For Beginners: Felt B14 $2,000, Feltbicycles.com
Yes, you can get onto a carbon ride for two thousand dollars—and a nice one at that. This totally capable bike comes stocked with Ultegra derailleurs, a hyper-adjustable fit set-up, and a workhorse of a wheelset. To Upgrade: Quintana Roo PRThree $3,700, Quintanarootri.com
The best thing about $10,000 bikes is that, if you’re patient enough, the technology eventually trickles down. That’s the case with the PRthree, which shares many of the aero frame features with its more expensive brethren: QR’s “Boat Tail Airfoil” tech helps keep the bike stable, and carbon hoops help shave seconds. For Beginners: Bell Formula MIPS-Equipped $85, Bellhelmets.com
You may not have the fastest helmet on course with this lid, but it’s a safe one: MIPS is an added later of technology that some research has shown may give superior protection in certain types of impacts. Plus, the helmet is relatively light, has good ventilation, and most importantly: It comes in a half-dozen fun colors. To Upgrade: POC Ventral Helmet $290, Pocsports.com
For years, helmet manufacturers focused on how to move air efficiently around a helmet. But POC engineers wanted to tackle a different challenge: moving air through the helmet. The result is an aero lid with serious ventilation. Say goodbye to eyeball-clouding sweat. For Beginners: ROKA Maverick Comp $350, Roka.com
Shoulders that give maximum reach with every stroke and technology that stabilizes your body in the water make this an amazing value for entry-level athletes. Special “quick release ankle panels” let you strip in a flash. To Upgrade: Orca 3.8 $680, Orca.com
Made for those of us who somehow missed out on the mermaid/merman gene, this exceptionally buoyant suit will give you the most (legal) lift you can get, sans water wings. The sleek design uses a variety of neoprene densities to put buoyancy exactly where you need it. For Beginners: Northwave Tri-Sonic $130, Northwave.com
With a carbon sole, uppers that dry quickly, and a non-slip pad on the heel to keep you from eating pavement at the mount/dismount line, this is a well-designed tri shoe for not a lot of cash. Five vents keep airflow up and foot stank down. To Upgrade: Scott Tri Carbon Shoe $250, Scott-sports.com
Velcro is great—if you’re in kindergarten. The BOA ratchet is a much more sophisticated option, which cinches down with just a single twist. Rigid carbon soles and adjustable arch support work to keep feet comfortable, even during five-hour rides.
Starter stuff and upgrades so good, they’ll stick with you no matter how long (or far) you tri.