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.
Roka Maverick Pro Fullsuit
Wetsuits are more than a warm layer when it comes to distance swimming. This is a flotation device that keeps your body in prime position for a long, strong swim. And while any sort of buoyancy is going to help with stroke efficiency, the thick full-body suits can also get in the way — restricting arm motion, limiting the body roll, or just being a pain to get on and off. The latest high-end wetsuits don't do this. Companies have shed fabric wherever possible, keeping buoyancy, while improving aerodynamics, movement, and comfort. Roka's Maverick Pro, the company's top of the line wetsuits (for $800), is the perfect case.
Credit: Courtesy Roka
We tested the Roka in the Princeton 70.3 race, and during the 1.2-mile swim, the suit felt just like the performance enhancing gear it was built to be. For a freestyle stroke (and a brief backstroke as we made our way to the start line), there was no pinching, pulling, or resistance. The suit in fact encouraged good form, thanks to a buoyant strip down the front of the suit that allowed for (and, we felt, helped to exaggerate) good form. The comfort in the water helped push us to a personal best — by a whopping five minutes over our time in the pool without a suit. For the serious competitor, it's an advantage that's worth the price. [$800; rokasports.com]