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.
Pearl Izumi Select Tri Shorts
When it comes to entering your first triathlon, you don't need to pack it all into a tiny Speedo or pull on full body armor to go swimming. Instead, a comfortable, lightly padded pair of tri shorts like the Select Tri Short from Pearl Izumi is perfect both to train and race in the water, on the bike, and running.
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For our tests, the shorts met all of our comfort requirements with light padding, a handy little pocket (for an energy gel), and quality construction that held up for more than a month of thrice-weekly laps in the pool. And, out in the open water, we wouldn't hesitate throwing them on for our next race. [$65; pearlizumi.com]