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7 Essentials for your first triathlon

It may seem like you need a lot of gear to do triathlons, but you don't need a lot of stuff to do your first race

So you want to give triathlon a shot. You made the mistake of saying that at your last run with your training group, and now suddenly you’re committed to doing an event this summer. But, you’re not sure this is going to be a long-term endeavour, so you don’t want to go overboard on gear. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of the basics you’ll need to get through your first event – and it’s probably not as much as you think.


You are going to have to do some training, so you’ll need to have some basic gear for the pool.


Whether you’re in a race, doing an open-water practice swim or training in a pool, there is nothing more annoying than a pair of goggles that don’t work. A reputable store with different options of goggles to try on is your first stop. Make sure you can create a seal around your eyes in the store before you take them home. Once you have found a style that works, stick with it.

Related: 4 goggles for race day and training

Swim suit

Yes, you’ll want a “speedo” – board shorts are not going to cut it for swim workouts! There are lots of styles to pick from, probably at the same store where you found your goggles.

Related: The basic gear essentials for a triathlon

Other training gear

If you have longer hair, a swim cap will be a must. Hopefully the pool where you’re doing your training will have some other basic gear that will be helpful with your swim training – pull buoys and kick boards being the most popular. For this first tri, you don’t need much else!

Wetsuit (consider renting one)

If the race you’ve picked is going to be in colder water, a rental wetsuit makes a lot of sense. Explore that option sooner rather than later – you don’t want to be in a panic a few days before your race!



For this first event you don’t need to be on a full-fledged tri bike. (My last race was on a rental bike in Nevis – if the bike was purchased in the 80s I would be surprised.) If you have something at home that’s reliable and has enough gears to get you through any hilly stretches, you’re good. Don’t worry – there will be lots of mountain and road bikes in the transition area when you get to your race. If you don’t have a bike, see if a friend has something that you can borrow that will do the trick.

Related: Road bike or Tri bike?

Bike shoes/ clip on pedals

If you’ve done some cycling in the past and have used bike shoes and clip on pedals before, you’re definitely going to enjoy the bike experience in your first triathlon a lot more. Being clipped in allows you to pedal a lot more efficiently and get a lot more out of each pedal stroke.

Once again, though, this isn’t absolutely necessary. If your bike just has flat pedals, or maybe the old style “rat traps,” you’ll be just fine!


This is a must have! They won’t let you into transition, let alone on your bike, without a helmet. Hopefully you already have one, but if not, there are lots of inexpensive options out there. Find one that fits well. If you can find a lighter one with good airflow, all the better.


Since so many triathletes end up in the sport from a running background, more often than not budding triathletes are already well-equipped with some good running shoes. It is worth making sure you have a good pair of running shoes that provide lots of support and cushioning. Once again a stop to a reputable store where you can get some help from an expert is a good first stop.

And, once again, you don’t have to break the bank to find a good pair of shoes – see below.

Related: The best affordable running shoes for 2023

Race day clothing

Most beginner-oriented triathlons won’t have change tents, so you’ll want to wear something comfortable that will get you through the race. While you might not want to purchase a full-fledged tri suit, a pair of tri shorts might be a worthwhile purchase. After you come out of the water you can pull a singlet or shirt on. (Most races in Canada enforce World Triathlon’s “torso rule,” which means your upper body must be covered for the bike and run portions of the race.)