon? Here’s the best running, swimming and cycling kit for women

·16 min read
 (Outlaw Triathlon)
(Outlaw Triathlon)

Inspired by England’s triathlon success in the Commonwealth Games? Good timing. You don’t have to wait until next year to try your hand at putting your favourite three sports together (seriously, it’s actually quite fun).

Hever Castle, Cheltenham and Brighton triathlons are all coming up in the next few months and are among some of the UK’s favourites, with everything from sprint distances (it’s only a 5k!) to full-length races depending on how many lido trips and Richmond laps you’ve fitted in this summer.

So what to buy? From all the gear that will get you through training to the ultimate race day essentials, here’s your kit list.

For training

Beeline Velo 2

 (Beeline)
(Beeline)

London’s safest bike navigation device has just had its first big upgrade. Beeline released its Velo 2 bike computer in June - and just in time for triathlon training season. It’ll find you new routes, help you navigate with turn-by-turn directions, and track your adventures.

Battery life in the newly upgraded model is over 11 hours (it’ll charge up to 30 per cent in just 20 minutes if you forget to plug it in overnight) and all your metrics will be saved in the Beeline app, ready to upload straight to Strava when you’re home. Oh, and it’s also the world’s first carbon and plastic negative cycling computer thanks to features including a clever new repair and refurb scheme and recycling of old devices. That’s smart.

£79.99, global.beeline.co

Rapha Quick-Release Performable Bib Shorts

 (Rapha)
(Rapha)

The worst thing about bib shorts? That hurry to get undressed during a mid-ride pitstop. Rapha’s detachable bib shorts will be your hero: the comfort of bib shorts without the faff of being in an all-in-one. A magnetic clasp allows you to remove the bib without removing your jersey, the super-soft fabric is cut to provide optimal compression without bunching around the legs, and there are high-stretch mesh uppers with bonded seams to prevent chafing.

Other features include reflective tabs, a padded section behind the magnetic clasp, and printed Rapha logos on the thighs (essential).

£215, rapha.cc

On Cloudflow running shoes

 (On)
(On)

Triathletes swear by On’s running shoes and the Cloudflows are up there with their favourites. The lightweight, neutral shoe performs well thorugh training and on race day whether you’re doing the spring or full Ironman distance.

Choose from five colours including this suitably-cloudlike blue and white pair. On’s website lets you compare the specs of different models if you’re unsure which to go for.

£130, on-running.com

GUL 7 Seas Goggles

 (triuk.com)
(triuk.com)

These goggles come with three interchangeable lenses and three interchangeable nose bridges so you can get nitty-gritty on the customisation.

They feature UV protection and have been treated with an anti-fog coating to prevent misting up. Snap them up while they’re under £25.

£23, triuk.com

Pinnacle Race Short Sleeve Cycling Jersey

 (evanscycles.com)
(evanscycles.com)

Finally, a chic cycling jersey that doesn’t break the bank. Pinnacle’s short-sleeve bike top has been cleverly designed so it’s a little more relaxed and flattering than half the racing jerseys you can get out there.

There’s a full-length front zip for maximising ventilation (and extra flattering points) and three rear pockets for storing valuables and snacks.

£25, evanscycles.com

Zone3 Neoprene Socks

 (Zone3)
(Zone3)

You won’t wear these on the big day but you’ll thank yourself for having them on that chilly Tooting Lido training morning when you can’t face getting into the water. They may look a little unfetching with a swimming costume but many triathlete beginners say they’re their hero product for feeling brave, keeping their feet and hence their whole body at a slightly more bearable temperature.

Pair them with a wetsuit for real warmth: Zone3 recently increased the length of the sock so it can be tucked into a wetsuit without exposed skin, and there’s a Velcro strap to keep them in place.

£29, zone3.com

Zone3 Neoprene Gloves

 (Zone3)
(Zone3)

The other product sock converts swear by? Matching gloves. It’s the body’s extremities that feel the cold the most so keeping your hands warm will make for a much more pleasant training swim (and gives you greater surface area for pushing the water away - double whammy).

Like the socks, Zone3 has upgraded the design to feature greater length and a Velcro strap. There’s a gripped palm for added stability.

£29, zone3.com

Hoka Kawana Running Shoes

 (Hoka)
(Hoka)

Some of the springiest running shoes on the market. Hoka’s beloved Kawanas feature a lively new foam that provides solid rebound, plus a modified crash pad featuring the brand’s SwallowTail geometry.

Expect a broader, flatter surface than many trainers you might have tried, but smoother heel strikes as a result.

