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What Equipment Will I Need To Do A Triathlon?

Updated: Jul 15

Equipment is a huge part of triathlon and there are some essentials that you are going to need along with some other items that will help but are not necessary. In this article I am going to explain each item of kit you will and might need. 



We will start off with the minimalist kit - This kit is what you will NEED to do a triathlon. 


Swimwear

3 Swimmers in a pool swimming front crawl

You are going to need something to swim in, and if you are going to a triathlon without splashing out on any specific kit a swimming costume is ideal. 

You can train and race in the same kit at the pool or in open water (if it’s warm enough and you are tough!). 

When you race, you will have to cover your top half after the swim, usually with a t-shirt or cycling jersey.


Entry level swimwear comes in at around £20 / $25.50 / €23.50.


Goggles

Although not absolutely essential to do a triathlon, they are going to help you so much that they are on this minimalist list. 

Being able to see when you’re swimming is a huge deal. It will help you swim in a straight line, maintain a better technique and keep you from colliding with other swimmers and objects.


Entry level goggles come in at around £20 / $25.50 / €23.50.

Swimmer in open water with bright yellow goggles

Bike


White Cannondale bike in a field
Giant Time trial bike with Zipp wheels

This one is pretty obvious - You are going to need a bike when you get out of the water! The rules are usually pretty open to what type of bike you can use as long as it is safe - meaning roadworthy and has plugged bar ends. These will be checked before you even enter the transition area. 

2 hybrid bikes with a lake and mountain in the background

If you go to a local triathlon you will see everything from your every-day shopper to time trial bikes with disc wheels worth thousands!


New entry level road bikes come in at around £500-£800 / $640 - $1000 / €590 - €940

Used entry level road bikes can be purchased for around £200 / $250 / €235




Helmet

Triathlete getting on a bike

Triathlon rules state that you NEED a helmet. You will have to prove that it fits you and is not damaged before you enter the transition area. Helmets must meet the accreditation of your national triathlon governing body (typically it will have to meet the recommended safety standards in your country).


Entry level road helmets come in around £30 / $40 / €35



Water Bottles


2 water bottles on a bike

You are going to need to hydrate when training for and racing a triathlon. Having a water bottle on your bike means that you are not going to have to stop regularly to get some fluids. Water bottles can also be filled with electrolytes are carbohydrate mixes to keep you fuelled for longer! 


Many events will give you a water bottle for free but to get one before hand will set you back around £5 / $6.50 / €6



Shoes

You are going to want something on your feet for the bike and run leg of a triathlon. The cheapest way to get by here is to put some running shoes on after you get out of the water and wear them on the bike and the run. Although it might not be the fastest way to ride your bike, it will be cheaper than buying cycling shoes and faster than having to swap one pair for another once you get off of the bike.


A cheaper pair of running shoes will cost around £70 / $90 / €80

Runners legs and shoes



The standard equipment


Adding to the minimalist kit, here are some items that most people doing triathlon use to make their experience of training and racing more comfortable, efficient and faster.


Tri suit


Triathlete dismounted from bike.

A trisuit is a piece of kit that you can swim, bike and run in. It is fairly flexible to swim in, aerodynamic with a slight paddling on the rear for the bike and lightweight and quick wicking for the run. A trisuit will save you time in transition and will be a lot more comfortable than cycling in your swimming kit. 

Females typically will wear a sports bra underneath a trisuit which is something else to consider. 


An entry level trisuit will cost around £80 / $100 / €90


Wetsuit

3 swimmers in wetsuits before swimming

If you are doing an open water triathlon in cold water, a wetsuit is mandatory so could well go in the minimalist kit. For an open water triathlon most people will wear a wetsuit over their trisuit/swimwear if the water temperature is between 18 and 24.6 degrees, below this wetsuits are mandatory, above this wetsuits are not allowed. 


Entry level wetsuits cost around £120 / $150 / €140


Tri Belt

Triathlete running with water in the background

A tri belt is something that you attach your race number to. It can also be used to carry energy gels, bars and some of them can even carry a water bottle. With a tri belt you don’t have to wear another layer that has your race number safety pinned to it, saving you time in transition and being a lot more comfortable in hot weather when the last thing you want is another layer!


