Spring Clean Your Closet (And Soul) By Upcycling

Four great ways to extend the life of your tri gear, and maybe even make someone else’s life better at the same time.

Photo: Getty Images

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No matter whether you’re a podium finisher or back-of-the-pack’er, everyone in triathlon is a quest to better themselves and reach new personal heights. You can’t reach these goals without dedication, sweat, and elbow grease—or without the right type of gear.

As our ambitions change each year, triathletes are notorious for buying the latest and greatest in sports and endurance technology. Whether it’s tossing aside rim brakes for disc brakes, old wetsuits in favor of new ones with more buoyancy, or ditching past racing flats for cushy carbon-plated ones, it’s tough to find a triathlete without a closet full of gear.

With spring in full swing and the racing season already here for some, now is the perfect time to finally sort through the piles of gadgets and tri products you have stuffed away. But before you take old gear to the dumpster, consider the environmental impact of sending your swim, bike, run products to a landfill. In fact, in 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) noted that 20,280 tons of durable goods—which include sporting equipment—went straight to a landfill. That’s over 1,000 dumptrucks worth of junk, or just about enough dumptrucks full of our durable goods to line an entire half marathon course!

Dr. Sarah-Jeanne Royer is an oceanographer and scientist who studies the impact of plastics on the ocean and our waterways. In her work, she discovered that plastics left exposed to sunlight—like those sitting in a landfill or the ocean—emit more greenhouse gases than airlines do in a year.

“The phrase used to be ‘reduce, reuse, recycle,’” said Dr. Royer. “But now we really need to start thinking about ‘refuse’—refusing to add more single-use plastics to our life and refusing to contribute more to landfills by mindlessly throwing things away.”

Instead of making the trash the main destination for your spring cleaning, for a little extra effort you can make a big, positive impact on the environment.

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One of the easiest ways to feel good about yourself while helping others is to donate your gently used triathlon equipment.

Items such as wetsuits, goggles, unused tires and tubes, gently used bike shoes and cleats, bottle cages, and more are in high demand, especially for new triathletes.

As triathlon spreads its wings to include college clubs and varsity tri teams, consider reaching out to a local university to see if their triathlon club will accept donations. Scan this list from USA Triathlon to help. Think about how much you spend on triathlon now and then try to imagine a college student affording that. It’s not an easy task. Donating to a collegiate level crew is a great way to both help the sport grow while offloading old gear.

Local triathlon clubs also often keep a small amount of equipment on-hand to encourage newcomers to engage with the sport. Reaching out to your nearest cohort of swim, bike, run fanatics is sure to yield an opportunity to hand off everything from old bike computers to last season’s sunnies. Check out USA Triathlon’s club list resource and expect to not only make a new triathlete’s transition a little smoother, but you might make some new friends in the process.


Swimming, biking, and running are, when put together, very expensive. Throw in travel and accommodations at a race, and you’re easily spending over a grand just to toe the start line.

Many of us may not realize that we have enough tri accessories to help fund a significant chunk of our next endurance adventure.

Things like bike components (chainrings, brackets, stems, etc.), saddles, gently used wetsuits, like-new helmets, and power meters can fetch in the high hundreds of dollars when posted in the right places.

Facebook groups like Tri ‘N Sell It, Online Swap Meet for Cycling and Triathlon, Garmin Trading Post, and Tri Girls Got Gear have risen in popularity over the past decade and have become the prime place for triathletes to haggle over any number of triathlon paraphernalia.

Of course, Craigslist and eBay are more traditional options that can still net you a pretty penny for what was once collecting dust in the garage.

Seller Tips

When pricing used equipment, be realistic. It’s unlikely someone will pay near list price for something that’s been sweated on or even ridden for anything more than ~50 miles. It’s a good idea to start at 75% of the original price and be willing to adjust downward from there.

Remember: The goal is to make some money getting rid of your stuff and to see it go somewhere it will enjoy a second life—not to make top-dollar and hold out for the perfect buyer.

RELATED – Hotter, Harder, And More Expensive: Why Triathletes Should Care About Climate Change


Although it may not be the first thing that comes to mind, there are tons of ways to repurpose, or upcycle, the materials taking up shelf space in the pain cave.

Upcycling is one of the top ways to reduce your environmental impact. For example, reusing even one old shirt in a new way (say, as a rag to clean off your bike) can save 700 gallons of water. For every pound of clothing not sent to a landfill, you could save 3-4 pounds of CO2 from being released.

Put on your creative thinking cap, and take a look at what you have lying around that could get a second chance serving a different purpose.

A wetsuit with a hole in the upper body could be cut in half and serve as floaty shorts (yes, those same floaty shorts that cost almost $100). Old bike tubes and swim caps can be tied in ways that allow them to act as bands for swimming. Nasty water bottles can be used as storage containers for nutrition or CO2 cartridges. Former race-day-only cycling shoes can be outfitted with new cleats to serve as bike commuting clip-ins.

The possibilities are endless when you think outside the box.

RELATED – Wetsuit Repair: The Complete DIY Guide


If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But if it is broke, definitely attempt to fix it before tossing it away.

Triathlon is not a gentle sport. From riding in all weather to running on ruddy trails or messy sidewalks, our gear takes the brunt of the beating.

But a small hole, snag, or imperfection does not have to be the end of a life of a trusted triathlon training tool. Learning how to complete basic repair on swim, bike, and run gear can save you money and greatly extend the longevity of what propels your training.

For ripped or snagged nylon and spandex kits, look into nylon-specific iron-on patches. These patches are generally under five dollars and only require a hot iron in order to be applied (GEAR AID Tenacious Tape Repair Patches are just one example at $3 each). Sure, the kit may not look as jazzy with a patch on it, but now you’ve taken a kit from hovering over the bin back to being a trusted piece of apparel for training days. And there’s something to be said for that battle-hardened look.

The same goes for chamois that has seen better days. Instead of tossing out the entire pair of shorts, you can replace the chamois or padding thanks to innovations from companies like AeroTechDesigns. You can also purchase a replacement chamois and for around $20 per hour, have a seamstress stitch in the new padding. Voila! Like-new shorts with brand new comfort.

Goggles that are permanently grimy can be cleaned with a bit of care, anti-fog scrub, and maybe even some vinegar.

A squeaky bike does not always mean you need to spend a budget-busting amount at the mechanic, either. You can often self-diagnose whether the brakes or chain are causing the issue and make some easy adjustments at home.

Discard If You Have To, But Do It Right

For some gear, the end is nigh. Running shoes with large chunks of foam missing from the soles are difficult to repair (but can be donated to Soles4Souls). Helmets that have cracks or have been in a crash should also be discarded in accordance with local recycling and trash laws—same goes for bike frames. Used bike chains should also be disposed of in conjunction with how your town handles metal waste.

Watches, smart computers, and heart rate monitors require a bit more care to dispose, but it can be done. Best Buy, for example, offers free electronics recycling—just stop by and drop off. Many major metropolitan areas also offer free or discount electronics recycling programs. For example, residents of Denver can recycle electronics by applying for an “e-coupon” at denvergov.org. If you aren’t able to find a local way to safely dispose of electronics, many brands can help—Garmin even has a dedicated “sustainability line” that can be reached at sustainability@garmin.com.

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