The only Equipment you Really Need for your First Triathlon

The only Equipment you Really Need for your First Triathlon

There is no doubt that triathlon is a fast growing sport. From professional athletes like Alan Webb (American record holder for the mile) making his triathlon debut in 2014 to Hines Ward (former NFL wide receiver) competing in the Ironman World Championship in 2013 – many athletes are looking to triathlon as they continue their athletic endeavors.

Whether it’s to increase the intensity of your fitness regime or decrease your overall run load due to injury (or boredom!), triathlon is a great way to add variety to your workouts. You know the aspects of triathlon, now it’s time to talk about the basic equipment you’ll need to get started.


We swam as kids, advancing our way up from a tadpole to a shark – but most likely, haven’t swum much as adults. Although it can be intimidating to get start swimming again, thankfully, the equipment you’ll need is pretty straight forward.

  • Swim Suit: If you don’t own a suit, or the one you own is a little worn any basic suit will do the trick.
  • Goggles: You may want to purchase two pairs, one clear (for indoors) and one with a tint (for outdoor swimming). If you only go with one pair, buy the pair with a slight tint.
  • Swim Cap: You’ll always wear a cap during a race – so it’s best to get used to wearing one in training too.


The equipment you’ll need to get started on the bike is pretty basic, but this is where you’ll spend a little more money than the other two sports. If you become hooked, you can end up throwing down a huge chunk of change. I’ve added to my bike equipment each year and after 10 years in the sport – my bike is now worth more than my first (and second) cars were! But, we’ll stick to the basics for now.

  • Bike: A basic road, mountain or hybrid bike will work for your first triathlon. Whether you borrow, buy used or buy new – make sure you find it’s the proper fit for your size. If it’s borrowed or used, a tune-up at the local bike shop is a must.
  • Helmet: Buy from a bike shop (as opposed to a big box store); they’ll carry the brands that are safety certified. And, never, ever ride without a helmet. Ever.
  • Pump: The key to avoiding flats is ensuring your tires are properly inflated, which mean pumping before each ride – so it goes without saying you’ll want your own pump.
  • Bike Shorts: Ride wearing shorts with padding – you’ll thank me. Take a look at triathlon shorts too, which have just a little less padding so you can run in them too!
  • Bike Computer (optional): A basic bike computer will display time and distance traveled, if it’s got cadence monitoring, even better.


You’ve likely already accumulated the equipment you need for the run, but there may be a few things you may want to consider specifically for triathlon.

  • Shoes: The shoes you currently run in will do the job. I like to put elastic laces (like Yankz) in my shoes to skip the shoe tying on race day. Nothing new on race day, so if you want to use elastic laces, use them during training.
  • Race Belt: During the race, you can pin your number to your shirt, or you can choose to throw on a race belt after you hop off the bike.

You may not have the professional athlete budget of Alan Webb or Hines Ward – but you can get started in the sport of triathlon for little more than you might spend on a new pair of shoes (assuming you borrow that bike!).

What questions do you have about completing your first triathlon? Leave them in the comments below.


Jennifer has been running for over 15 years. While she loves to run – her true passion is triathlon. She'll be racing with TEAM SOAS as a brand ambassador during the 2014 triathlon season.

Jennifer likes to swim, bike and run in the city of Minneapolis where she lives with her husband and dog, Ruby. Her favorite running (and swimming) route is around Lake Nokomis, where you'll often spot her with her four-legged running partner.

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  • Katie Cummings

    I’m “tri”ing my first triathlon this summer and have already started pool work, but am super nervous for deciding what bike to get. I have a mountain bike which is fine, but I’d like to get a road or tri bike, just can’t commit to either one yet!

    • frenat

      I’m sure Jennifer would be more than happy to chat with you about bikes!

    • Jennifer

      That’s great you’re tackling your first triathlon – way to go!! You’re right, the mountain bike will suffice. However if you want to get that new bike – you may want to check out a road bike for your first investment. You can always add ‘triathlon-like’ equipment (like aerobars) as you go. That way, you’ll have a bit more versatile bike. You can take the road bike out for tooling around as well as on group rides (riding a tri bike on group rides can be really difficult due to the position of the shifters and your upper body as you ride – you’ll most likely be riding upright anyways!). I’m happy to answer any questions – or check out the folks at GearWest – they specialize in helping people get into bikes – and are experts in answering road vs tri questions!

      • Katie Cummings

        I’ve heard great things about Gear West, I’m planning on going down there next weekend. The first bike shop I talked to had me sold on a road bike, the second shop I checked out sold me on a tri bike, hopefully I can get a stronger feeling soon as I would like to purchase and get comfortable on a trainer soon!

        • Jennifer

          It certainly can be confusing deciding on a bike! The folks at GW will most likely spend a few minutes asking you how you might use it, how many races/year you do, etc. to help you make the best decision. The great news is that they’re pretty unbiased on road vs. tri and have a great selection of both (they often have complete package deals including some variation of; bike, pedals, shoes, helmet, wetsuit – should you want to go that route) – so you’ll be in good hands. If you’re serious about buying that day – plan to spend some time and bring a pair of bike shorts so you can test out a few bikes on the trainer and possibly get fitted that day. Good luck and enjoy the new ride!!