Tribelts cost as little as £5 / $6 / €6


Cycling / Triathlon Shoes with clipless pedals

Cycling shoes

Being clipped into your pedals is a scary prospect for a new cyclist but is a lot more efficient than cycling on flat pedals with running trainers. The transfer of power from your legs through the pedals is a lot greater with stiffer shoes and a smaller barrier between your foot and the pedal itself. Triathlon shoes also have a small loop on the heel so you can attach them to your bike using a system of elastic bands. Using this method you can get on your bike and moving before having to put your shoes on, saving a few seconds in transition.



Cycling shoes at the lower end cost around £50 / $60 / €60

Clipless Pedals cost around £40 / $50 / €47


Pull Buoy

Pull buoy at swimming pool

A pullbuoy is a piece of swimming kit that you can’t use during a triathlon but is an essential part of many triathlete’s training kit. Having a pull buoy between your legs will keep your legs raised in the water even when you’re not kicking. This allows you to focus on what your arms and body are doing, which will help you get through the swim quicker whilst saving your legs.


A pullbuoy costs around £10 / £13 / €12


Kick Board

Kick board at swimming pool

Similarly to a pull buoy, you can’t use this piece of swimming kit during a triathlon.

While many triathletes completely neglect their legs they are a very important part of maintaining a good position in the water and a strong balance in your stroke technique. Get a kick board and gain an edge over other triathletes!


Kickboards cost around £12 / $15 / €14


Clip on Aerobars

Cyclist with aerobars

Aerodynamics is a really big part of riding a bike fast. With clip-on aerobars you can reduce the resistance you are making on the bike, effectively slicing through the air more so you can go faster for the same effort. These take some practice getting used to but one you do you will feel the difference. These are not allowed during draft-legal events so check your event rules before you go splashing out on these!


Clip on aerobars, at the entry level cost around £30 / $38 / €35


Elastic Laces

Elastic laces on a red background

If you want a quick and comfortable way of putting your shoes on in transition, elastic laces are the way to go. Having laces that will stretch but also then rebound into place when you are running make them ideal for a triathlete. 


Elastic Laces will set you back as little as £4 / $5 / €4.50


Sunglasses

Cyclist wearing oakley sunglasses

Sunglasses are used by many people especially when cycling. Glasses will keep the sun out of your eyes but also any dust, wind and insects. Believe me, you will want a pair when you get a fly in your eye while riding down a hill!


Basic Sunglasses will cost around £25 / $32 / €30



GPS Watch

Runner with a smart watch

If you want to get the most out of your training and help you pace your racing you are going to need something that will track it all. As well as recording every swim, run and bike you do, a gps watch can be a great motivator to follow your improvements over time. A lot of the time they will track other metrics such as heart rate (although badly- I will come onto that!), sleep patterns and fatigue levels. You know when you see a triathlete by the garmin watch on their wrist!


A basic GPS watch with swim, bike and run functionality will cost around £150 / $190 / €175


Chest Based Heart Rate Monitor

Garmin run heart rate monitor

Although most sports watches nowadays have wrist based heart rate monitors, they are only accurate when worn tight to the wrist with nothing blocking the sensor from your skin. When you exercise, your movement will reduce the accuracy of the sensor along with the sweat layer that will get between your skin and the watch. 

This is where a chest based heart rate monitor comes into its own. It will give you an accurate measurement of your heart rate while exercising and you can use it both in training and racing to give you an accurate picture of how hard you are working. You can use it to gain more of an optimal training load and to help you maintain a sustainable effort in a race. It’s a piece of kit that I never leave the house without!


The cost of a basic heart rate monitor is around £30 / $38 / €35


Conclusion


Total cost of all minimum kit as new = £645 / $820 / €760 

Total Cost of all minimum + standard kit as new = £1151 / $1470 / €1350


All of these items can be purchased second hand which could half the total cost, and there are many more expensive options out there too that will usually increase comfort and efficiency. 


If you are looking to try out triathlon, there are many good people in triathlon clubs that might let you borrow something such as a tribelt. It’s always good to join your local club for extra tips and tricks to get you through your first ever triathlon. 


If you have any questions, would like training, or coaching, get in touch!


If this article has helped you start your triathlon journey, why not sign up for more training tips for FREE.




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