Triathlon may not be the cheapest venture out there, but you don't have to spend a fortune to finish your first race. Here's a quick guide to what to save on—and what to splurge on—as you get started in the sport.
Save On: The Bike
Sure, you need a bike to complete a triathlon. And yes, it may be better if your bike was actually built for racing (though you wouldn't be the first to compete on a hybrid if you went that route). But you don't need to plunk down $5,000 on a carbon-fiber tri bike for your first season out.
"I did my first triathlon with a borrowed bike from my friend's garage," says Cami Stock, a coach for Wild Blue Racing in Colorado Springs. "Some people have done races on mountain bikes and that's OK."
Intent on owning a set of wheels? Find your bike for less by talking to the folks at your local tri or cycling shop about anyone who may be selling a used one. Or check out sites like Craigslist or ebay for a bike that may fit the bill. Another option: Looking into a peer-to-peer program like Spinlister, where you can find and rent race-ready bikes in more than 40 countries from anywhere from $20 to $100 daily.
Splurge on: The Helmet
Not to say you have to pay hundreds for an aero helmet, but make sure you buy a one that's sure to protect your head in case of a fall. Higher-quality helmets (think: brands like Giro, Specialized, and Bell) not only tend to be lighter, but they have features like a dial-fit adjustable system which ensures a snug, safe and comfortable fit.
Save on: The Wetsuit
No doubt, you'll want to have a wetsuit, especially if you're a newbie swimmer who may benefit from the extra buoyancy a wetsuit can provide. But instead of buying a brand-new suit that may run you up to $300, look into renting one first.
Check out sites like triwetsuitrental.com and XTerra Wetsuits, or visit your local tri shop (most companies give you the option to purchase the suit for a prorated fee if you want to hold onto it). If you do go the rental route, just make sure you arrange to have it delivered a week or so before your race to get some practice in it beforehand.
Splurge on: The GogglesYou know that one pair of scratched-up goggles you have with the knotted-together strap? Yeah, you may want to leave those at the bottom of your gym bag. The proper goggles can really make or break your swim, so make sure you have a nice pair that won't leak, fog, or fall off. High performance goggles from brands like Aqua Sphere and TYR offer features like smoked lenses (better for swimming in the sun), anti-fog coating, and a streamlined fit.