Triathlons are multisport endurance races that commonly involve a swim in open water, a bike ride and then a run. For newcomer triathletes, what to wear on race day is often a source of concern and confusion. For men, the clothing options will differ according to the weather, the race distances and your overall modesty level. Don't try anything new, clothing-wise, on race day -- make sure you have trained in the outfit you will race in. Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise regimen or training effort.
You will save time in the transition from swimming to cycling if you wear swim clothing you can also bike in. This could be a pair of swimming shorts that you can also cycle in, or cycling shorts in which you can swim. Many male triathletes wear tri-shorts for all sections of the race -- these are similar to bike shorts, but have a fast-drying pad in the crotch area so you dry off faster during the cycle ride. In some races, you will be either allowed or required to wear a wetsuit during the open-water swim. Whether a race is wetsuit-legal or wetsuit-required will depend on race-day water temperature. You will also need swim goggles -- swim caps are typically provided at the race.
When you emerge dripping from the lake or ocean after the open-water swim, you'll need to add clothing for the bike ride. Male triathletes have the option of continuing shirtless for the cycling portion of the race, or putting on a shirt. You'll need to towel off and put on your sock and bike shoes -- these can be bike-specific shoes that clip to your cycle pedals, or the same shoes as you will wear for the run. Sunglasses are a good idea, and official triathlons require all cyclists to wear approved safety helmets for the duration of the bike ride. Many triathletes wear cycling gloves to reduce wear and tear on their hands.
If you are already wearing your running shoes on the bike, you can transition into the running part of the triathlon without any significant wardrobe changes. Take off your bike helmet and bike gloves and move through the transition area to start the run. In longer-distance races, you may wish to change your shorts or shirt in order to reduce chafing or potential jogger's nipple pain.
Dressing for Speed
Clothing choices during a triathlon involve compromises between speed, comfort and modesty. If you want to minimize transition times and maximize overall speed, you can complete the whole race in just a pair of swimming shorts. At longer distances, you might need additional clothing to avoid getting saddle-sore in the bike ride and chafed during the run. Tri-suits are swimming suits that have a small amount of built-in padding and are a popular choice for speedy triathletes.