Triathlon can be an expensive sport, but it doesn’t have to be. Most of the gear required to complete your first race, you probably already have. You may need to purchase a couple of items, but can make due with some things you already have.
Here’s a bare bones list of the must have items by discipline:
Swim Suit – If your first race is in a pool or in warm water all you need is a swim suit. For ladies, I would recommend a one piece for comfort. For guys, you can swim in your bike shorts, or your favorite board shorts.
Goggles – You may need to buy a good pair of goggles, if you don’t already have them. A decent pair of goggles cost $20-40. Be sure to try them on before buying. Everyone’s face is shaped differently, and you want them to fit comfortably.
Swim Cap – Most races will provide you with a swim cap for the race.
Bicycle – I guess this is kind of obvious, but think of what you can already use. There’s no need to drop a whole paycheck on a new bike. If you have a bike that fits you, and has gears, you are good to go. I have seen people use beach cruisers. I would not recommend a cruiser, because they are heavy, don’t have gears, or hand brakes.
Also, ask around to borrow a bike. Many people have a perfectly good bike collecting dust in the garage.
Helmet – All races will require you to wear a helmet any time you are on the bike. The helmet must have a CPSC sticker inside. Don’t worry all helmets sold legally in the US are required to have the sticker. Helmets can be had for a reasonable price online.
Bike/Tri Shorts – Bike/Tri shorts are made of lycra and have padding in the seat. This is one item I highly recommend purchasing. You can use them during training, and racing. The tight fit and extra padding will help prevent the discomfort of the bike seat. If you use regular gym shorts, chaffing will occur when you get sweaty.
Toe Clips/Bike Shoes/Clipless Pedals (Optional) – Some older road bikes have toe clips on the pedals. The clips go around the toe of the shoe, and help you pull the pedal up. Same with clipless pedals, where you shoes clip into the pedal. With toe clips, you can use your running shoes during the bike. Toe clips would be best for new bike riders or first time triathletes.
If you borrow a bike with clipless pedals and chose to use them, you will also need shoes with cleats to go into the pedals. There are many different pedal and cleat types, so be sure to get the right match. The most common is the SPD cleat. These are the same cleats used on Spin bikes. So you can use your shoes for Spin classes as well.
Running Shoes – This is the only real need for the run. This is the most important piece of equipment. Spend some time to research which shoes are best fit for you. The wrong shoes can cause discomfort or worse, injury. Most running stores can assess your form and fit, and get you into the right shoe.