Before my first triathlon, I wondered how I was supposed to change clothes between the three sports. Are there changing rooms? Or should I swim in my bike shorts? Here are all the answers I wish I had found when I started triathlon.
In short-distance triathlons, the vast majority of triathletes are wearing a triathlon suit from start to finish. It is quick to dry and will save you a lot of time in transitions. For longer events, such as an Ironman, triathletes who prioritize comfort over time will change clothes after each sport.
Both options can lead to disqualification if done incorrectly. Let’s check how to avoid it.
THE TWO OPTIONS FOR TRIATHLETES
1. WEAR A TRIATHLON SUIT
By far my favorite option. I can simply wear a triathlon suit from the start to the finish line and don’t worry at all about changing clothes in transition. I don’t feel any restriction while swimming. The pad provides me enough comfort for cycling while being thin enough not to bother me while running.
I recommend this gear for every triathlete, even for their first triathlon. It is relatively inexpensive (starts at roughly $50) but makes such a difference. I wrote an article explaining the different types of triathlon suits; check it here if you are interested.
Some triathlon suits will come with a front zipper. I personally think those suits are breathable enough that I don’t need to unzip them. But if you want to unzip it, keep in mind that there might be some rules you need to follow.
Ironman is, for example, allowing triathletes to unzip as long as it covers the shoulder and it is still attached to the bottom of the uniform. It needs to be fully zipped when crossing the finish line. If you don’t respect those, you might be disqualified.
2. CHANGE CLOTHES AFTER EACH SPORT
In theory, wearing the “right” clothes for each sport would be better. I would definitely agree if a triathlon race were split in three days, but it is not! 😀
For long-distance events, the added comfort while riding and running can be advantageous for triathletes not looking after their time. The main drawback is the difficulty of getting changed.
Nudity in a triathlon is leading to disqualification!
This means you will either need to battle changing your clothes with a towel or go to a restroom. Some of the big events will have a gender-specific tent where triathletes can change clothes. To avoid surprises, I would highly recommend checking the athletes’ guide of your specific race beforehand. For example, Ironman Florida removed its changing tent in 2020 to maintain physical distancing.
Over the years, I have seen or heard stories of triathletes using different combinations. Some are wearing a bib short on top of their swim underwear or swim with a bib short under their wetsuit. Just keep things simple, and invest in a triathlon suit that fits you. You will thank me later 😉
WHAT ELSE SHOULD I WEAR DURING A TRIATHLON?
Disclaimer: The Triathlon Tips of My Tri World are reader-supported. When you buy through links, I may earn an affiliate commission.
Now that you picked either the triathlon suit or the changing clothes option, let’s have a look at all the other gears you will need to wear during a race:
- Wetsuit: Depending on the race location and the weather, a wetsuit might be compulsory. I personally rented one for my first races, and once I knew I really like triathlon, I bought one.
- Swim cap: It is generally provided by the race organizer and mandatory in most races. If you want to use your own, you will need to wear the official one on top of it.
- Swim goggles: Even though they are not mandatory according to the official triathlon rules, I can’t really imagine swimming freestyle without them. If you are wearing prescription glasses, you will be happy to read that prescription swim goggles also exist! I wrote an entire article about them.
- Helmet: You simply can’t race without it.
- Race number: You will be required to show your race number on the run and in some triathlon races on the bike as well. My favorite option is to wear a race number belt. It costs between $10 to $15. I personally bought the Compressport (Amazon affiliate link) with three attaches for holding the number plus a couple of gels. I used it for all triathlon and running events.
- Socks: Some triathletes choose to race with socks and some without them. If you are not targeting a podium, it is really up to your personal preference (see my article: Socks vs. No Socks: The Question In Every Triathlete’s Head)
- Shoes: If you are used to cycling with clipless pedals, then you will need to bring one pair of shoes for cycling and one pair for running. Otherwise, don’t bother for your first triathlon(s); use a pair of running shoes for both sports.
- Jacket / Cap / Sunscreen: Adapt the rest of your equipment based on the weather. Also, make sure you apply the sunscreen once you have your race triathlon suit on and not only a t-shirt (speaking from experience… 🙂 )