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Newbie Triathlete Advice: Splurging & Scrimping on Triathlon Gear

When you start triathlon — there’s SO MUCH to acquire – especially if, like me, you weren’t much of a swimmer, runner OR cyclist beforehand.

With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and Christmas right around the corner, plus an influx of new 2017 products from triathlon companies, there’s no better time to talk shop(ping) when it comes to multisport. And, now that I’m 5+ years into this triathlon experiment, it’s time for me to upgrade some of my “entry level” equipment and invest in some higher-end gear now that I know this hobby isn’t going anywhere.

So let’s dive in to some suggestions for newbies! I would suggest that you scrimp on:

  • Entry level road bike — or use a hybrid you have lying around before investing a few thousand in a nice bike. Definitely do not buy a triathlon bike until you’re sure you are in this thing long-term.
  • Bike trainer — some people hate using them, others love it, so grab one used on Craigslist or buy a basic model for year one.
  • Triathlon shoes — no need to worry about getting aero or tri-specific cycling shoes and the fanciest clips – I would suggest basic cycling shoes with SPD clips so that you can always use them for spin class down the road.
  • TrainingPeaks — stick to the basic free account unless you have a very specific reason for needing the paid version!
  • Swim toys — find out what your pool stocks before spending extra cash on kickboards and pull buoys.

In contrast, I definitely think it’s worth it to splurge on:

  • A trainer tire — you don’t need to buy an expensive one — just use last year’s tire so you don’t trash a nice one.
  • Running shoes — buying last year’s model on Amazon is not going to cut it if you haven’t been fit by an expert. Support your local running store – try on a bunch of pairs, and then purchase your set there.
  • Goggles — cheap ones that don’t fit are just going to make swimming less enjoyable. I recommend Aquasphere, and I know Rokas are extremely possible.
  • A nice watch — as soon as you know you’re in this sport longer-term, do yourself a favor and get a nice Garmin. You might be able to get a deal on a secondhand watch from someone who is buying the brand new version!

Lastly, here’s what I would avoid at all costs:

  • Ridiculous gimmicks like buckets to bring into transition and sit on to adjust your shoes. Other athletes hate that, many races don’t allow it, and you might as well just sit on the ground if you can’t balance while changing shoes.
  • Wetsuits — Just rent them for a while until you figure out what you like (long sleeve vs. sleeveless), what brand fits you best, etc.

Looking for good shopping options? Be sure to check this blog for Black Friday/Cyber Monday triathlon deals, Online Swap Meet Facebook Group (for triathlon stuff only), and your local tri club forums!


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