However, you don't need a carbon fiber triathlon bike with a deep wheelset and aero helmet to enjoy the triathlon experience. There's no denying these products can make you faster, but there's no need to fork out handfuls of cash to fully immerse yourself in the triathlon scene either.
From cost-cutting training ideas to finding inexpensive triathlon gear, here are our tips and tricks for doing a triathlon on a serious budget.
Keep hydration and calories simple.1 of 7
While it may not seem very expensive for an individual serving, performance gels, tablets, powders and bars can really add up over time. Unless you're logging serious miles, there's no need to bring gels and bars with you on a bike ride or run if you've properly fueled beforehand. If you're feeling fatigued, a banana or pack of gummy candies can get you through a workout at a fraction of the cost.
Find a Bike.2 of 7
Before you start training for your first triathlon, set some goals for your race. If you're trying to simply finish the race, many people opt to use an entry-level hybrid/mountain bike that's been in their garage for decades. Simply lube up the chain, check that the tires are still good, make sure the brakes work and you're ready to roll.
If you're looking to be a little more competitive, your best bet is to pick up a used road bike. We have a complete guide on what to look for, here. Craigslist is a good starting point, as well as Facebook groups like Tri 'n Sell It.
Expect to spend between $50 and $300 for an older, used road bike appropriate for a triathlon.
Buy a new helmet.3 of 7
You'd be surprised to learn that all helmets have a shelf life. If you already have a helmet, make sure it wasn't stored in the sun and doesn't have any structural issues. It's always safer to err on the side of caution and spend the money for a new bike helmet. The United States has safety standards all helmets must meet, so no matter if you spend $25 or $350, you'll have about the same level of protection.
You can find entry-level name brand cycling helmets online for as low as $20.
Keep your swim gear simple.4 of 7
Don't get bogged down by unnecessary swim training tools—all you need to train for and execute the swim leg of a triathlon are a pair of goggles and a swimsuit. While we advise you find a triathlon suit that can be worn in the swim and on the bike and run, there's no shame in doing your first sprint triathlon swim in boardshorts or a one-piece bathing suit. Just remember, most local triathlons won't have a change tent, so whatever you have on during the swim leg, you'll have to wear for the remainder of the race. Be sure to check online for end-of-season triathlon shorts and tops (or tri suits) or for last year's models. Or, ask your local triathlon club if any of their members are willing to let you borrow one the day of the race.
Name brand goggles can be picked up at your local sporting goods store (or even Walmart or Target) for less than $10. Make sure they have silicone seals around the eyes and are tinted for outdoor swims facing the sun; you don't need to upgrade to the flashy mirrored or polarized lenses.
Don't skimp on running shoes.5 of 7
Not only are cheap running shoes not very durable, but an improper fit can cause frustrating injuries over time. If you know what brand and style you like, check for the previous year's model or for deep discounts on online marketplaces. You don't need to buy new shoes for race day—wear the pair you've been using for training.
Certain models of performance running shoes can be scored for around $40 to $80 on sale. Also, be sure to pick up a couple pairs of comfy running socks to protect your feet from chafing and blisters.
Lose the race fees.6 of 7
Even if you already have all the gear required to undertake a triathlon, you'd be surprised how much it can cost to register for a race. Name-brand races are usually well supported and provide important race-day amenities (porta potties, timing chips, beer gardens, etc.) but are more expensive than local grassroots-style triathlons that are usually held as a fundraiser for a local high school team or charity.
Register as soon as possible; most races offer a significant discount the earlier you register, with prices bumping up on certain dates leading up the race. Also, if you plan on doing multiple triathlons in a season, ditch the processing fees on ACTIVE.com by signing up for ACTIVE Advantage. Plus, get your third race free each year along with GearUp and travel discounts.