Buy Directly from a Manufacturer1 of 10
Buying gear directly from a brand offers many advantages but also a few drawbacks. When buying directly, you'll have the peace of mind that comes with buying from a reliable source with helpful sales and customer service departments. Brands will be eager to help you out at every step of the purchasing process, such as parts compatibility or fit and sizing, and will have the most accurate information about a product's availability.
Photo/Glory Cycles, Flickr
Sign Up for Email Alerts2 of 10
How can you keep up with all the online stores—and sales—which serve the triathlon community? Sign up for email alerts, especially in the weeks before big holidays—a time when many brands and online retailers like SwimOutlet, RoadRunner Sports, LeftLaneSports and ACTIVE Advantage offer big sales. If you have a few favorite swim-bike-run brands, sign up for their email newsletters, too.
Online Marketplaces for the Small Stuff3 of 10
When shopping for non-durable cycling items, such as tires, tubes and drivetrain parts, check out verifiable overseas resellers like Wiggle or Chain Reaction. Often, you can save a lot when buying in bulk, which may qualify you for free shipping. Plus, many U.K. stores are aware of U.S. holidays and offer sales accordingly. Likewise, you can take advantage of sales on holidays that are not recognized in the U.S. as well.
Buy Within the Triathlon Community4 of 10
Buying gear from fellow triathletes is a great way to save a few dollars. Online forums are a great resource for new and gently-used gear. Facebook groups like Tri 'n Sell It and SteveBay are great for interacting directly with the seller who is accountable via their profile.
Look out for new, take-off items—like when you get a new bike but sell the wheels because you already have a set—that may still be covered under a manufacturer's warranty. Acronyms like NIB (new in box), NOS (new old stock), MIB (mint in box) and NRFB (never removed from box) are flags for easily spotting never-used gear.
Shopping Online for Swim Gear5 of 10
One of the hardest swim gear items to buy online is a wetsuit that fits correctly. You can research how a particular wetsuit might fit your body type by scanning online forums, and read the comments on marketplace postings. If you've consulted the respective brands' sizing charts but are still not sure what size you need, contact the brand and ask for help.
Verify a brand's return policy; you can always buy several wetsuits in various sizes and return all but the one that best fits you.
Photo/Phil Roeder, Wikimedia Commons
Bikes and Cycling Gear6 of 10
The most important rule of buying a bike online or otherwise is first to get a bike fit at your local shop. This process will help determine the correct size bike. When shopping for cycling apparel, keep in mind that some European brands' products may run smaller than comparable North-American-made products. If you're shopping for cycling shoes, you'd do well to try various options at your local bike shop before buying to ensure a great fit. Them you can buy your next pair online.
Photo/Chris Scott, CreativeCommons
How to Choose Running Gear7 of 10
Much like buying a wetsuit or bike online, running shoe fit is crucial for comfort and injury prevention. If you're changing models or brands, visit your local running shop to make this purchase. Once you know your correct size for a specific shoe, you can hunt around online for the best deals for the next pair of running shoes you buy.
Pro Tip: Different models of shoe from a single brand can fit differently. If a brand re-launches or re-introduces a shoe, assume that the fit is different from previous iterations of the same models, so you'll need to try the shoe to verify your fit.
Avoid "Speedbumps" and "Potholes"8 of 10
There are many reasons to be cautious when buying online, so buyers beware. We just cannot recommend buying unbranded carbon bikes or accessories because the risks, such as unverifiable quality control or buying counterfeit cycling gear, are just too great. Be careful when buying off Craigslist, even when meeting a seller in person, as this forum is known for being rife with fraud and a method for moving stolen goods. You never really know what a previous owner could have done to the gear he or she is trying to sell.
Although a good deal is hard to pass up, it's unwise to buy from any organization that is known to be going out of business, has filed for bankruptcy protection or is liquidating inventory.
Do Your Research9 of 10
Do a quick Google search on a company if you're at all skeptical or not sure about a specific retailer. Read reviews and anecdotes of others' buying experiences. Buying from well-known online stores can also offer additional product warranties and services above and beyond what smaller, independent resellers can offer.
Photo/WhoIsJohnGalt, Wikimedia Commons