#TRI4ALL: Our 4 part series aiming to make triathlon more inclusive and accessible, for everyone.
£10,999 bike. £975 wetsuit. £280 trainers. £860 WATCH.
These aren’t made up numbers. They are real prices of just a fraction of the equipment “needed” for a triathlon.
Of course you don’t NEED to spend that much, but in this article we are going to talk triathlon and money.
We recently asked our Twitter followers about what they think are the biggest barriers to triathlon participation…
Cost is surely the biggest factor. I'm in a different situation now, but a few years back, even in full time employment and with all the kit I needed, taking £40+ from the family budget to exercise for an hour was very hard to justify. That will be the barrier for most people.— Luke (@Lukeemuir) June 23, 2020
The sheer expense, I'd considered doing an Ironman as a 50th birthday present to myself in 2022 until I found out it's the thick end of £500! I know they have to organise all three bits, but races do seem very expensive compared to road racing...— hunstantonsmith (@hunstantonsmith) June 23, 2020
Triathlon is a very expensive sport (equipment & event wise) and I expect there are quite a few people that would like to do but just can’t afford it— IronSquid🦑 (@cyberscott1975) June 23, 2020
Pictures of people on entry level bikes. I was petrified of my first as was expecting everyone to have Cervelo TT bikes just like in all the pictures in the magazines. This was 2010 so times may have changed.— MetroGnome (@millsy262) June 23, 2020
Its pretty clear money is a big factor.
So… Is triathlon only for the wealthy?
Of course not. But lets not pretend it doesn’t help.
For a start, the events can be pretty expensive (more on that on part 3 of our #tri4all series).
And triathlon is a sport where equipment makes a big difference. We can’t deny that. And to perform and win at the very highest level its does make things slightly unfair. Being money and time rich helps.
While equipment does make a difference to performance, I’m pretty sure Alistair Brownlee could beat most of us on a boris bike wearing flip flops. In fact, Peter Sagan once drew a significant amount of attention when he appeared at the Slovak Cup with a bicycle borrowed from his sister. Sagan had mistakenly sold his own and had not received a spare from his sponsor in time. He won the race despite riding a supermarket bike with poor brakes and limited gearing.
The majority of triathlon participants are doing the sport for a sense of achievement and to compete against themselves, so the marginal gains from equipment really aren’t that important. If you are simply looking to complete a triathlon and are only looking to race against your own previous times, then your equipment really doesn’t need to be anything fancy. Especially when you are just dipping your toe into the world of triathlon.
Below are some cheap/easy ways to start gathering together your triathlon equipment…
Probably the thing that is going to cost you the most, and how much you spend will largely depend on how ambitious your triathlon goals are.
If you are just looking to complete a sprint/olympic distance triathlon then almost anything road worthy will do. If you are going to be taking on longer events, such as Ironman which has a time cut off, you will need something that isn’t going to slow you down too much. But even for that, an entry level road bike would be absolutely fine.
Cheapest option: Borrow one. It could even have a basket if you wish (see photos at the bottom of page). Or use a mountain/hybrid bike that you already own. If you want a bit of a speed boost for not much money then its worth upgrading to some more road-suited tyres.
Good budget options: There are plenty of good second-hand options available, and if you join a club you are always likely to see people selling their old bikes when they upgrade. If you are in the UK then Decathlon have some excellent entry-level road bikes from £280 upwards!
OTHER BIKE BARGAINS
Helmets and shoes can add up but again they really don’t need to. Bike shoes certainly aren’t essential to start with. Sure, you’ll lose some speed by not being clipped in… but you’ll save a few seconds in transition.
Cheapest option: Again you can find plenty of second hand options!
Good budget options: Planet X have some excellent well priced helmets starting from just £9.99. Some of these actually stack up against the top-end helmets that are almost 10 times the price! For some decent bike shoes you won’t go far wrong with the smart but affordable DHB shoes from Wiggle.
Why anyone would pay almost £1000 for a wetsuit I have no idea. The best wetsuit is one that you are comfy in and suits your swim style – not the most expensive one. In fact, quite often the cheaper wetsuits are far more buoyant and better suited to beginner/intermediate swimmers. Generally, as the price goes up the thickness of the material goes down, and this isn’t great for newbie swimmers.
Cheapest option: Again see if you can borrow one to try out. You can pick up good second hand options too. There are also annual hire options available, although these don’t look like a good option when you compare to the price of an entry level wetsuit.
Good budget options: At the time of writing you can get an entry-level DHB wetsuit from Wiggle for under £100. Plenty of other good entry level options available from other brands if you can stretch to £150.
GPS watches started to appear on amateur athletes wrists in the early 2000’s. If you want a laugh google the old Garmin 101 watch from 2003.
Things have moved on considerably since then and now your watch can tell you more about yourself than your significant other. Pace, power, speed heart rate, run cadence, swim stroke length, resting heart rate etc
But do you really need one to start in triathlon? Of course not.
To start off you can simply do your efforts easy/medium/hard and use a regular wrist watch. Or record your activities using an app on your phone!
In the spirit of showing that you don’t need all the expensive gear to start triathlon, here are a few snaps of some of our superstar squad when they first started out…
JANE R: FROM BEGINNER TO AGE GROUP DUATHLON WORLD CHAMP
RUTH G: FROM BIKE BASKET TO IRONMAN KONA
WALKING SHOES TO GB AGE GROUP?!