From Knickerbockers to Lycra: Tri Gear History

6 Reasons Why Today’s Triathletes Have it Good When it Comes To Gear!

Women’s sports gear has come a long way over the past 100 or so years. From clothing to equipment, technology and social norms have helped the female athlete reach her goals more comfortably and practically. Thanks to all this new performance gear, we do not even have to compromise style while we are training or racing.

So, in case you bought an unfortunate pair of chamois shorts that squeeze you in the wrong place and you caught yourself complaining, “These biking shorts are horrible!” We wanted to remind you, with a little trip through history, why today’s triathletes have it pretty good when it comes to gear.

1.   Safety First!

Safety First!

Bicycle helmets were not always worn, and once they became common it took a long time before they became as durable, lightweight, comfortable and fashionable as they are today. Considering what most people wore for helmets during early 1900s, this woman is pretty well protected with her leather cap. At least she has a stuffed koala to keep her safe! 

2.   Bikes!


As different types of bicycle racing developed, so did the bikes in order to function well for each discipline. Road bikes became lighter weight with skinnier tires for less rolling resistance. But, bicycle technologies have come a long way, especially over the past 20 years! This Giant bike from the mid-1990s was one of the first time-trial bikes made with aerodynamic tubing and body position. We will take our light-weight carbon fiber Envie Advanced Tri over these bikes any day! (Oh, and did we mention women-specific geometry design keeps us efficient and comfortable?) 

3.   Chamois!


Need we say more? Those little Lycra shorts with just enough padding to make you comfortable on the bike, not feel like a diaper during the run and wick away unwanted moisture were not always so great. In fact, cycling shorts were historically made of knit black wool with a chamois made of leather inside the crotch area. Hmm, ok. But, what about before cycling shorts were invented? Guarantee the lady in this photo wearing such an attractive outfit was not wearing a chamois under those knickerbockers. Ouch! 

4.   Chamois Cream!

Chamois Cream

Chamois cream started to become necessary when bike shorts were made of wool and had chamois leather inside to makeup the pad. The leather needed some sort of cream on it to stay soft. Well, that is not a problem anymore, but guess what: our butts still hurt. Chamois cream solves some major issues, like chaffing, bike saddle discomfort and other skin irritations. Plus, now it comes in women-specific varieties! Whew, we sure do have it good now-a-days.

5.   Wetsuits!


Wetsuits have become more efficient (and attractive). I don’t think I would want to take on a triathlon in the wetsuits on the left!

6.   “Active Wear!”

Active Wear through History

How would you like to compete in a running race in the outfits pictured in the middle, left? What about the 1980s looks on the left? Not only has style changed for women in sports, but it has also become more practical. Advanced fabric technologies keep us comfortable, tight-fitting, stretchy garments allow us to move freely and functional accessories give athletes the upper-hand. Honestly, what are we complaining about?