Start to Finish: Triathlon on $600

A short breakdown of what gear our guinea pig used.

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For the cover of our Jan/Feb magazine issue, we gave one total newbie $600 and six weeks to get from nothing to start line. To see a full breakdown of how it went and what tips he has for others looking to emulate the tri spirit, check out: We Gave A Total Newbie $600 (And Six Weeks) For His First Triathlon

Here’s a basic breakdown of what he was able to get—and how—with his $600, savvy online shopping, and a little elbow grease. Given more time, borrowing gear from others, or relying on the kindness of strangers, you could drive that number even lower. (Or help a beginner get started for much less.)

RELATED: Why is Triathlon So Expensive?

Meet our budget triathlete

Name: Nicholas F.

Age: 33

Location: Long Beach, CA

How it went: “The gear held up great during the race, it was super fun! It was great passing people on my $200 bike. I’d definitely do it again.”

The Gear

Bike: Modified Trek 1000 with flat bars – $180 (used)

  • Purchased from: Play It Again Sports used sports equipment store
  • You could get it cheaper from: A garage sale

Wetsuit: XTERRA Volt Fullsuit – $120 (on sale)

  • Purchased from: XTERRA website
  • You could get it cheaper from: Online forums or tri club message boards; warm water swim? Go without!

Race Entry: Alpha Win – $112

  • Purchased from: Race website
  • Get it cheaper: Sign up extra early, contact race organizers to see if they offer a “volunteer-one, race-one” option, race a local smaller tri; also Outside+ members get $30 off their registration for any race on

Running Shoes: Saucony Endorphin Shift – $80 (on sale)

  • Purchased
  • Get it cheaper: Look for old versions of shoes or discontinued models; do not get used running shoes, as they’re difficult to assess condition

Tri Suit: Runderwear RunBreeze – $40 (used)

  • Purchased from: eBay
  • Get it cheaper: Tough to do, but you may be able to find someone’s old suit they upgraded from; “I did use the ‘heavy soiled’ setting on the washing machine more than once.”

Helmet: Coros Omni – $30 (used)

  • Purchased from: Craigslist
  • Note: Buying a used helmet is not recommended as you cannot properly assess their condition and effectiveness—eBay forbids selling used helmets for this reason—but our tester rolled the dice anyway. We wouldn’t recommend.

USAT: One-Day Membership – $15

  • Purchased from: USA Triathlon
  • Get it cheaper: If you’re planning on racing more than three USAT-sanctioned triathlons in a year, you can get an annual license for $50, that spreads out the savings to less than $15 per event. Shameless plug: Your USAT annual license also gets you a free Triathlete subscription and member access!

Goggles: TYR Nest Pro Performance – $16 (on sale)

  • Purchased
  • Get it cheaper: Look for old versions or discontinued models, potentially buy a used pair in good condition, but be sure to clean well

Sunglasses: Unbranded – $5

  • Purchased from: Street vendor (knock-offs)
  • Nicholas said: “I got a bargain on this one: It was a two-for-one, but I don’t think they’re genuine.”

Anti-Chafe Balm Body Glide – $10

  • Purchased from:
  • Get it cheaper: You can go without, but we wouldn’t recommend it

Training Plan: The Triathlete Guide to Sprint and Olympic Triathlon Racing – $0

  • Borrowed from: Local library
  • Get it cheaper: You can’t.

Grand Total: $608

For a full report and more of our budget tester’s tips on how to maximize your dollar and have fun while doing it, check out: We Gave A Total Newbie $600 (And Six Weeks) For His First Triathlon