Fancy bikes, aero helmets, high-end wetsuits…Many believe (and often state) that triathlon is a very expensive sport. But when you break it down, what we NEED versus what we WANT are two different things! To compete in triathlon, there are actually not many required items in order to race.
The list of essential items NEEDED for a triathlon is short:
Swim cap (Issued by the Race Director)
Timing chip (Issued by the Race Director)
Bike – I have seen everything from beach cruisers to $20,000 tri bikes at races! To get started in triathlon, there is no need to purchase a high-end bike. Any functioning bike will do until you know that you will continue to race in the sport.
Helmet – A helmet is required by any event sanctioned by USA Triathlon.
Shoes – Guess what folks, you can wear your running shoes on the bike. I go back to the bike portion…I have seen people on beach cruisers, and no, they did not have clip-in pedals. 😊
Race bib (Issued by the Race Director) – Usually required only on the run portion.
Clothing – Yes, you need to have clothing, but it does not need to be a high-end tri suit. You can race in a bathing suit and t-shirt if you want.
These are the only items actually needed for a triathlon. Now we can add things on that we might WANT. These are several other items which are recommended when starting off in the triathlon world:
Goggles – Most people think of this as a need, but they are not actually required. That said, I would not want to attempt a race without them. I bring two pairs of goggles to the race start in case something goes wrong with my primary set. If my primary set works, I then hand my back-ups to a member of the race staff in case someone behind me has a goggle malfunction.
Tri suit – As stated above, you can race in a bathing suit (or shorts) and a t-shirt, but a tri suit decreases the need to change during transition. It acts like a bathing suit for the swim, but has some padding for the bum for added comfort during the bike.
Race belt – Having a race belt prevents you from having to take time to secure your race bib to your clothing while racing. A race belt can be easily fastened while running out of transition.
Sunglasses – Sunglasses are not required, but highly recommended on both the bike and the run. On the bike sunglasses protect the eyes against dirt and debris kicked up off the road. Many people wear sunglasses on the run (I don’t).
You need only the basics to start out. As you do more and more triathlons, you can begin adding accessories and equipment to your gear arsenal. Aero helmets, power meters, clip-in pedals, elastic shoelaces, hydration systems… these can all be added once you have fallen in love with the sport!