£125, hoka.com

Lazer Vento KinetiCore Helmet

 (Freewheel)
(Freewheel)

Safe yet subtle, Lazer’s new KinetiCore technology works like the crumple zone in a car, protecting your head from both the linear and rotational forces of an impact. Its Vento model is the leader for road cyclists so perfect for training for your first triathlon.

There’s an ergonomic belt for easy adjustment, a ventilation system that expels hot air through the rear of the helmet and special eyewear docking silicone for storing your sunglasses when you don’t want to wear them. Choose from four colours: black, white, titanium and green.

£249.99, freewheel.co.uk

Rapha Packable Down Jacket

 (Rapha)
(Rapha)

Pack this one into your handlebar bag or jersey pockets for lunch stops during your colder riders in winter. Rapha makes it a lightweight woven nylon shell and fills it with ethically sourced down with a hydrophobic coating.

There are elasticated openings at the hood, cuffs and waistband for heat retention.

£240, rapha.cc

Liv Avail AR 2

 (Liv)
(Liv)

The perfect entry-bike for hybrid loyalists looking to take the road bike plunge ahead of their first triathlon (but also want a bike they can commute on too). Liv has been nailing women-specific bikes for years now and its Avail AR 2 model is wonderfully lightweight but also surprisingly balanced, with 32c tyres that are thick enough go off-road if you fancy it.

There are dropped handlebars for racing but there’s also space for a rack if you fancy a summer bike-packing trip while you’re putting in the training miles. Choose the sexy orange-turquoise colour combo for extra flair.

£1,299, balfesbikes.co.uk

Huub Aura 2 Wetsuit

 (Huub)
(Huub)

If Zone3 is the go-to for triathlon wetsuits, Huub comes in as a close second - and says its Aura wetsuit is specifically designed for women.

It features unique buoyancy levels for maintaining an effective kick, plus a waterline position designed to maximise flow around the body and improve swim speed by not lifting the body too high out the water.

£281.24, huubdesign.com

Bolle C-Shifter Sunglasses

 (Bolle)
(Bolle)

Bold and beautiful. Bollé’s Volt+ is the first sunglass lens ever created using Artificial Intelligence. The brand tested over 20 million combinations to develop a patented solution which delivers a richer colour experience than is humanly possible.

These glasses also use a special Thermogrip thermoplastic rubber that’s specificaly engineered to get grippier when in contact with water and sweat.

£145, bolle.com

Specialized ADV SWAT Bib Shorts

 (Specialized)
(Specialized)

These bib shorts fit like a second skin. They’re made from compressive four-way fabric that’s infused with silicone on the cuffs for a gentle, secure hold on the legs (no painful skin marks, please).

The side-led cargo pockets are made from the same soft mesh fabric and come with lots of room for storing your phone, keys or wallet.

£100, specialized.com

Limits Power Meter

 (Limits Power Meters)
(Limits Power Meters)

Power meters used to be the preserve of cycling geeks but they’re making it to the mainstream thanks to more affordable tech like Limits. The high-tech brand has stripped power meters back to basics and made a unit that costs just £195 and is super easy to install. Users say it’s no trickier than changing a set of pedals.

The benefit? Fresher, more regular rides thanks to knowing how much effort you can put in and for how long. Once you get used to knowing your wattage, you’ll never go back.

£229, limitspowermeters.com

Pearl iZumi Attack Thermal Jersey

 (Freewheel)
(Freewheel)

As warm layers go, this one’s a solid go-to: it’s sleek, warm and surprisingly affordable. The thermal fleece fabric has four-way stretch for ease of movement, and there’s a full length zipper in case you get too hot.

It comes with three back pockets for securing valuables. Pick the atomic red colour to make sure you’re seen on the roads.

From £24.99, freewheel.co.uk

Speedo Futura Biofuse Flexiseal Goggles

 (Speedo)
(Speedo)

Weirdly good for the price. Speedo’s Biofuse goggles might not break the bank but swimming fantatics swear by them for softness and fewer of those pesky post-swim rings around the eyes.

Users say they mist up much less regularly than many more high-tech goggles, while prioritising comfort and cushioning.

£21, speedo.com

Madison Stellar Shine Reflective Gilet

 (Freewheel)
(Freewheel)

Chuck this over your cycling kit if you find yourself pedalling home from Richmond in the dark. The lightweight gilet is water resistant and fully-reflective, with reflective perforated rear panels to improve breathability.

