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.
Oakley Radarlock Sunglasses
Sunglasses are less an option than a necessity for most triathlons, to keep the wind out of your eyes on the ride and block the sun on the run. We're sure some folks have raced with Wayfarers and similarly ungainly shades bouncing on their head, but a pair with multiple lens options (for cloudy or lower light days) that are insanely light (since you'll be wearing them for two thirds of the race) are a sensible upgrade.
Oakley's Radarlock weigh less than 30 grams (about an ounce), and have the best lens swapping system we've seen: Fold back the left arm and flip the temple hinge to swap out any of the the Radarlock's eight lenses. The field of vision is excellent and the arms fit snugly without clamping, so they feel comfortable – even on hour six. [$220; oakley.com]