Nine gear upgrades for long distance triathletes
From aero helmets to wetsuit lube (no sniggering), we look at the kit you'll need to morph from Ironman completer to competer
Thinking of taking on an Ironman? Here are the long-course essentials you’ll need to morph from completer to competer…
Don’t forget, for lots more advice head to our long-distance training pages.
Deep-rim wheels increase speed, decrease drag and save energy. Front wheel rim depth should be shallower than the rear because of its effect on handling.
However, there are many variables involved in rim choice including weight, position and speed.
Race wheels: benefits for triathletes
On flatter courses, heavier and more aero wheels will offer greater speed; as the course ascends, weight is a greater factor than aerodynamics – and so rim depth should be less. Check out our guide to the 10 best race wheels.
Saving over 180km bike: 60secs per hour at 25mph
Water bottle holders
Fluid supply is key to a long-distance race. With aid stations spaced further apart, carrying the fluid you need becomes more important.
There is a range of options, including aero-bottles for your down tube, bottle holders behind your saddle and bottle cages strapped to your tri-bars.
All will increase your drinking options on the bike, but think about which are going to be easiest to access for you, as well as which are going to be the most aerodynamic.
Saving over 180km bike: 90secs
Best triathlon bike hydration systems 2015
Tri bike, or road bike with clip-ons
For those newer to the sport of triathlon – who own a more basic bike and race mainly flat courses – a tri bike or a standard road bike with clip-ons is a suitable upgrade.
Clip-on aerobars: 3 of the best
How to turn your road bike into a triathlon bike
This is, though, one of the more expensive options for time-saving.
It’s likely that, set up correctly, it’ll provide a more comfortable ride and allow you to get off the bike in better shape to run a marathon. Read our guide to the best tri bikes.
Triathlon bike versus road bike
Do you need a triathlon bike for 70.3 and Ironman races?
Your first triathlon bike – a guide
Saving over 180km bike : 2mins per hour at 25mph
When you’re faced with 3.8km of swimming, easing the chafes and abrasion from your wetsuit makes life more comfortable not only in the water, but also for the remainder of the race.
This is especially true if raw skin is then exposed to sunshine for the rest of the day.
However, refrain from simply using Vaseline as the petroleum content degrades neoprene.
Saving over 3.8km swim: seconds to minutes
So you’re fresh after your taper, fuelled by race adrenaline and thriving on the encouragement of your fellow athletes.
But it’s easy to get carried away and head off too hard at the start of the bike leg, leaving you entering T2 with little energy left to start the run.
As well as guiding you through your training and making sure you’re working hard enough, power meters can help you keep your bike effort in the right zone for the first few hours, ensuring you retain some energy for hitting the perfect marathon!
Saving over 180km bike: correct pacing can save tens of minutes
Bike power meters for triathletes: what to know
Comfort is a big factor in longer races, so a suitable saddle is vital. Tri-specific versions are shaped to reduce pressure in vulnerable areas.
They commonly feature extra padding at the nose for when you’re shifted forward and down on the aerobars, and are encased in waterproof lining as you’ll be wet from the swim.
Just remember that comfy bits mean faster bike splits!
Saving over 180km bike: depends how highly you rate comfort
Best triathlon bike saddles review
The longer the triathlon, the greater impact nutrition has on your outcome.
You’ll need to experiment in training to discover what works best for you: gels, bars, drinks, savoury snacks…
Energy gels versus energy bars
Whatever you choose, variation is vital to avoid flavour fatigue. Fuel intake is a fine balance: you want to replace burnt calories but not so much as to cause gut issues.
When racing, between 60-90g of carbs per hour is standard practice but find out what works for you.
Ironman nutrition: what to carry on the bike
Energy gels: 10 of the best reviewed, test and rated
>>> Read our ultimate guide to triathlon nutrition
Saving over entire race: anything from minutes to hours!
Aero helmets can realise a significant time reduction on the bike split, as long as you keep your head still and in the right position.
However, there’s a risk of overheating in hot weather, which then has a detrimental effect on your run.
Before purchasing an aero helmet, consider your race terrain, climate and your own ability to maintain a still head over the duration of 180km of riding. Take a look at our guide to the best aero helmets .
Aero cycling helmets: how to choose the right shape
Saving over 180km bike: 60secs per hour at 25mph
Compression socks purport to reduce muscle damage and boost venous return, which means increasing blood, and oxygen, circulation around the body.
Some question their validity but we’ve seen benefits at races, during training and recovery. Read our complete guide to compression wear.
Saving over 42.2km run: unknown
What gear upgrades do you think make the biggest difference when going long? Let us know in the comments!