Overwhelmed at the though of gear and gadgets needed for tri? Today, in the first part of our series, we’ll explore the equipment you actually need for your first triathlon. In the next part of the series, we’ll explore extra equipment that supports your training as you continue to train and race. Then in the third part of the series, we’ll talk about gadgets and metrics. 


One time I volunteered at a local triathlon on a rescue kayak. My job was to spot anyone who looked like they were in trouble in the water. After the pack took off I saw a guy in the rear swimming Tarzan style, sans goggles. “What happened to your googles” I asked, thinking he had taken a wayward elbow to the head. “We need GOOGLES for this thing?!!” he asked incredulously. Then he went on to complete the swim, and I assume, the rest of the triathlon, without any issues at all.

Triathlon is an expensive sport with many exciting toys and gadgets to add to the arsenal. But you can also do your first triathlon on a shoestring budget. Don’t believe me? Let’s talk about what you Really need to get going.

Swim Equipment

When we do a Triathlon 101 session and get to the part about swim equipment, I usually start out by saying “you have to wear- something.” Ultimately, you will want to wear something tight fitting that doesn’t cause drag. For guys, that means jammers, and for the ladies that means a high necked one piece.

Goggles. You want them.

You should also purchase some goggles.  To find the best pair of goggles take the goggles out of the package at the store. Stick them to your face, right in the store. If they stick for a few seconds before coming off, then they’re likely to also have a good seal in the water.  I would recommend going to a store where they expect you to do this, such as Podium (where you can also find all the other equipment, by the way). Finally, if you have long hair, you need a swim cap.  Trust me on this one. Unless you plan to shave your head post swim, you need a cap.

Any equipment other than that is up to you!

A buoy is nice to have for open water swim safety.



Bike Equipment

Ahh, the bike. The bike is the biggest barrier to entry. Not only is it a massive outlay of cash for a sport you may or may take to, it’s tough to know which kind of bike will best suit you. If you’re ready to make a purchase, I have some tips. Here are 5 things I wish I had known before I bought my first bike.

But, and this is a huge but, I would actually advise you to hold off before jumping into a big purchase. Why? Well for newbies coming into the sport, what you know when you walk in the door of Energy Lab for your first training ride is light years away from what you will know after a few months of training. In fact, we advise for your first sprint tri, train with us at the lab, train at your local spin class and borrow a bike or use the old cruiser you have laying in the basement.

You can get a fancy bike later. For your first tri, you just need a bike, period.

After you tackle that milestone you will have a much better idea of what kind of bike will suit you best. Don’t do as I did and buy all the wrong bikes while lacking information.

So back to what we need. You need something to ride for the race and you need a helmet. Here’s a handy guide to know whether you should replace your helmet or whether the current one will do. You could also do with a pair of tri shorts, which are made of quick drying material you can wear throughout all legs of the triathlon. Finally, you need a water bottle (and a cage on your bike) so you can stay hydrated through training and racing.

Helmets are mandatory before, during, and after the race.

Run Equipment

That brings us to the run. One place in which I would invest is a good pair of running shoes. That doesn’t necessarily mean the shoes that your friend recommends but the shoes that fit your gain and your unique foot shape. In order to determine this, it’s best to go to a specialty running store such as Big Peach or Roadrunner Sports. The experts there can quickly evaluate your foot strike and recommend a shoe that’s less likely to cause injury.

After selecting an appropriate pair of shoes, a ‘nice to have’ would be some clothes to train in that are wicking, especially during a hot Atlanta summer. With the popularity of Athleisure, you may already possess these items in your closet, or you can pick them up just about anywhere.

Cowbells are optional equipment. However, they can help save your voice when you’re cheering for hours on end.

That’s it! You now own everything you need to tackle your very first triathlon. Notice that we didn’t mention Garmins, aero wheels, swimming watches, or buckets. We’ll tackle those in our next installment.