One of the main questions first timers have before their first swim-bike-run race is ‘what do I wear for a triathlon?’ Which is completely understandable, given that you’ve got three rather different sports to tick off – back-to-back.

In our guide to what to wear for a triathlon, we talk you through some of the options for triathlon clothing to help take some of the stress out of getting ready for race day.

Do you change clothes in a triathlon?

Plenty of beginners decide to change their clothing between the swimming and the cycling portions of a triathlon. But that will rely on your chosen event having changing facilities available – after all, nudity isn’t allowed in a triathlon transition!

Longer distance races such as IRONMAN and Challenge events typically do have a changing tent available in transition, with some competitors choosing to wear dedicated cycling and running kits rather than a triathlon suit to keep them comfortable over the longer distances.

But many sprint distance triathlons and smaller, local events won’t have changing facilities available. Which is why we’d recommend wearing a tri suit instead – that way you won’t have to worry about finding somewhere to change. And you’ll save yourself a lot of time in transition!

What is a tri suit?

A tri suit is typically a one piece/all in one racing suit. Unlike a cycling skin suit, a tri suit has a far thinner chamois pad (the protective pad in the seat of the shorts to keep you comfortable on your bike saddle). This is so that the pad doesn’t absorb too much water while you’re swimming, or feel bulky and get in the way while you’re running.

TRI-FIT GEO POLAR Women's Triathlon Suit Review by Jenny

Tri suits also usually have a pocket or two on the back, so that you can carry any nutrition such as energy gels or bars with you to keep fuelled up while you’re racing.

All in one tri suit or two piece tri suit?

While most tri suits these days are all-in-one garments. Some triathletes choose to wear a separate two-piece set compromised of a pair of triathlon shorts and a fitted triathlon tops.

This can be beneficial as it makes any ‘comfort breaks’ you might need to take during a race quicker. But it does mean you might have the annoyance of the waist band of your shorts digging in, or your tri top riding up. Therefore for maximum comfort we’d recommend an all-in-one tri suit.

What to wear for a sprint triathlon

If you’re planning to do your first sprint triathlon, and there will be changing facilities available for you to use during the race – and you’re not worried about getting the fastest time possible. Then there’s no problem with choosing to wear a swimsuit or jammers under your wetsuit (if it’s an open water race), then get changed into cycling kit for the bike leg. And either run in your cycling kit or get changed again into running kit for the final leg of the race.

But if there won’t be changing facilities and/or you want to see what time you can achieve without having to waste a load of it getting changed. We’d highly recommend wearing a tri suit. There’s already a lot to think about during a triathlon, so wearing a tri suit means getting changed is one less layer of complication on race day!

In addition to a tri suit, you’ll need essentials like goggles, a cycling helmet and either cycling shoes – or just running shoes if you prefer to ride with flat pedals.

We’d also recommend picking up a race belt – you attach your race bib number to do the belt, and then you’ve got a really quick and easy way to put your bib number on after the swim. Usually, you’re not allowed to wear your race number during the swimming section of a triathlon. So without a race belt, you’d either have to pin your number on during transition. Or have it pinned on to a separate top or jacket and then put that on over your tri suit.

Take a look at our triathlon essentials collection for all the triathlon clothing, accessories and training plans you'll need to get you feeling ready to toe your first start line. 

Jenny Lucas-Hill