Triathlon on the Cheap

 

I kind of see the sport of triathlon as mid-life crisis sport because it’s so freaking expensive. TT bikes, aero helmets, designer tri kits, fancy bike shoes–all of that costs lots of money brand spankin’ new. And it’s nothing short of intimidating to see athletes donned in full tri gear when you have a hybrid bike and a regular swim suit.┬áSo, how can you get into this sport if it’s so expensive? It’s possible with a little bit of cash saved up and some patience. In fact, lots of triathletes didn’t buy all of their gear new before they even did a triathlon, so why should you?

Your biggest expenses will be a bike and a gym membership with a pool. Many road bikes can be purchased used for around $500, and gym memberships vary. Oftentimes, if you teach at least one class at your local gym, you can get a discounted membership, so look into that. I pay $120 a month for a family membership to the local Y, but since I work there, it’s a lot less now. For the record, my road bike cost $500. However, a word of caution if you’re like me: your bike(s) will be a hole that you throw money at all the time on maintenance and gear. The thing to remember is that the cheapest way to buy speed without upgrading your bike, helmet, jersey, tri kit or whatever is to become a better cyclist. Anyway…

You’ll need some bike tools, spare tubes, and a helmet. But other than that, here’s what you really need:

  1. A swimsuit–buy on sale on Swim Outlet or your local shop. I got a Speedo Endurance swimsuit for $50 at Toad Hollow in Paoli, and it will last me for a few years. Yes, a Speedo Endurance suit will last for a very long time, so buy one you like! And, it’s cheaper than spending $20 on a suit that will only last a month (I did that and won’t do it again).
  2. Cap and goggles–$15 for both. Make sure the goggles fit your eye sockets without the strap before you buy. The most expensive pair may not be the best pair.
  3. Running shoes–look for sales! I got a new pair of Brooks Adrenaline for $80 instead of $120 at my local store. Replace them every 300-500 miles.
  4. Cheap running shorts or cycling shorts.
  5. A used road bike $500-$800.
  6. Helmet, spare tubes, saddle bag with tools, CO2 cartridges. $20-$60 for a helmet and $40 for everything else. Bonus if you buy cycling glasses to protect your eyes from rocks and whatnot. Tifosi is a less expensive option compared to Oakleys. $70 vs. $120.
  7. Beach towel–for your transition mat (find one at home).
  8. A bag to put it all in–check thrift stores, use a canvas grocery bag, anything works.
  9. Water bottles–free at many races or pick up two for $10 each or less.

I guarantee that you will not be the only one at a triathlon to swim in a regular swimsuit and throw on a pair of running shorts for the bike with your running shoes, especially for a local sprint tri. That’s another thing: do local sprint races that are way cheaper than branded races.

It took me a few years to get a tri kit, clip in shoes for my bike with the new pedals, an aero helmet, Roka goggles, a TT bike (I bought mine used for $1800 on Ebay), and all of the other stuff that goes with the sport. Heck, I’m still saving up for gear like new racing wheels for my awesome TT bike because my bike and gear is how I like to spend my money besides family trips. So what are you waiting for? Borrow a bike, get a used one, and sign up for one of your local triathlons!

What’s in Your Saddle Bag?

For bike rides, there are a few essentials that you should have with you in your saddle bag, just in case of a flat or to fix something on your bike when things go wrong. If you’re prepared, you’ll be able to correct the problem and continue on your ride.

  1. Spare tubes. You’ll need these to replace the tube inside the tire in case of a flat (unless you ride without tubes, and then you’ll need a patch repair kit). The guys at my local shop recommend taking the tube out of the packaging, coating it with baby powder to keep it from sticking, and then wrapping the tube with plastic wrap. Your new tubes will be ready to go when needed. I carry two tubes with me at all times.
  2. A set of allen wrenches for all of the nuts and bolts that can get loose on your bike.
  3. Tire levers for removing the tire from the rim so you can take the tube out. You’ll need at least two levers.
  4. CO2 cartridges. Have the right size for your tire. My TT bike has smaller tires than my road bike, so 16g is what I need to not overfill my tire, but my road bike needs 20g. Use the bad tube or a glove to hold the CO2 cartridge because it will get really cold.
  5. A saddle bag for everything.

Make sure you have lights for your bike and check them before you leave just as you would fill up your tires. Use the lights during the day too so that you’re more visible to vehicles. I always assume that cars don’t see me: I’ve had too many friends injured while riding because of cars, trucks, and even a school bus. On the trail, look out for dogs on retractable leashes, runners with headphones, and unsteady kids on bikes. Let’s not forget squirrels or groundhogs too. I keep my jersey zipped tight because bees often hit me and fly down my jersey… fortunately, I didn’t fall off of my bike.

Other cycling essentials:

  1. Bike helmet
  2. Padded shorts and cycling jersey (for the pockets)
  3. Cycling glasses to protect your eyes
  4. Padded gloves to keep your hands from going numb
  5. Bike lock

Carry keys, water, food, cash, a credit or debit card, ID, and phone too. Your cycling jersey can keep some of these items, but have water bottle cages for drinks and possibly a bento to hold food for those long rides. Happy riding!

How to Change a Flat Tire

flattube

Yes, that’s my road bike, Bia, off the trainer and appearing to be dead on the basement floor. I had an hour and a half ride planned, my podcast was ready to go, I logged into Zwift, and set my watch to view my heart rate. About ten minutes into the ride when my heart rate should have been up in zone 2, it kept dropping to zone 1. Frustrated, I switched gears to make it harder to pedal and increased my cadence. Nothing happened until I got off of my bike and realized that the tire was completely and totally flat even though I filled the tube moments ago.

I had a few choices: go to the Y and pedal away on the spin bikes, leaving the flat for later, or taking the rear flat tire challenge head on and learning once and for all how to fix a flat. I took the challenge. I repaired the flat all by myself, and then, I finished my ride before heading up to my local shop to purchase some spare tubes for Bia and Ikaika, just in case.

If you’re like me and nervous about changing a flat, go to your local bike shop when they do bike maintenance clinics or watch a helpful video like the one below. And, above all else, practice often.

On the Main Line at Trek Ardmore, check out this event:

Ladies’ Night Out

Here’s an excellent video (I’m not affiliated with Trek, but they do have great information; I really wish I could get paid for advertising for them, but I don’t).

How to change a flat video