The Real Cost Of Triathlon (Including Gears, Entry Fees,…)


Everyone says triathlon is really expensive but never really talks numbers. After being into the sport for a couple of years, I thought it would be time to review the real cost of triathlon.

During your first year into triathlon, you can realistically expect to spend around $700. This amount covers all the basic gears you will need before your first race. The second year is actually the most expensive one with a total cost of $5,600, mainly due to a couple of one-time purchases (bike, wetsuit). Once those one-time acquisitions are behind you, triathletes can expect to spend around $2,900 per year (everything included).

You can find the breakdown of those costs in the tables below and some of my tips that can help you reduce this amount drastically.

EXPECTED COSTS BEFORE YOUR FIRST TRIATHLON RACE

Even if you are completely new to the sport, there is no need to break the bank in your first year. Instead, use this time to learn about the different equipment, test, or rent them. If you are still into the sport after your first triathlon, you can think about investing more money.

The “Budget” option considers good quality gears but either at second-hand prices or from less well-known brands.

The “Realistic” option is what most of the triathletes will end up paying for new gears.

ItemBudgetRealistic
Tri suit$60$120
Swim goggles$25$25
Swim cap$5
Wetsuit$25 (rent)$25 (rent)
Bike$0 (borrow)$120 (for repairs
or rent)
Helmet$25$60
Bike repair kit$30$30
Race number belt$10$15
Sunscreen + sunglasses + hat$25$60
Running shoes$70$140
Nutrition$25$50
Race fee (1 local Sprint)$50$50
TOTAL$345$700

I can’t recommend enough to buy a tri-suit before your first race. It will make this first experience much more enjoyable. You won’t need to worry about changing clothes between sports, and wearing one will automatically make you feel like a pro triathlete. If you want to learn more about tri suits, I wrote the perfect article for you.

The running shoes you buy should fit your particular feet and your running style. I highly suggest going to a specialized shop. They will analyze your running stride and recommend a good pair for you.

As for the wetsuit, my wife and I rented it for our first two races. We didn’t want to pay for a new one without knowing if we would like triathlon. We also used these opportunities to test them.

TRIATHLON COSTS DURING YOUR SECOND YEAR

The second year in triathlon is the most expensive one. At this stage, you got a pretty good idea already if you liked triathlon or not and can feel more confident to invest in good gears.

The majority of the costs come from one-off purchases that you will be able to use over several years. You could, of course, split these investments over multiple years.

ItemBudgetRealistic
Triathlon watch$250$450
Transition bag$120
Wetsuit$250$350
Bike$600$2,400
Bike fit$180
Cycling shoes + pedals$80$230
Aero bars$35$140
Running shoes$70$140
Nutrition$60$180
Bike trainer + accessories$180$600
Indoor app$90$200
Race fees$180
(4 local Sprint)
$250
(2 local Sprint +
2 Olympic) 
Transport + hotels$250
Swim lessons$120
TOTAL$1,795$5,610

There are four big investments that require intensive searches. I have written separate articles on each of them that will give you more in-depth information.

  • A bike: you can buy it new or second-hand depending on your needs and budget. The first question you need to ask yourself is whether you want a road bike or a triathlon bike. Click here for an in-depth comparison.
  • A bike trainer: look only at the controllable trainers where third party apps (Trainerroad, Zwift, …) can control it and not only read the data. It makes the indoor experience way more immersive. I wrote an article about this critical distinction.
  • A triathlon watch: the more you advance on your triathlon journey, the more useful a triathlon watch is. There are a couple of features to look for, the main ones being the open water swimming mode and the triathlon mode. For more details, check this article.
  • A set of aerobars: it is the first upgrade made by all the triathletes I know. Unfortunately, most of them need to buy a second pair (or, like me, a third one) before having one which fits. If you don’t want to make the same mistake as I did, have a look at this in-depth article.

Keep in mind that if, like me, your wife is also into triathlon, you will need to invest twice in some gears… 🙂

TRIATHLON COSTS DURING A TYPICAL YEAR

Once you invested money in a decent bike, your expenses will go down significantly. You still want to maintain your bike or even upgrade some parts year after year.

ItemBudgetRealistic
Indoor app(s)$90
(only winter months)
$300
(2 apps)
Running shoes$70$140
Nutrition$60$180
Swim lessons$120
Triathlon license$50
Race fees (Olympic x2)$120$150
Race fees (Half distance)$120$300
Race fees (Full distance)$250$600
Transport + hotels$240$700
(can be way more)
Bike parts repairs/upgrades$120$350
TOTAL$1,070$2,890

Most of your expenses will now be on race entry fees and travel. The cost will depend highly on the type of events you are doing and how far they are from your home. Expect to pay more for branded races (like Ironman or Challenge) versus local ones.

I didn’t mention on purpose a personal coach as not everyone will use one. If you are at the level where you will benefit from one, expect to pay anywhere between $60/month to $300/month, depending on the level of engagement you want.

MY TIPS TO REDUCE THE COSTS OF TRIATHLON:

I bet you already know most of them, but do you apply them as well?

Buy only what you need, when you need it:

There are so many gears available to triathletes that it might be confusing which one you need right now.

If you are a beginner, you can find here the list of all gears you really need before your first triathlon.

For more advanced triathletes, I have written sport-specific gear lists. It includes the best time for you to buy them and my personal recommendation:

Buy second hand:

You can get some really decent deals on the second-hand market. Please make sure you check that it is working properly before buying it. In most cases, there won’t be any warranty.

Wait for discount / buy previous year model / negotiate:

Most brands will give a heavy discount to get rid of previous models’ stock (new trainers are generally released in fall, watches in spring). Bikes are discounted towards the end of the biking season. You can also wait for Black Friday deals for electronic equipment.

Don’t be afraid to negotiate the price for bigger investments, especially if you buy several items. We personally manage to get between 8 to 10% at our local bike shop for new bikes. 

Register to races early to get reduced prices:

The majority of races have several tier prices. If you know you want to participate in a specific race next year, make sure to register early.

The added advantage of booking well in advance is that you will have more choice of choosing accommodation!

Register to non branded events:

You don’t absolutely need to do an Ironman event if you want to complete a full distance triathlon. In most cases, the non-branded event will be smaller and cheaper.

Keep your chain in good condition:

Maintaining your chain in good condition and replacing it when worn out will make you save money in the long run. It is considerably cheaper to replace a chain than a drivetrain.

As you already assumed, triathlon is an expensive sport. With the above examples over the years and my saving tips, you should get a better idea of the triathlon’s real cost.

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