Tri 101: What Equipment Do You Need?

My beloved tri bike

My beloved tri bike

So, you’ve decided that you want to do a triathlon. Awesome! Be forewarned though… triathlons are addictive. 🙂

The big question now is what do you need to complete your first triathlon. The sport of triathlon does require quite a bit of equipment compared to other sports; after all, triathlon is a sport of three disciplines: swim, bike, and run.

The Swim:

  • Goggles – You’ll want to find a good pair of goggles for swimming. Everyone has their preference for goggles so check out a few pairs and see what works for you. You can get traditional race goggles or a pair with a nose piece. You won’t need big snorkel goggles though!
  • Swim cap – Ladies, when you’re swimming in a pool then you need to wear a swim cap! It’s really gross if you don’t. Imagine if all the women in the pool didn’t wear caps… that’s a lot of hair floating around. On race day you have to wear a cap with a specific color for your swim wave. The race directors will give you your cap in your race packet so you don’t have to buy one.
  • Wetsuit – Some races highly suggest wetsuits because the water is cold. If you’re only doing a pool swim tri than don’t worry about a wetsuit. Wetsuits can actually help you swim faster because you’re more buoyant. If the water temperature is above 84 degrees then wetsuits are illegal for the swim. So keep that in mind as well. Wetsuits are expensive so if you don’t want to shell out a few hundred dollars then you can rent them as well from your local bike/tri shop or online.

The Bike:

  • Bike – Bikes are expensive! If you’re doing your first tri and it’s a local sprint tri, then use whatever bike you may currently have. It could be a hybrid, a mountain bike, or a road bike. If your first triathlon is a half-ironman or Ironman then you’ll need at least a road bike. You can purchase an entry-level road bike for between $700-$900. Or, if you have a ton of money lying around, you can purchase a competition level tri bike for $8,000+! Start with the basics and then invest more money when you get into the sport for the long-haul.
  • Helmet – You MUST wear a helmet during the bike leg of any tri. This is a USAT rule and you will be disqualified if you don’t wear a helmet. Plus, it’s just plain stupid. You can buy a basic helmet for between $30-$40.
  • Bike shoes and clipless pedals – This is optional. Bike shoes and clipless pedals will help you create a more efficient pedal stroke because it allows you to both push and pull. Most people are really nervous when they first get their clipless pedals because it’s not uncommon for people to fall over while trying to unclip. Don’t worry. It happens to everyone. You can always wear your running sneakers too.

The Run:

  • Running shoes – You’ll want a good pair of running-specific shoes. You’ll either wear them during the bike leg or change from bike shoes to your running shoes. You’ll probably want socks as well if you’re prone to blisters.
  • Running shorts – This is for training runs. On race day you’ll probably want to wear tri shorts and tank, but it varies. You’ll want some good workout clothes for training swims, bikes, and runs.

As you can see, you need quite a bit of equipment. This is just the very basics. As you get more into the sport you’ll start to accumulate and/or upgrade to better equipment. I began competing in triathlons in 2010. I competed on an entry-level Cannondale road bike that I purchased for about $900. In 2011, I upgraded to a competition-level road bike that I spent over $3000 for (and drove all the way to the MA/NY border). And finally, in 2012 I purchased my first tri bike and power meter. Yup, triathlons are expensive, but you can start cheap and basic and still kick butt!

Next Topic: Transitions

~ Happy Training!

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2 thoughts on “Tri 101: What Equipment Do You Need?

    • Wetsuits are so expensive! Urgh! Find one that fits good. You can rent them locally or online. One of my friends rented one online her first year of doing tris to find one that she liked. I would recommend maybe trying that.

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