There's no denying that triathlons are a pricey pastime. Sure, technically, you only need a pair of shorts, a shirt, shoes, and a bike. But there's no question that a sleek, carbon fiber Cervelo with electronic shifting will take minutes off your time (for $8,000), a floating wetsuit will save your strength ($900), and those light-as-air sunglasses, well, those are just mandatory (you can see why gear geeks love the sport).
For your first triathlon, however, you can don't need to go down the rabbit hole with the finest in high tech equipment. "You could probably do a triathlon off everything borrowed but a pair of running shoes," says Nick Stanko, a triathlete and coach at Virginia-based Peaks Coaching Group. There's a middle ground, though, of worthy, budget-friendly equipment that will go a long way toward building confidence and helping pull in a respectable time for your first race. Here are our picks for getting started without breaking the bank.
Bontrager Aura 5 TLR
The most substantial – and, yes, expensive – upgrade for a triathloner's bike is a new set of wheels. Given the weight one puts on the front tire with aero bars, a strong set of wheels a necessity. We went all out and replaced a standard, perfectly serviceable set of seven-year-old road wheels with a pair of tubeless aerodynamic Aura 5 TLR ones ($1,200 a pair). Amazingly, at just 1.7 kg (3.7 pounds) together, the two weigh about the same as just our old rear wheel, and on the road, the wide aerodynamic rim made its presence known thanks to a satisfying whir. The tubeless aspect of the tires were an added bonus – without tubes, you can dial back the air pressure a good 20 or 30 PSI and get better ground feel, which is great for the tight turns of a course. [$1,200; bontrager.com]