When I first started the sport of triathlon, I had little knowledge of triathlon terminology. I asked what some of these terms meant if I didn’t know, or I requested an explanation in conversation. Below is a list of basic triathlon lingo and definitions. There are many more, so if you have a favorite, please leave a comment below.
T1: The transition between the swim and the bike. Transition is where all of your gear is stored during the race; you will have a designated spot, or you’ll find a spot. Rack your bike by the saddle or handlebars and place your gear at the front tire. You have about 12 inches of space in width off of your tire.
T2: The transition between the bike and the run.
Pro: A professional athlete
Age Grouper: Amateur athlete–most athletes fall in this category.
Athena: Division for women 165 lbs. or more. These athletes can still be age groupers if they choose.
Clydesdale: Division for men 200 lbs. or more. These athletes can also be age groupers.
Aero: Riding with your arms on the aero bars. It makes your body smaller and more aerodynamic so you can ride faster.
Clipless Pedals: Triangular clip on the bottom of a road shoe. If you are attached to the bike by the pedals, you can push and pull through each pedal stroke, making you a more efficient cyclist than simply riding on platform pedals (flat pedals that come with most bikes).
Road shoes: Usually have a triangular clip on the bottom of the shoe and have more support for long rides. Adding special inserts are a good idea to keep your arch from collapsing, causing toe numbness and/or lower back pain.
Triathlon Shoes: Similar to road shoes, but there is a loop on the back of the shoe for flying mounts. These shoes are more breathable, but may be less comfortable for really long rides.
Hybrid Bike: heavy and multipurpose bike for the road or trails. Some new triathletes will have this bike. Great for commuting.
TT Bike: The geometry is a bit different from the road bike, with a steeper seat tube angle that forces the rider over the handlebars for a more aero position. Great for fast and flat courses or spring or Olympic triathlons. Shifting is in aero, but brakes are on the hoods.
Triathlon Bike: A road bike with aero bars that came with the bike. More comfortable than a TT bike. Shifting and brakes are on the hood with a ram horn handlebar setup.
Road Bike: Similar to the triathlon bike, but no aero bars (can be added later if you get a different fit for the bike). Has a ram horn handlebar, shifting and brakes are on the hoods.
Cockpit: The whole front area of the bike where all of your stuff is located.
Bento: Bag for food and fuel (original word is from Japanese and refers to a packed meal).
Saddle: The bike seat. There are TT saddles and road saddles. Find one that is right for you. If you go numb, get a new saddle.
Bar ends: Caps for the end of your handlebars. If you don’t have these, officials won’t let you race.
Draft Legal: Refers to cycling close to other cyclists to save energy, especially when windy. If a race is draft legal, you can draft off of other cyclists. Most triathlons are not draft legal, so you need to leave three bike lengths in between you and the next cyclist. If you enter this zone, you have 15 seconds to pass or you may receive a time penalty from the officials.
Drafting: Drafting is legal in swimming. You can draft off the hip of a slightly faster swimmer or at their feet and swim in the bubbles coming off of their feet. You may swim any stroke in a triathlon, so be careful if the swimmer you are drafting off of starts doing breaststroke! You might just get kicked in the chest or lose your goggles.
Sighting: Bringing your eyes to the surface to look for buoys on the swim course.
Kayak: Lifeguards in kayaks. If you run into trouble, swim over to a kayak or signal for one, rest and/or get assistance. You cannot make forward progress with a kayak or paddle board, but you are allowed to rest.
Duathlon: A race where you run, bike, run.
Aquabike: A race where you swim and bike, and then you’re finished! No running. These races are great for athletes who can’t run, are injured, etc.
Aquathon: A race where you swim and run.
Tri Kit: A one or two-piece suit to wear for all three sports.
Wetsuit: Worn over the tri kit if the water is cold. Wetsuit legal is below 78 degrees F for age groupers and below 68 degrees F for pros.
If you have anything else you would like to add to the list, comment below!