Gearing up for an upcoming Whole Living-sponsored triathlon? Your bike will likely be your single biggest investment; even if you already own one, it may need a tune-up and could probably benefit from some tri-specific gear.
Competing in a triathlon is not exactly like riding to work or to the grocery store. For the sprint distance, you'll be pedaling 12 miles and then hopping off and running a 5K. That means your bike should be equipped to provide you with fluids and nutrition along the way, and you should be able to fix a flat tire (or at least have the gear needed to do so) along the course.
Plus, you'll likely be logging plenty of training hours before the race, possibly in the early morning or evening hours, and you may be leaving your bike out in public places. (During a Brick workout, perhaps?) You'll need gear designed to protect yourself and your bike in these situations.
I know I told you a few weeks ago that you really only need 10 things to do a triathlon. Still true -- but to get the most out of it, you should have a few extras, as well. So to get the essentials on what a beginner triathlete needs on her bike, I stopped by Ride Brooklyn -- my local bike shop and also a sponsor of the Brooklyn Tri Club. Here's what their knowledgable team of employees recommended.
Front and rear lights: If there's even a chance you might end up riding at dawn or as it gets dark, lights in both the front and back of your bike are important for safety and visibility. They're also a requirement in many cities. Look for a two-pack of white (front) and red (rear) lights; some, like Knog's Beetle lights, attach without any equipment and have settings for both blinking and steady beams.
Water bottle cages: You should have at least one -- preferably two -- of these babies on your bike, filled with plastic bottles for water or sports drink. They're fairly inexpensive at most bike shops, and the staff will usually attach them for you if needed. Choose clear water bottles so you can easily see how much water you have left while you're riding.
Make sure you practice taking the bottles in and out and drinking while you're riding. This can be tricky to get the hang of and you don't want to be fumbling around and dropping bottles on race day. (If it's just too awkward or you can't get cages on your bike, consider wearing a hydration system like a Camelbak pack instead.)
Saddle bag: This handy pouch Velcros or buckles behind your seat and holds extra tubes (and everything you need to change them), plus anything else -- like your ID, insurance cards, or cash -- that you need to stash while out training or racing.
Tire-repair kit: If you get a flat out on the road, your choices are to change it yourself or wait for someone to (maybe) stop and help you. Either way, you'll need supplies in your saddle bag: The typical tire-repair kit contains tire levers to help you pry the tire off the frame, and patches for small holes.
You'll also need to have on hand an extra tube or two (make sure they match your existing tire tubes) and either CO2 cartridges or a frame pump, which you can use to fill your tire on the go. A floor pump is also handy for refilling your tires from home.
A trustworthy lock: You won't need this on race-day (in fact, it could even slow you down), but if you plan on ever leaving your bike somewhere it could be stolen, you'll want to invest in a good lock. For maximum security, choose a system that has either two mini U-locks or one U-lock (for the frame and front wheel) with a cable to loop in the back wheel. Kryptonite's website can help you pick the best lock based on the level of security you'll need.
A box for snacks: If you're planning on eating anything (gels, bars, gummies, etc) during your bike ride -- more on that in a later post -- you'll need a place to keep them. If you're wearing a top with a pocket in the back, they may work there, but for ease of access, consider adding one of these to the front of your bike. These can be fabric or plastic, usually attach with Velcro, and, depending on the brand, have names like "FuelBox" and "Bento Box."
A bell: Many cities require that your bike be equipped with a bell that can alert traffic, pedestrians, or other bikers that you're coming through. It's more helpful in practice and commuter scenarios than in an actual race, but it's a good thing to have on your bike at all times. These come in all shapes and colors, but the important thing is to make sure that it attaches securely to your handlebar and rings loud and clear. (The Incredibell Illuminator, shown above, even has a little LED light for extra visibility!)
Grease Monkey Wipes: These natural citrus wipes aren't mandatory, of course, but they'll fit right in your saddle bag and can certainly come in handy if you need to change a tire. Bonus: They're also great for wiping off chain marks on your calves (I somehow get these every single time I ride!) and for removing the stubborn permanent ink with which you'll be marked -- they'll put your race number on your arms and the back of your legs, most likely -- on race day.
A helmet: Okay, this doesn't exactly go on your bike, but it's too crucial to leave out -- especially because you can't race without it. And news in New York City this past weekend about the deaths of two cyclists (one wearing a helmet, one not) hammers home the importance of taking every possible precaution to protect yourself.
A good helmet will range anywhere from $40 to $300 based on the features, so talk with your bike-shop staff about what you're looking for and find one that fits comfortably. Last year, Consumer Reports ranked the Gyro Skyla ($40) its best buy for women, while the ladies at Bicycling magazine love the ponytail-friendly Lazer Helium Lady helmet ($220). Not sure if your existing helmet needs replacing? Use this checklist to find out.
Tire upgrade: This one is optional as well, but if you're using a mountain or a hybrid bike for your race, you might ask your bike shop to swap out the thicker tires for more road-friendly thinner treads: They'll make you faster and will make your bike more lightweight, so that you don't have to put as much effort into pedaling.
Cages or clipless pedals: No matter what type of bike you have, you can also opt to have cages added to your pedals. These keep your feet in place and can improve pedaling efficiency. More experienced bikers might even have their pedals replaced with "clipless" models, and choose to wear bike shoes that clip in to give you even more security and pedal power. (If you do swap your pedals, though, practice clipping in for at least a month before the race! Stopping and dismounting is tricky, and I definitely fell down a lot at first.)
So there you have it: How to turn your bike into a lean, mean, racing machine -- or at least get you through your first tri. How much of this gear do you already have? What are you still planning to add -- or go without?