The handiest part? It packs down to the size of an apple so you can keep it in your back pocket when you’re racing through your laps in the light.

£59.99, freewheel.co.uk

UA Flow Velociti Wind 2 Running Shoes

 (UA)
(UA)

Another pair that triathletes swear by - especially for speed. UA’s Flow Velociti Wind 2s are lightweight, durable and ultra-cushioned. They connect to the UA MapMyRun app for tracking your analytics during training and were designed with the help of the brand’s pro run team to help runners break personal records on race day.

They’re super grippy, too, for hills and corners.

£140, underarmour.co.uk

Rapha Classic Long Sleeve Jersey

 (Rapha)
(Rapha)

A Rapha classic, but still one of its best. The Original Classic Jersey was the brand’s first ever product and is still beloved as an understated, all-day performance layer that’s warm yet breathable.

The latest version features recycled fibres and recycled polyester, so it’s lower impact. The zip tape is made from recycled materials too.

£135, rapha.cc

Canyon Speedmax Disc

 (Canyon)
(Canyon)

If you have the cash, this is one of the best triathlon bikes on the market - or so say insiders raving about the Speedmax’ comfortable feel, unbeatable aerodynamics and easy on-bike adjustments.

Thoughtful details include a top tube snake, bottom bracket toolkit and integrated bento box.

£3,999, canyon.com

Saucony Endorphin Speed 3

 (Saucony)
(Saucony)

Speed by name and nature. Saucony’s latest Endorphin Speed shoes have been designed with a new winged plate that helps support runners from toe-off to landing and push their pace.

High-tech foam cushioning gives a lightweight, fast feel and a new S-surve, winged nylon plate optimises energy return.

£165, saucony.com

Oakley Sutro Lite Sweep Sunglasses

 (Oakley)
(Oakley)

Function and flare. Oakley’s Sutro Lite Sweep glasses are ultra-durable, super-clear and crucially, surprisingly feminine-looking if you’re a female rider who’s struggled to find a pair of flattering cycling sunnies in the past.

They’re perfect for medium light conditions and come in five different lens colours from pink and orange to green and blue.

£152, oakley.com

Wahoo Elemnt Bolt

 (Wiggle)
(Wiggle)

Cyclists’ favourite cycling computer year-after-year. The Elemnt Bolt tracks your workout, shows WhatsApp and other phone notifications, and offers live GPS navigation.

Clever features include location-sharing with loved ones, saved locations, and alerting you before a Strava segment is about to start.

Rapha Cycling Club members can hire one from Rapha Clubhouses free of charge.

£264.99, wiggle.co.uk

Huub Vision Goggles

 (Wiggle)
(Wiggle)

Some of the best mirrored goggles around. Huub’s version come with soft silicone gaskets, UV protection lenses and a wide lens to minimise disorientation when you’re in the open water.

They also reduce glare when you’re in bright conditions, perfect for those early morning swim starts when the sun is frustratingly-low over the water.

£27, wiggle.co.uk

Shock Absorber Ultimate Run Bra

 (Shock Absorber)
(Shock Absorber)

The quest for the ultimate running bra is a never-ending one among fitness experts, but Shock Absorber’s Run Sports Bra comes up time and time again.

It’s super supportive even for bigger sizes, super-soft and has seamless inners for reducing friction burns - plus it’s super lightweight so won’t soak up water during the swim. Simple and effective.

£39, wiggle.co.uk

For race day

Zone3 Aspire Wetsuit

 (Zone3)
(Zone3)

There’s a reason almost everyone you see at a triathlon is wearing Zone3. The brand’s designers have spent years meticulously working to create the most flexible, comfortable, warm wetsuits around.

Its Aspire model has been winning awards for 10 years and now has an upgraded version for 2022. Expect a new silk lining for extra comfort against the skin, cool-spot forearm panels for improved catch in the water, and pro speed cuffs for quick removal while you’re running into transition after the swim.

£449, zone3.com

Zone3 Activate Short Sleeve Full Zip Trisuit

 (Zone3)
(Zone3)

Not just your wetsuit hero - Zone3’s trisuits are also some of the best in the business and its Activate model has become a high-quality yet affordable triathlon staple. It’s breathable, snug and super-flattering, with chic turquoise side panels and a subtle black colour so you can actually wear it on a training run without getting (too many) funny looks.

There’s a small amount of padding to stop you getting saddle sore, short sleeves to prevent chaffing while you run, and two pockets on the back for storing emergency gels.

