The Actual Cost Of Racing Triathlons; First Timer, Beginner, Enthusiast, And Advanced


It is commonly known that triathlon is costly, but no one ever gives specific figures. By keeping it vague, many are scared away from taking on the first steps into the sport. After spending many years in the sport and racing dozens of triathlons from very short distances to finishing Ironmans, I have decided it was time to assess the true cost of racing triathlon and share it with others.

So how much is the actual real cost of racing a triathlon cost? The cost of doing triathlon ranges from $265 to $17,000. The cost is determined by the triathlete category. A first-timer is expected to spend $265, the beginner $1,190, the enthusiasts $6,285, and $17,000 by the advanced triathletes. This amount includes the price of the Gear, and ongoing expenses such as nutrition, traveling, and race entry fees.

The cost of doing triathlons is determined by which category you belong to. Here is how I define each of these categories,

  • First-timer Triathlete is someone who wants to challenge himself or herself and would like to test the water with triathlon. The first-timer objective is to get to the finish line within the time limit with no regard to performance.
  • Beginner Triathlete is someone who has done a triathlon once or twice and thinks now is the time to learn more about the sport. The beginner triathlete objective is to get more engaged in the sport, finish few more races and then determine whether or not to get more serious about it.
  • Enthusiast Triathlete is someone who is serious about triathlon, has some good experience in the sport, and able to complete races confidently. The enthusiast’s Triathlete objective is performance improvement, whether by taking on a long-distance or a better finish time, but not aiming to score the podium.
  • Advanced Triathlete is someone who is very deep in the sport with very advanced and deep experience in triathlons. The objective of the Advance triathlete is to score the podium, whether at the age group or professional level

Having defined the categories of the triathletes, the second step is to put in place the two main types of cost, Initial and ongoing costs.

On a side note, do not waste your money on useless gear purchases and check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

Initial Cost Of Racing Triathlons (Mainly Gear)

Initial cost refers to the expenses of acquiring the equipment and other essentials which will last you for years and are essential to start with. These will likely only be required to be replaced as you climb the ladder of triathlon or after consuming it completely.

I have compiled the table below that lists the items each triathlete will have to acquire along with the expense based on the triathlete category,

ItemFirst-TimerBeginnerEnthusiastAdvanced
Bike$50$500$1,500$5,000
Bike fit (Link)Not requiredNot required$150$800
Cycling shoes + pedalsNot requiredNot required$70$250
Aero bars (Link)Not required$45$100N/a
Bike PumpNot required$35$35$35
Helmet$30$30$60$150
Triathlon watch (Link)Not requiredNot required$200$700
Running shoes$70$70$140$140
Bike trainer & accessoriesNot requiredNot required$200$600
Triathlon WetsuitNot required$100$150$500
Triathlon SuitNot required$60$120$300
Googles$10$10$10$10
Bike Travel caseNot requiredNot requiredNot required$250
TOTAL$160$850$2,735$8,735
Initial cost of triathlon racing based on athlete category

Note that the prices listed above are based on a rough estimate.

If you are confused about your Triathlon bike purchase then make sure to check our Triathlon Bikes: Complete Entry Level Buyer Guide

First Timer Triathlete

As a first-timer, your objective is to get to the finish line with minimal spending. Typically first-timer would race the shortest available triathlon distance, either a mini-triathlon or a super sprint.

To keep the cost as low as possible, try to borrow the bike, but if you couldn’t then you can always rent one. you may get a decent Road Bike for 50 USD for few days.

Ask your local bike shop if they would lease one or maybe just ask them for leads. Usually, when you rent a bike, you will also be provided with a helmet, so you won’t have to worry about this part.

Also, if you already own any kind of bike, like a mountain, folding, or hybrid bike, then you’re sorted out

To avoid the need for a wet suit, pick a pool triathlon race or race in summer somewhere with moderate water temperate ( 22 degrees Celsius and above).

You do not need a triathlon watch, any digital watch will do you just fine to track your time.

A first-timer may also decide to squeeze it a bit more and do a triathlon for no cost. Check the article I wrote about How to race a triathlon for free with no budget and no money! (equipment, registration, and training)

You can also find tones of first-timer triathlon stories online that you can learn from (source).

