Based on the limited nature of my knowledge of triathloning, I’m assuming most of you reading this blog for the triathlon information it provides are noobs. Thus, it is entirely possible that you, sitting on the other side of the computer screen, currently have no idea what you’re doing. If that’s the case, I have some good news for you – every single triathlete who has ever lived, amateur and pro alike, was once exactly like you.
The other good news is that there is very little gear you actually need before setting out on your Great Triathlon Adventure. Some people (I refuse to say whether or not I am included in this group) feel the need to go out there and buy every piece of equipment they could ever possibly need before getting down to it and actually doing triathlon, but I’m here to say that it’s actually much simpler (and cheaper) than that. Once you procure the items on this list, you’ll be ready for 90% of what comes your way in your first season of the greatest sport known to mankind*.
Having said all that, if you’ve really got a wad of cash burning its way through your wallet and you’d prefer that it not singe your butt cheeks, check out the Wish List at the bottom of the post for some more fun ideas.
*Please note that The Gourmet Triathlete rarely checks the validity of its factual claims. If you have any complaints about this or anything else on our site, feel free to direct them at that blank wall behind you.
Goggles: A good pair of goggles is an absolute must. I’ve found that there’s really no “best” pair of goggles – what it all comes down to is personal fit. Just go out there, try on a bunch, and see what feels comfortable. The pair pictured above (Nike Resolute Max) leaks a whole lot less than my first pair, but they also tend to really hurt after a few lengths and leave me with alien eyes for the rest of the day. I could definitely use a new pair…
Swim Trunks: Nothing fancy here. Any old pair of run-of-the-mill swim trunks (or swimsuit, for the ladies) will do. I would, however, strongly advise against wearing board shorts or other beachwear to swim in, as these will (1) slow you down significantly and (2) make you look like an idiot (yes, I’ve been on the receiving end of that particular situation many a time). Pictured above are a pair of jammers (left, which I currently wear most of the time) and a pair of square-cut “drag shorts” (right, currently retired).
A Bike: Shocking, I know, but the bike portion of a triathlon does, in fact, require a bike. The above is my baby, a 2011 Specialized Transition Elite. As far as TT/Tri bikes go, it’s actually one of the cheapest out there, but it’ll still run you a shade over $1500. I rode an old Windsor road bike from the 70s that was reduced to about 3 gears and cost me about a hundred bucks for my first two seasons before I was committed enough (and just enough on this side of broke) to buy this bad boy. Which, if you’re just starting out, I would recommend you do as well. That old Windsor got me through a Half Ironman, side by side with a dude riding a mountain bike while wearing running shoes. If we can do it, so can you.
Helmet: This one is non-negotiable. Even putting aside the fact that pushing 20 mph in traffic on the back of two narrow tires with nothing to protect that squishy piece of gray matter between your ears is insane, it’s also illegal in every sanctioned triathlon, so if you’re not packing a funky plastic hat, don’t even bother showing up.
Running Shoes: Yup. This is literally all you need for the run. Unfortunately, even if you’re into the whole barefoot running thing, many races do require some form of footwear. Lucky you, there happen to be a growing number of options for minimalist and barefoot-style running shoes out there to keep your heavily-calloused feet happy.
Just some goodies that you can start to pick up as you go. They’re not essential, but they are most certainly fun.
2. Cycling computer – This can be as simple as this $10 wired model that simply reads out your speed and distance (I used a similar one for quite a while) or a much more expensive model capable of recording multiple trips’ worth of cadence and other fun variables.
3. Saddle bag – The linked one can be seen on my bike, pictured above.
4. Pool toys – Fins, kickboards, pull-buoys, and so forth…
5. Transition bag – Really, any bag will do (I’ve been using my school backpacks so far), but if anyone wants to help me out with the linked bag…just saying…
6. Tri suit