Save Money, Prioritize Your Tri Gear Purchases
Our comprehensive guide to help build out your triathlon quiver: Just like tri training, first lay your base, then learn how to (wisely) move up the gear food chain as you grow your collection.
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It doesn’t make sense for a first-year triathlete doing local sprint events for fun to buy a $1,500 carbon disc wheel. It also doesn’t make sense for you to wait until you’ve raced for five years to get a pair of your first aerobars. There are pieces of gear that are a priority and there are some that you can wait on. The trick is knowing what to buy, and when.
With our handy guide, we’ve taken decades of tri gear experience and distilled it into cascading “tiers” to help prioritize your purchases—save money when you can and spend it when you need to.
As you go further down the list, the dollars spent per time saved/training efficacy ratio gets lower. So start at Tier 5, see what you have, and work down the list from there. Also, bear in mind that gear isn’t always about raw speed, sometimes comfort, ease-of-use, and organization can all be worth their weights in gold.
Our beginner guide assumes you have the basics to complete a triathlon and train safely: goggles, cap, swimsuit, road/hybrid/mountain bike, helmet, bike shoes and clothing, running shoes and clothing, sunglasses, and necessary nutrition.
Tier 5 (Get this upgrade first)
Faster with a more powerful and comfortable position when adjusted properly; great for road bikes.
We Recommend: Profile Legacy II | $90 (though often on sale)
Why? They’re simple, inexpensive, and adjustable.
The best way to get increased power, a better fit, and prevent injury; requires compatible cycling shoes.
We Recommend: Wahoo Speedplay Comp | $150
Why? Great amounts of float (saves your knees) and double-sided entry
Go from start to finish without changing; a thin pad prevents butt soreness and chafing.
We Recommend: Pearl Izumi Select Pursuit Tri Short | $65
Why? Longer inseam, reflective details, and quick drying
Triathlon is all about chafing (and preventing it). Trust us.
We Recommend: Body Glide Anti-Chafe Balm | $9/.8oz.
Why? Easy-to-use applicator and non-slimy formula
Easily put on your required number on the bike or run.
We Recommend: DeSoto Race Belt 2 | $20
Why? Better than putting pinholes in your clothing, this novel belt clips race numbers easily
Dry stuff won’t get wet; all your gear stays organized.
We Recommend: BlueSeventy Transition Bag | $100
Why? Top loading for easy packing, plus a large wet compartment.
Warmer? Yes. But also faster—floaty neoprene helps sinking bodies improve buoyancy, body position, and become more hydrodynamic.
We Recommend: Synergy Volution | $220
Why? High-end bells and whistles on a budget price
Helps get out 90% of the knots you can treat at home.
We Recommend: Rollga Foam Roller | $40
Why? Ridges and multiple densities make for a versatile recovery tool
Elastics or otherwise, get your running shoes on in a flash.
We Recommend: Orca Speed Laces | $8
Why? Flat laces lock faster and create fewer hotspots
More aerodynamic for sure, but also more comfortable for long rides; unseen tri-geometry puts you in a more powerful position, ready to run off the bike.
We Recommend: A2 Bikes SP 1.1 | $2,900
Why? One of the best bang-for-your-buck carbon tri bikes
Heart Rate Monitor
Know how hard to go for workouts and racing, but also when to back off.
We Recommend: Coros Pace 2 | $200
Why? GPS, tracking swim/bike/run/tri, heart rate, and (much) more for way less than other brands
Indoor Cycling Trainer
Even if you don’t need to train indoors, mount your existing bike on one for more controlled workouts.
We Recommend: Tacx Boost | $300
Why? This basic wheel-on model controls resistance and is relatively quiet
GPS Bike Computer
Know speed, distance, and more without needing external sensors; get cadence for even more effective training and racing info.
We Recommend: Lezyne Macro Plus GPS | $100
Why? It’s compact and expandable.
Lightweight Trainers/Race Shoes
Use these on race day or on shorter training days for a speed boost in terms of weight and proprioception.
We Recommend: Atreyu Artist | $100
Why? Literally half the price of today’s “supershoes” and just as good (if not better) than anything else out there
Race-day time savings (when worn properly) are great compared to dollars spent.
We Recommend: Giro Aerohead MIPS | $300
Why? It’s super fast, comes with a removable visor, and is vented.
Our advanced guide assumes you have (most of) the gear in the beginner section and are looking to get more data, go faster, and be more comfortable—beyond the basics.
Gives you distance, mile pace, wrist-based heart rate, and way more.
We Recommend: Polar Vantage M2 | $300
Why? Relatively inexpensive with tons of data-driven features and next-level physiological functions.
Tri Cycling Shoes
Have water drainage, outward-opening straps, heel tabs, and more neat multisport features.
We Recommend: Fizik Transiro Powerstrap R4| $130
Why? Great value, good fit, all the tri features you’d need
Aero Water Bottle
Make refilling easier and more aero-efficient.
We Recommend: Profile Design HSF/Aero HC 800+ Hydration System | $110
Why? Super aerodynamic, easy to refill (and use), and even provides a spot for your cycling computer
Be faster, more efficient, more comfortable, and less likely to get injured. Just do it.
We Recommend: Looking at our “Best Bike Fitters In The U.S.” piece to find one near you
Why? No matter what anyone says, a good bike fitter is worth more than even the most expensive bike out there
Built for the aero position, keeps your sensitive parts intact and allows more power with less moving around.
We Recommend: ISM PN4.1 | $230
Why? The split rail relieves pressure in sensitive areas and the shortened nose helps the aero position
Mid- to High-End Wetsuit
Thinner neoprene means less restriction and more flexibility in the shoulders.
We Recommend: Quintana Roo HydroFive2 | $480
Why? Comes at a good price, with great flexibility and floatation.
Deep-Section Carbon Wheels
Wheels deeper than 30 mm are faster in most conditions; stay below 55 mm for heavy crosswinds. Carbon helps with lightness and speed, and comfort on rough roads.
We Recommend: Hunt 7387 Aerodynamicist Wheelset | $1,360
Why? A fantastic deal on a very fast, well-rounded wheel set
Cycling Power Meter
Removes subjective forces like physiological effects, weather conditions, terrain, and more; also helps with race pacing.
We Recommend: 4iiii Precision 3 | $334
Why? Compatible with all pedals, easy installation, basically zero weight penalty
Train better indoors with built-in power (see above). Most have virtual training environment compatibility (like Zwift), and much more.
We Recommend: Zwift HUB | $500
Why? Hands-down the least expensive wheel-off option, sturdy, ready to go out of the box, easy to use
Cutting-edge tech may make you faster and claims to make you more efficient.
We Recommend: Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT% 2 | $275
Why? Works well for a wide range of running styles
Running Power Meter
Essential for anyone who wants to do effective workouts on trails or mete out their effort on race day.
We Recommend: Stryd Next Gen | $250
Why? By far the most accurate running power meter, tons of metrics, easy attachment to shoe and watch compatibility
Best on flat or rolling courses with low-to-moderate wind; get tubeless ready for comfort, and prepare for a huge boost at speeds above 20 mph.
We Recommend: Ron5 | $650
Why? A great value for what’s usually an expensive upgrade
This new tech makes a huge difference in how you train by giving real-time data as you swim.
We Recommend: Form Goggles | $250
Why? One of the first (and best), works in pool and open water with compatible smartwatch
Ceramic Bearing Bits
Think: bottom bracket, wheel hubs, and derailleur pulleys. You’ll get some free watts, and they’ll last longer (assuming you take care of them).
We Recommend: CeramicSpeed Bottom Bracket | Starting at $380
Why? Industry-standard design and super well-made.