Triathlon race belt: do you really need one?


When I decided to do my first triathlon, I got lucky I had a friend from my cycling club who was also a triathlete. She let me borrow a trisuit and gave me a race belt without explaining what it was. Just that I would definitely need it. And I am so thankful for that!

Let me tell you why I think you definitely need to have a race belt for a triathlon. I will also review if you can use the race belt in running and cycling-specific event

Do you need a race belt for a triathlon?

Race belts are not mandatory in triathlons but you still need one. It will make your race transitions much smoother and worry-free, and you get the benefice of easily complying with the rule of wearing your bib visible at all times. It costs about $10 only.

What is a race belt?

A race belt is an accessory made of elastic fabric where you can easily attach your race number. The belt can be clipped very quickly to your waist. It will allow you to wear your race number either at the front or at the back, as you wish during the race. Most race belts will have space for gels.

Race belts have been designed with triathletes in mind because you can easily rotate your race bib in a matter of seconds from your front to your back or vice-versa. It is recommended to show your bib visible at all times, but when cycling, it’s hard to read it on your front. So it is recommended to wear it at the back for the cycling leg.

When is the race belt needed during a triathlon?

Triathlon events always start with the swim leg. It’s not possible to wear a bib when swimming because it’s made of paper and it would not last. So you will need to have your number visible on your swim hat and body. I have dedicated a complete article about the rules of wearing race numbers in triathlons that you can find at the link below:

So, a race belt is only needed for the bike and run parts of a triathlon, where it is mandatory to wear a bib. You will have to put it on in transition 1 and keep it till the end of the race.

Me wearing a race belt and heading out of T1

Reasons to use a race belt in a triathlon?

These are the reasons you need a race belt for your triathlons:

  1. Faster transitions

You just need to clip the belt during the first transition (T1). If you are organized and practiced, it can be done in a matter of seconds. No need to pin your bib to your trisuit, or put on an extra layer with your bib pinned to it.

  1. Easily comply with having your race number visible at all times

You can slide the race belt along your waist to move the bib position from front to back and vice-versa. It is best to wear the bib at the back when cycling and at the front when running.

  1. Extra space available for gels and food

Most race belts will have a compartment to carry a couple of gels or bars. This will allow you to have extra food available on the bike and the run without having to find a pocket for it.

Some belts can even include an extra pouch to carry a phone or extra stuff like this one. In triathlon, you generally won’t need it but some people like to have this opportunity, I thought you would appreciate to know about it.

  1. Free your mind to keep the focus on the race

In my opinion, this is the most important reason to use a race belt. In a triathlon, you have lots of things to think about during the race, especially during the transitions. It’s easy to forget to do something (like taking food with you for the next leg). Using a race belt will free your mind from worrying about the race number and putting on gels in your pockets. Indeed, you just need to have it ready in your transition area and once you arrive in T1, you clip it on and it’s finished. No need to think about it anymore.

On the contrary, if you decide to pin your race bib to your tri suit during T1, you might struggle. Your fingers might be cold from the water, your heart might be pounding and your head struggling to think straight about what you have to do. You could forget to wear the bib or waste precious time during your transition. It’s not worth the hustle. And if your race bib ends up being obstructed and difficult to read, you could be asked to reposition the bib by a referee mid-race.

  1. It’s cheap and durable

A race belt will cost you about $10 on Amazon and it can last for years without having to buy a new one. You could damage it with frequent use but you will probably be tired of the color before 😉

Can you use a race belt for running races?

Race belts can be used for running events like marathons for instance. Instead of pinning the bib to your t-shirt, you can just use the belt. No holes in the shirt. And you get extra space for gels even though food stops are generally available.

Can you use a race belt for cycling events?

For cycling events, using a race belt will allow you to have your bib easily visible on your back without damaging your jersey with pin holes. Some sportives only require you wear the number on the bike highly visible. Always check the rules.

No need for wearing a bib on this local sportive. Just a number on the bike. Sadly not very aerodynamic 🙂

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