For access to all of our training, gear, and race coverage, plus exclusive training plans, FinisherPix photos, event discounts, and GPS apps, sign up for Outside+.
Triathletes are nothing if not busy. We’ve got early morning Masters swims, Sunday long rides in the country, and trails to find and run on. With all of that activity and all of those sports, it makes sense that we need to stay organized as we try to fit in all of the training between errands and traveling to races with the family. It’s been said that some triathletes practically live in their cars (and there are a few pros who literally do). As such, the multisport lifestyle can require a certain mode of transportation to help in your pursuit of tri excellence. Though, it should also be said: Sometimes the best car is the one you already have. With all that gear you might need for triathlon, you don’t need to buy a new car, too—especially with triathletes increasingly concerned about the effects of climate change on their favorite outdoors activities. But if you’re in the market for a triathlon-mobile, below we’ve got a few tips on what to look for when you shop for a new (or new to you) multisport ride, and a few of our top picks to save on mileage, optimize space, and get all the tri-features you might want.
What Are The Best Cars For Triathletes? Ones With Space
Swimming, biking, and running all require a lot of gear, and a lot of gear requires space to store it. Better yet, the more space you have, the better you can organize everything and not have to root through piles of clothes to find the (clean) pair of running shorts you need for your long run. Of course, that doesn’t always mean the biggest car on the outside as much as it means easy to access space on the inside—fold down seats, roomy hatchbacks, storage compartments, etc. More space also means more room for extras that aren’t exactly necessities, but can make the multisport life much easier—think a portable shower like the RinseKit. Finally, lots of space means you can put your most valuable tri commodity—your bike—inside your car and away from the temptations of prying eyes. Which leads us to our next tip…
What Are The Best Cars For Triathletes? The Tinted Ones
First, it’s important to note that not all states allow aftermarket tinted windows, and those that do often have restrictions based on darkness and which windows are tinted. With that in mind, do your research, and get the most tinted windows on your tri ride that you can. For two reasons: First, tinted windows help keep your car, your gear, and your nutrition cool; second, and most importantly, tinted windows add a huge layer of safety against car break-ins. If people walking by with wandering eyes can’t see your bike, or your helmet, or your sunglasses, or your phone while you’re out running, they won’t be tempted to break into your car. This also means you don’t have to cover everything with blankets while you’re out on your workout or stopping for a post-ride smoothie.
What Are The Best Cars For Triathletes? Ones With Racks
Storing your bike inside your car is probably the safest and typically the most fuel efficient, but it’s not always practical if you’ve got passengers or too much tri gear to fit it without doing some mechanical gymnastics. (Hint for newbie triathletes: Taking the wheels off is easier than you think.) Triathletes typically either wish they had bike racks on their car or wish they had bike racks on their car. A rooftop system is ideal for smaller cars that aren’t too tall to reach (but don’t forget your bike is on top if you pull into a garage!); hitch mount systems are ideal for larger cars like SUVs, pickup trucks, or vans. Get one that swings out of the way—either down or to the side—and you’ll still be able to access all of your other gear inside the trunk while your bike is still on the rack. Skip the trunk-mount rack unless you’ll only be using it once or twice a year.
Our picks for the best cars for triathletes
Subaru Impreza 5-Door
Starting at $20,000, subaru.com
There’s a reason Subarus are popular with the outdoor crowd, and it makes just as much sense for triathletes. Without costing an arm and a leg, the Impreza still has symmetrical AWD for snowy morning drives to the pool or messy trailhead access. The absolutely essential five-door version has a large hatchback with a fold-down second row that easily accommodates a bike—with wheel still on. Car websites list 55.3 cu.ft. of cargo volume—which is pretty decent for a compact car with a hatchback. Also worth noting is that the low price allows you to get custom, outdoorsy upgrades from Subaru, like racks, mud mats, heated seats, a cargo tray, and more. We also love the decent-for-a-non-hybrid gas mileage and fuel capacity that’ll allow you to drive to faraway races without draining your wallet—23/31 MPG for city/highway and a 13.2-gallon tank.
Kia Niro Hybrid
Starting at $25,000, kia.com
With a little step up in price, size, and fuel economy, the Kia Niro has been on our radar ever since the South Korean auto brand released a triathlete concept car that really turned heads. While the concept car stayed a concept, the Niro is still a great choice for triathletes who might need more space and clearance than the Impreza, but not so much that they veer into full-blown SUV or pickup truck territory. The slightly smaller fuel tank (11.9 gallons) is surprising, but with a staggering 53 city/48 highway gas mileage, range shouldn’t be an issue. Inside, the Niro boasts a max cargo volume of 54.5 cu. ft. with the seats folded down and 6.3 inches of ground clearance—another inch over the Impreza above. Meanwhile the Niro has more amenities like lane assist, emergency braking tech, and a concealed floor storage tray to help organize your tri gear.
Starting at $30,000, jeep.com
Of course, there’s no sportier American vehicle than the ubiquitous Jeep Wrangler. Boasting a massive 9.7 inches of ground clearance, this is the machine for triathletes who like to venture off where the road ends. While the trail-capable Jeep may not look like a gas efficient vehicle, today’s version still has a “just-OK” 17 city/ 25 highway highway mileage stat with a long-range gas tank of 17.5 gallons. But of course, you don’t get a Wrangler for the fuel savings—you get it for the adventure. The Jeep Wrangler is one of the most accessorized vehicles ever produced and there’s a veritable industry producing everything from auxiliary lights to bike racks to showers to baskets—basically anything you could ever want to store, organize, and then clean off all of your multisport workout gear.
Starting at $67,500, rivian.com
If you haven’t heard of the world’s first electric pickup truck—yes, the one with the trend-setting headlights—then check it out. If any vehicle ever screamed “triathlete!” the Rivian R1T has the insane storage, offroad capabilities, ridiculous mileage, and gear-head cred that the top of the multisport heap requires. Though it’s pricey, the R1T goes from 0-60mph in a race-car-fast 3 seconds, tows 11,000 pounds (yep, that’d be enough for a race-week camping trailer), and somehow wades into water at a depth of 3 feet. In terms of more practical stats, the Rivian tucks away 62 cu. ft. of storage between the bed, front trunk, rear storage bin, under-seat compartments, center console, and “gear tunnel”—which is just as awesome as it sounds. The Rivian is electric, but it also has a pretty impressive 300+ mi. range between full charges. Of course the Rivian can get even more impressive with upgraded packages that include things like a four-motor AWD, tow hooks, upgraded battery, and audio. Reserve yours now.