Guide to Junior Triathlons


Written by Ben Tisdall

30 January 2019

Your child comes bouncing in saying “Mum! Dad!, guess what? I’m doing a triathlon!” You answer with enthusiasm “That’s Great! Well done! A triathlon!” But one of two things will be going through your head. The first might be, “great, I know what this is” OR “A Tri….What?”
It the answer is the latter please don’t worry! Junior Triathlon is a brilliant way for kids to experience three sports in one go. It’s also perfect for kids with low boredom thresh holds and stacks of energy! Your child might be a good swimmer, great runner or just loves being on his bike or it could be that your child just loves experiencing different and new things,
Whichever it is, triathlon is a great sport for kids to get involved in.

What is a triathlon?


Triathlon always starts with a swim. The swim
can be any stroke apart from backstroke.


The next step is to get on your bike. Any type of bike will do
– just check it is roadworthy and you’ll need a helmet too.


Finally, it’s time for a bit of running!

Duathlons, Aquathlons & Aquabike

There are also Duathlons. This is like a triathlon without a swim. However it always starts with a run to spread people out usually followed by a bike and then another run. Check out the Donut Duathlon we organise every Spring at Torbay Velopark which also has a mini duathlon for children aged 3-7. And then there are Aquathlons (Swim Run) and Aquabikes (Swim Bike) . You may also hear Swim Run discussed. This is an aquathlon but generally with several runs & swims in the course of one continuous event.

How far do children have to swim, run & cycle?

This varies according to their age on 31st Dec in the year of competition & the venue. Some typical distances are listed below. Kids bike courses are sometimes on grass in which case the bike legs will be shorter as cycling on grass is slower.
It’s important to remember that the clock runs the whole time you’re doing a triathlon. That includes the time running barefoot from the pool to the transition area, the time to get your bike and put on your shoes & helmet (known as Transition 1 or T1) and the time to put your bike back in transition, take your helmet off & put on your running shoes (known as Transition 2 or T2)

*Swim Bike Run/Novice age 8-10 – 50m swim, 1500m bike, 650m run
*Swim Bike Run/Novice age 11-14 – 200m swim, 6K bike, 2K run
Tristar Start age 8 – 50m swim, 1500m bike, 650m run
Tristar 1 age 9-10 – 150m swim, 3K bike, 1.3K run
Tristar 2 age 11-12 – 200m swim, 6K bike, 2K run
Tristar 3 age 13-14 – 300m swim, 7.5K bike, 2.5k run.
Youth & Junior age 15-19 – 400m swim, 15km bike, 5K run. nb Junior athletes are often the overall winners in local races!
* Swim Bike Run/Novice races. We recommend these for children doing their first triathlon or kids who are less confident swimmers.

For our Torbay Triathlons: Torbay Tri Spring and Torbay Tri Autumn we also offer a Mini-Tri for children aged 5-7. It’s such a perfect, traffic free venue for younger children that we couldn’t resist adding it!

What kit does my child need for a Junior Triathlon?

Swim (what you need)

Swimming costume
Swim hat (we give one to all competitors)

Bike (what you need)

T-shirt (to put on over your swimming costume)
All junior Triathlons take place traffic free. That’s usually either in a dedicated venue such as the Torbay Velopark or around sports pitches. That means there will be no vehicle traffic and many courses are on grass.
For a first triathlon a mountain bike is a good starting point. Or if your child is really getting into triathlon a cyclocross bike (like a racing bike with knobbly tires which can be swapped to smooth ones) is a good choice. Either way it’s important to get a bike that is not too heavy and is the right size. See our article on Choosing a Bike for your Child

Run (what you need)


Extra Kit (nice to have)

Of course if your kids get really into  triathlon or one of the three component sports there are other things you can add on:

  • A Tri Suit – This is a sleeveless or short-sleeved all in one outfit designed to be worn for the whole race. It’s tight fitting so good to swim in. Thanks to the fleecy insert it’s also comfortable for the bike and good for running too. Prices start from about £25.
  • A race belt. This is an elastic waist belt to which you attach your race number. It saves time in transition, particularly for pool triathlons, as it means you can clip on your number quickly in transition without having to put on a t-shirt.
  • Cycling gloves & sunglasses for when it’s sunny
  • Ear plugs and/or nose plugs for swimming – only if your child wants them
  • Cycling Shoes & Clip On Pedals – trainers are fine for your first triathlon. But if you get the bug it’s worth thinking about some cycling shoes and clip on pedals. See Choosing a Kids bike for more on this.
  • Running Shoes – any trainers will do to start with but dedicated running shoes help as you progress with elastic laces added.
  • A wet suit – only needed for triathlons with open water swims.


1. Enter a Triathlon. Our Junior Triathlon page which has details of all our child friendly events. These include the monthly Swim Bike Run events at Torbay Velopark which cost just £5 to take part.
2. Check out our 10 Tips for Beginner Triathletes
3. Check out our 10 Tips for junior duathlons
4. Improve your swimming or cycling or running or even all three. Find out more about local swimming, cycling, running & triathlon clubs with junior sections by looking at the British Triathlon website
5. Make sure you get a suitable bike for your child. See our bike article.


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