Beginner Triathlete

Moving from first-timer to beginner, you will have to buy some of the equipment which you will need for proper engagement in the sport.

An entry-level Aluminum or steel road bike upgraded with an aero bar will do you just fine. You will also have to get the pump and helmet as well. Check out my recommended list of Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

At this point, you still do not need any fancy triathlon watch. If you’ve got a smartwatch, then that will do it, otherwise, a normal digital watch will work.

Usually, beginners target Super- sprint or sprint triathlon because of their relatively short distance, but with either race, you will also have to get used to Tri-suits and wet suits.

You will be able to find some budget suits online. A wet suit will only be required if you’re going to race in a cold climate, otherwise, you can skip this piece. (source )

I have written this article that provides everything you need to know in one place. Check 50 must-know tips for every beginner triathlete.

Enthusiast Triathlete

After spending some time in the beginner club, you will start developing the urgency to move on to the next level, which means you will have to get some proper triathlon gear.

At this point, you will need everything listed in the above table minus the bike case. You can use a cardboard box instead if you plan to travel with your bike once a year.

Note that an enthusiast may opt to use either a road bike and upgrade it with aero bars or an entry-level TT triathlon bike.

Advanced Triathlete

If you decide to move on to the next level, then every marginal improvement is welcomed. These marginal improvements come at a cost.

The more you spend the better the equipment. The cost compiled in the above table is enough to get you the optimal benefit for the money. Additional improvements are possible, but the benefit-cost ratio drops significantly.

Note that since an advanced triathlete is expected to use a triathlon bike, aero bars addition is not required.

Annual Ongoing Costs

ItemFirst-TimerBeginnerEnthusiastAdvanced
Local Races entries – $50 each$50$200$300$300
Ironman 70.3 – $300 each$0$0$300$600
Full 140.6 Ironman – $ 700 each$0$0$700$1,400
Swimming sessions$50$100$0$0
Nutrition$5$40$100$520
Travel + hotels$0$200+$2,000+$5,000+
Bike Maintenance$060$$150$400
Total$105$340$3,550$8,220
Annual Ongoing cost of doing triathlons

The above table is an estimate and obviously varies based on an individual basis.

It is obvious that the bulk of triathlon ongoing costs is going to race entries and travel expenses.

Nutrition refers to the hydration and energy gels without taking into consideration the additional food consumption resulted from calories loss.

You may want to have a look at this piece ” Are Ready-made Energy gels better than their natural substitutes? Honey, Maple-Syrup, Dates…

One thing to note is that I have not included a Personal coach as I think the majority of people will do just fine without one. You may want to check this post to know more. How Much Does a Triathlon Coach Cost? Do you really need one!

The Compiled Actual Cost Of Racing Triathlons

Here is a table that compiles all the above expenses to represent the actual cost of doing triathlons,

ExpenseFirst-TimerBeginnerEnthusiastAdvanced
Initial Gear$160$850$2,735$8,735
Annual ongoing$105$340$3,550$8,220
Total$265$1,190$6,285$16,955
Total actual cost of racing triathlons

You can also Dropdown the cost by avoiding some of the hidden expenses. Check this article about Top 22 triathlon hidden expenses you don’t know about: And how to Save 9,000 USD on them!

Triathlon Budgeting tips

  • Buy a second-hand Bike.
  • Travel in groups
  • Look for non branded local triathlon races, thus trimming the bulk of the cost
  • Use a free training plan (source)
  • Use frozen fruits for smoothies. They provide the same nutritional value if not better.
  • Be your own bike Mechanic. This way you can save on hefty bike maintenance costs.

Check this article I wrote for more tips Top 47 Tips For A Triathlete on a Budget: How to afford triathlons?

It is also possible to complete a triathlon without spending a dime. Check this article I wrote about How to race a triathlon for free with no budget and no money! (equipment, registration, and training)

Bonus Tips

My ultimate objective in this website is to make the sport more accessible and guide triathletes around those entry barriers. T

Thus I have written the following articles which I believe are overlooked and I think you would find very helpful,

sherifjallad

An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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