£90, zone3.com

SiS Beta Fuel Gel

 (SiS)
(SiS)

Chances are you’ve tried SiS if you’ve ever used an energy gel for exercise - and its latest Beta Fuel series is made from a newly developed blend of maltodextrin to fructose that gives you an impressive 40g of carbs in one blast.

Fortunately, it tastes great too.

£1.80 per gel, energysnacks.co.uk

Oofos Oolalal Sandal

 (Oofos)
(Oofos)

What? No one’s told you about recovery shoes? Well you won’t want to be staying in your trainers after the finish line, that’s for sure.

To let your feet breathe and your muscles recover, sporting footwear brand Oofos offers a great range of recovery shoes that absorb 37 more impact than traditional footwear, reducing stress on the knees, ankles and joints. The Oolala sandal is made with the brand’s patented OOfoam and comes in a subtle black design for wearing to the pub after.

£55, oofos.co.uk

Pearl iZumi Select Pursuit Trisuit

 (Freewheel)
(Freewheel)

A super-affordable, all-level option, especially if you prefer a trisuit without sleeves. It comes with a separate bra top for maximum support on the run and easy on-off access.

There’s an easy-access pocket for gels and it’s recently been reduced from £89.99 to just £22.49. Snap it up while you can.

£22.49, freewheel.co.uk

Zone3 Ultimate Race Number Belt

 (Zone3)
(Zone3)

Another Zone3 essential: the race belt. It comes with special toggles for your race number and loops to hang your gels.

There’s an easy size adjuster for different waists.

£7.50, zone3.com

dryrobe Advance Long Sleeve

 (dryrobe)
(dryrobe)

You know you want one. Sure, they received funny looks a couple of years ago but the dryrobe has quickly become one of Britain’s most sought-after pieces of outdoorsy fit kit (it’s made from 100 per cent recycled nylon and the lining is made from 100 per cent recycled polyester for ultimate warmth and eco-points).

The good news? A triathlon is the perfect excuse to invest in one. Just throw it on once you’ve crossed the finish line and you’ll stay cosy and warm while you cheer on all your mates - even if your trisuit is still wet from the swim or you’ve cooled from the sweat. It’s also so generously-sized you can use it as your own private changing room. No more queuing.

£160, dryrobe.com

A beginner’s guide: how to nail your first triathlon, according to the experts

By Flora Duffy, Commonwealth Games winner and gold Olympic triathlete

Don’t be intimidated

One of the best things about triathlons is there are races for all types of abilities, so don’t be intimidated by the pros or that friend training for an Ironman for a yar. If swimming isn’t your strength, for example, just focus on improving your cycling and running. Not everyone will be amazing at all three. Training also doesn’t have to take months and months. If you’re doing a race like an Ironmn, then you do need to be preparing six to 12 months ahead, but if you’re looking to do a sprint or Olympic level triathlon then you can easily get trained within a couple of months. There’s plenty of time.

Join a club

Training doesn’t have to be lonely. Ideally, try and find a local triathlon club so you have set training times and surrounded by those with similar goals. If you can’t find one, consider joining a running club and/or swimming club and just do you cycling training separately. Some bike shops have group riding schedules so have a Google.

Find new (quiet) routes for cycling

When cycling, try and find routes that avoid roads with a lot of traffic lights so you’re not constantly stopping and starting. I uses the Hammerhead Karoo 2 cycling computer to upload new routes and find great rides when I’m cycling somewhere unfamiliar.

Borrow kit if you can’t afford to buy it

Kit can be expensive, but the good news is that other than your own helmet and clothing to get through a triathlon, everything else could be borrowed. You do not need a tri suit for your first race. You can take your time in transition and slip on some comfortable cycling gear and even change again pre-run. The bike can be done on flat pedals in running shoes. Remember: you do not need all the bells and whistles to do and enjoy your first triathlon adventure.

Fuel is important for training, as well as race day

On an average training day focus on getting your protein, carbs and fat in and while training bring snacks and gels so you’re not under-fuelled. I always eat a mix of rice, avocado and banana before a race.

Recovery starts on race day

Personally, I have a recovery drink prepared before every race that I’ll try and consume within fifteen minutes of finishing. That gives you a head start in trying to limit damage. If, like me, you eat three hours before a race and then it takes some time after the race to get back to a hotel, showered and out for a meal, it can become a real catabolic event. As a pro, I have two massages as a staple every week, and post-race this is the same. I also like to take an ice bath followed by Epsom salt both most nights. That might be a bit extreme for triathlon beginners, but do consider treating yourself to a sports massage and doing some active recovery like an easy swim or easy spin.