What is the easiest part of triathlon? (by 525 triathletes)


Triathlon can be really tough. So I asked 525 triathletes their opinion about the easiest part of a triathlon. Let’s see the results.

The easiest part of a triathlon is the swim according to a survey of 525 triathletes. The swim was selected by the majority of triathletes. Then the bike leg comes second with 2/3 of the votes. However, the run was barely voted for, making it the hardest part of triathlon for most people.

In the next paragraphs, you will see the detailed results of the survey and the reasons behind these results.

The easiest part of a triathlon according to 525 athletes.

In my groups of triathlete’s friends and acquaintances, I ran a poll to find out what is the easiest part of triathlon in their opinion. I got 525 triathletes to reply to the poll. They could only reply with one of the 3 legs of the triathlon (swim, bike, or run) but were allowed to leave comments about their choices to detail their answers. We will focus on their reasons later in this article.

First, let’s look at the results of the poll:

  • 254 triathletes mentioned the swim to be the easiest part of a triathlon
  • 203 triathletes selected the bike to be the easiest part of a triathlon
  • 68 triathletes considered the run to be the easiest part of a triathlon

The results show a clear ‘winner’: 48% (almost half) of the triathletes find the swim to be the easiest part of a triathlon.

I have summarised the results in the pie chart below:

Results from the poll about the easiest part of a triathlon

Why is swimming the easiest part of a triathlon?

The swim is generally considered the easiest part of the triathlon. The main reason is that the swim comes first in the event. It is the part of the triathlon where you are feeling fresh, with your muscles ready to give their peak performance.

Additionally, the swim is much shorter than the other parts of a triathlon, whatever the type of triathlon you are participating in. This is why I received the following statements to justify the swim vote:

“I am the worst at swimming, but objectively, it is swimming.”

“For me it depends on the distance. The longer the race (especially Ironman distance) the swim becomes the easiest, and for me the bike the hardest. After 112 miles, I want off that bike! Shorter races, the bike is the easiest for me.”

“I came from a background of running (mediocre at best) and swimming is by far the easiest and my most favorite part of the race, followed by the bike, running is DFL in my book.”

Also, being in the water is very enjoyable and for sure you are not overheating, especially under the heat of the summer.

Let’s summarise:

The swim is the easiest part of triathlon because:

  • it is the shortest leg of a triathlon
  • it is the first leg of a triathlon when you are not yet tired or having sore muscles

Why is cycling the second easiest part of a triathlon?

Cycling was selected as the second most easy part of a triathlon. Lots of triathletes actually voted for the bike leg as the easiest (almost 40% of them) which means that cycling is very appreciated among the triathletes and not considered too difficult. But why?

For the bike leg, the difficulty is usually really based on the type of triathlon you are racing. The longer the event, the longer the bike leg. 112 miles for an IronMan distance is a very long time to spend on the bike. It requires a high mental effort to keep going and not feel the pain (yes your bum will hurt at some point :p). Besides, on long events, you also have to fight the heat as you often will be on your bike around the hotter hours of the day. Finally, getting an enjoyable bike leg on long events depends a lot on your ability to fuel yourself correctly which can be tough.

But for shorter distance triathlons, the bike leg is ok in length. Most triathletes train for these distances on their regular Sunday club ride. Therefore it can feel quite comfortable and prevent the athlete from being anxious about this part of the event. In comparison, the swim can be scary for many people due to the rough start; where everyone is swimming on top of each other in the first yards of the event.

Let’s see some comments on why the bike is the easiest for a large portion of triathletes:

“imho bike, by far. almost anyone can bike, there are no fears and anxieties (as there are on the swim) you can use any old bicycle you have, and on the bike leg you are not as tired as you will be on the run, so it seems easy”

“Bike, because for me I’ve been doing that the longest. I just check out mentally and let my legs go. Swimming and running still require my mental effort as well as physical”

Is running the hardest part of a triathlon?

Only 13% of people picked the run as the easiest part of the triathlon. It looks like the run is the hardest part of the triathlon.

Reasons why the run is not considered easy in triathlon:

  • It comes at the end of the event when you are tired
  • It is the part where you can really make a difference to your time so you tend to push yourself
  • It depends a lot on your ability to fuel correctly during the event – even more true on long-distance triathlons
  • your legs feel different than in a training run – it requires a mental effort to keep going
  • For long-distance triathlons, the running leg can prevent you from finishing if you don’t make the time barrier. That’s a lot of pressure.

But some people enjoy it:

“I said the run because it’s almost never the run’s fault. If I had a bad run it’s cause I over swam or over biked.”

“The run because you can always walk if you had to.”

So it all depends on your personal preference, there is no right or wrong answer to this question. But if you are a novice to the sport and don’t come specifically for years of training in one of the 3 sport, there is a high chance you will agree with the results from this poll.

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