Ask a Random Triathlete: So Many Categories, Buckets, and Aerobars

Wow, tell me more. (Photo: bp6316/Flickr)

I’m back! 

I know you all were anxiously awaiting my return, wandering blindly through life the last few weeks, directionless without a random triathlete to offer guidance. I can only apologize for leaving you without a guiding compass to light your way and promise to deliver truly life-changing advice moving forward, even better than any of my previous advice. You need it.

I’ve been interested in the Clydesdale and Athena divisions and why they exist. Is there a chance for the short and petite to be in their own division? Maybe fairy and gnome divisions. What about by hair color? The ginger division would be slow on the run due to lack of soles. How about low T/ low E divisions? The less of a man or less of a woman divisions. How about a bearded division for Ben’s mom? Can we do it by income level? That removes all the superbikes from my division.

Have you ever been to a lecture series, or one of those Ted Talk-type things with a Q&A at the end? I sense probably not, so let me paint a picture. Without fail, there’s always a guy in the audience who stands up during the question section and talks for awhile about something loosely related to the topic. I don’t know exactly what he says, because all I usually hear is: “Blah, blah, I think I’m really smart, let me talk about how smart I am.” Then, at the end, to make sure it qualifies in the “Q” portion of Q&A, he’ll add: “Don’t you agree?” And then he’ll sit back and bask in the warm glow of his self-perceived brilliance. 

This question is the triathlon internet version of that guy.

You know why there are so many categories. You don’t really want an answer. You want to make a point. So let me ask you a question: Why limit your derision to Clyesdale and Athena athletes? Why do we have so many age group categories at all? Is there really a difference between a 33-year-old and a 36-year-old? For that matter, why have a collegiate category? Why can’t you compete with people your age who didn’t go college? Think you’re too good for them?

There are two ways to view the proliferation of categories in triathlon. Either it’s the Great Democratization of the sport, giving everyone a chance to win in their own way, make things “fair” in a sport that exists in a world that will never truly be fair. Or, it’s a cynical ploy to buy people’s emotional investment and keep them doling out the cash for another chance at glory. You could view it either way. Your choice.

I’ve done my first few triathlons and there are always some people who bring buckets to sit on in transition. What’s their deal?

Their deal is they don’t know how to do triathlon. If you need somewhere to sit down in transition, you maybe should re-think your race strategy. If you really want to sit down, at least bring an actual chair. I’d respect that more.

I’m relatively new to triathlon and bought a new, relatively-nice road bike about 1.5 years ago. I’m starting to do longer races and would like to ride in an aero position.

I like being married so I don’t want to suggest to my wife that I need to spend my kid’s college fund on a another new bike (tri bike) for fear she’d divorce me. I’m settled on simply adding aerobars to my road bike while I cross my fingers that my kid lands a scholarship and doesn’t need the college fund after all.

My question is whether adding full aerobars with cable routing would work well with the road bike geometry, or whether I’m better off with simpler/cheaper clip-on aerobars since neither solution is ideal anyways?

Just buy clip-on aerobars. You clearly need to use the extra time you’d spend re-cabling your bike to work on your marriage instead.

About the Author

Kelly O'Mara
Kelly is a reporter and writer in the San Francisco Bay Area. She quit triathlon for a few years, because triathletes can be annoying, but now she's back into it and only hanging out with the non-annoying triathletes. She blogs about stuff at Sunny Running.