Essential Items for the Beginner Triathlete

Essential Items for the Beginner Triathlete


If you're going to compete in a triathlon, you will definitely need a bike. For most first-timers, a basic road bike will do. Many people hear the term "tri bike" and think that's what they need in order to compete in a triathlon. However, if you're new to cycling, (especially if you're training for a Sprint or Olympic distance race) you'll be more comfortable, stable and safe on a road bike. 

Splurge on a carbon bike for the lightest, stiffest and most comfortable ride. Save on an aluminum bike, but opt for a carbon seat post and fork for a little added comfort. Make sure you have the right component package for flat or hilly terrain, and a comfortable saddle to keep your tush in tact! Many bikes even come in a women’s specific model.

Our Recommendation: The Specialized Dolce or Sector; $830


Competing in a triathlon requires that you wear a helmet. What's most important is that it meets regulation safety standards and fits you properly. You want your helmet to fit snugly and not move around too much when you turn or shake your head. Don't forget to buckle it before leaving the transition area! 

We recommend the Rudy Project Slinger Helmet. It provides a strong, comfortable structure, has 13 air vents for maximum ventilation, and is easily adjustable with the Fastex buckle closure. An added perk? It’s priced reasonably at just $95 and comes in seven great colors and two sizes (S/M or L).  

Our Recommendation: Rudy Project Slinger Helmet; $95

Tri Top & Tri Shorts

A tri kit is the most functional outfit for any triathlete. A tri kit is available as a two-piece outfit (top & shorts) or as a one-piece tri suit. (Whether you wear a one or two piece outfit, is mainly personal preference). A tri kit is intended to be worn from start to finish during a triathlon so that you don't have to change outfits during the race. 

A tri kit is ideal because it’s quick drying, moisture-wicking, and lightweight. It often includes pockets to hold nutrition, an anti-microbial chamois pad providing enough comfort for the bike but not too much for the run, and many women's tops come with built-in bra support.

Our recommendation: Castelli Free Tri Top; $71.96 & Castelli Free Tri Short; $79.96

Running Shoes

Before you begin your training, invest in a good pair of running shoes. Select a shoe that is both comfortable and supportive; avoid selecting shoes based on color, brand or style. Some shoes offer added support for runners who pronate, while other shoes are best for neutral runners, so it’s best that you talk to a running shoe specialist to learn what’s best for you.  

Specialty shops like the New York Running Company offer free gait analysis, where a running specialist will video tape you running on a treadmill and make specific shoe recommendations based on your running gait. This also allows you to test the shoes out before you buy them to make sure they’re comfortable.

Our Recommendation: Brooks Running Shoes (styles for every type of runner)


Nervous about the swim? Consider buying (or renting) a wetsuit for your race. A wetsuit will keep you warm (especially a full sleeve suit), provide buoyancy (keeping you higher in the water resulting in an easier swim), and reduce drag (making you a faster and more efficient swimmer).    

A triathlon wetsuit is intended for swimming so you won’t feel restricted. Many suits are comprised of a thicker material (up to 5mm) in your core to provide maximum buoyancy and speed, and a thinner material in the arms and back (1-2mm) which offers extra flexibility and a wider range of motion.

Our Recommendation: XTerra Vortex Fullsuit Wetsuit; $400

Bike Shoes

Quick transitions are crucial in the sport of triathlon. A triathlon-specific shoe (like the Shimano SH-TR32), is equipped with a large heel loop and one oversized entry strap allowing you to save time by getting in and out of your shoes easily. The seamless interior lining keeps you comfortable, even with wet feet and no socks. And the quick-drying mesh upper is breathable, keeping your feet cool and dry on hot days. 

Beginners can save money by opting for a rigid plastic sole (like the SH-TR32), while more advanced cyclists can upgrade to a stiffer carbon fiber sole for added lightness, stiffness and power transfer (like the SH-WT60). Many shoes, like this one, come in a women’s specific model.

Our Recommendation: Shimano SH-TR32 Shoes; $115

Performance Running Socks

All socks are not created equal. Performance running socks (like the Feetures! Elite Ultra Light No Show Running Sock) are the key to a blister-free run. They are just the right thickness to cushion your feet and prevent chaffing, but thin enough to allow your feet to breathe. 

The Sock-Lock No Show Tab sits below the ankle, to protect against chafing and keep the sock from sliding into the shoe. Additionally, this socks’ “Power Arch” provides targeted support where it's needed most, and offers an anatomical right and left foot design to enhance fit. 

Our Recommendation: Feetures! Elite Ultra light no show running socks; $15


Nothing is more frustrating than having your goggles fog up or leak during your swim. 

When selecting goggles, look for a pair with padded gaskets made from foam, rubber or silicone. Leave the straps off and push them against your face; if they stick for a few seconds, there’s a better chance that they won’t leak. 

Find goggles with adjustable straps. Some even have a flexible frame that molds to your face and an adjustable nose bridge. Light lenses are ideal for dark lakes or oceans. But if you swim outside or in a bright environment a dark lens can be preferable. I like Zoggs goggles because they have a Polarized lens that protects your eyes and eliminates glare. 

Our Recommendation:  Zoggs Phantom Elite goggle with polarized lens; $29.95

Speed Laces

Replace your shoelaces with speed laces (such as Yankz!) and be sure to shave minutes off your transition time. Simply slip your shoes on, pull the cord to tighten and you're ready to go!  

Not only will sliding your sneaks on and off easily save you time, but for the newbie triathlete its one less thing you have to fumble with when you’re trying to move quickly through transition.  

I like Yankz because they come in tons of different colors, they’re super easy to install, shave minutes off my transition time, and are very inexpensive. 

Our Recommendation: Yankz!; $8.00

Race Number Belt

A race number belt is another great, inexpensive accessory that shaves minutes off your race and saves your expensive race gear from annoying pin holes. 

After stripping your wetsuit off, simply grab your race belt with your pre-affixed race number, and clip it around your waist. Eliminate the fuss of pinning your race number to your tri top mid-race and the worry of having to rip your number off if you choose to pre-pin it to your shirt under your wetsuit. The best part? A race belt is easy, efficient, inexpensive and reusable. 

Our Recommendation: Nathan Race Number Belt; $12.00


Protect your eyes with a good pair of sunglasses. Opt for a sporty pair like the Rudy Project Rydon Sunglasses which have interchangeable lenses, safety hinges, are RX adaptable, have an adjustable anti-slip nose piece, and adjustable temples.

Rudy Project frames are lightweight, durable and flexible, fit snugly under your helmet or hat, and come with a variety of lenses with varying amount of light transmission for all weather conditions.

Our Recommendation: Rudy Project Rydon Sunglasses; $224.99