Saving Money in a Multisport World

Is it an accepted rule that triathlon and cycling -- and by extension, duathlon -- are necessarily expensive sports? As Canadians, our society is premised on inclusion, not exclusion.  When we accept that multisport must be an expensive proposition, I think about who we are losing from the community. 

The marketing gurus employed by companies hawking supplements, supplies and gear train us to want more and more... and the next big thing.  I felt that allure the first time I did a charity bike ride and cycled to Montreal.  I still do. 

I'd wager that most athletes struggle with competing desires.  We want to face our competitors on an even playing field -- hence no performance enhancing drugs.  However, performance enhancing equipment (within limits) is acceptable, even when it's pricey.

We want to face stiff competition that will give us a challenge on the race course, although it might not hurt if we had a certain edge over them. 

There are deeper issues to explore and as a social policy wonk, I'd like to go further into that topic.  This post won't do that, but what it will do is share my tips for saving cash while still being active in duathlon.  I recognize that I am privileged to take part in this sport and that some costs will be largely unavoidable (e.g., race entry fees, although you can money on them by registering well in advance and by entering multiple events in the same series at the same time).  However, others can be reduced, if you beg, borrow and buy used. 

Before shopping, do your research and be clear about what you need/want, what fits and what you can afford.  When I bought my new Felt bike this spring, I went into the mass bike show with a clear limit on what I would spend, what bike models would fall within that range and what bike models should fit me.  That approach kept me on track and prevented me from being overwhelmed by the breadth of options.  

Here are some tips:

Buy Used.  
Don't hesitate to do it.  I bought my first TT bike for $750 from a friend and Ironman triathlete.  He posted it on Facebook one day and the timing was right.  I consider buying used as good karma: think of all the positive energy embedded within the equipment from all that training and racing.  Just be sure to check over the equipment carefully, take it for a test ride and look for cracks, wear and tear.  

Check out Facebook.  The group GTA(Toronto) Cycling/Running/Triathlon Buy and Sell brings together a community of GTHA athletes that are selling their stuff - or looking for something new.

Kijiji.  Set up an alert for a keyword to have the site email you new listings whenever they're posted.  I'm tracking PowerTap (I'm itching to get a power meter one day) and triathlon (just to see what pops up).  Fellow duathlete Garvin Moses picked up a sweet pair of Zipp wheels on this site, including a rear disc wheel.  When he cruises through transition, people look at his bike with admiration!

Endurosport Swap.  This Toronto-based multisport store hosts a gear swap twice a year, at the end of February and start of October.  (The next is October 3, 2015.)  Go early and arrive with your wish list in hand: I arrived at the last sale about 15 minutes early and it was already significantly lined up.  When the doors opened, it was a mad rush, as people sprinted towards the bikes and wheel sets.  Shopping here apparently doubles as an interval workout.  

Kensington Market.  There are a couple of stores in this neighbourhood that sell used, retro cycling jerseys.  I'm talking very vintage.  They're an acquired taste, but you will stand out when you wear one.  As a bonus, you can wear them to the MultiSport Canada Bala triathlon for the retro outfit contest. 

You too can recreate this classic Ironman moment. 
Photo courtesy of (and wherever they found it)

With thanks to Coach Roger, I've borrowed a PowerCal and a PowerTap to help me in training this season.  My first year on the Friends for Life Bike Rally, I borrowed cycling jerseys (those things are expensive!) from riders that had extras. 

Bike Box Rental, MEC, Endurosport.  If you're travelling to an event and need to pack your bike with checked luggage, all of these businesses rent hard shelled travel cases.  I just rented one from Bike Box Rental and Efraim, the owner, taught me how to take apart my bike, pack it and put it back together.  

Scout out cheap prices.  
Sweet Pete'sYour local bike store (LBS).  This is the bike shop sponsor of Ignition Fitness and what I've found here is that the staff members are incredibly supportive, patient and happy to help you through your questions about bike equipment.  You save here by walking away with a deeper understanding of your bike and what it takes to maintain it, whereas at places like MEC, sometimes you need to fight for attention.  

The Runners Shop.  This is one of Canada's oldest independent running stores and they've got the goods.  They've also got a great sale rack with running clothing for all seasons.  When it comes to running shoes, I look for a store (like this one) with quality customer service from sales people that know the nuances of running and foot strike, particularly given my history with shin splints.  I've purchased almost all of my shoes from the Runners Shop over the last several years. 

Toronto International Bike Show.  Held twice a year (spring and fall), this event is a bonanza for the cyclist in search of deals.  It's also a little intense.  I found the spring version a little more low key, whereas the fall edition is crammed into a smaller space and is therefore more of a "free for all" atmosphere. 

MEC.  Formerly known as Mountain Equipment Co-op, this place has great deals on clothing and tools.  The MEC brand rapide cycling shorts - they're great for long distance rides - I bought years ago have stood the test of time. 

Winners.  You'll find running hydration gear, yoga and injury prevention accessories here for decent prices.  If you're looking for workout clothing, you're bound to find it at Winners.  I've even found the occasional Zoot triathlon top.  Prices are generally pretty reasonable and the clothes are often name brand.  The key is to buy it when you see it, because the merchandise turns over so quickly.  (Return it later if it doesn't fit!) 

Colourful fuel belts at Winners

Injury prevention gear at Winners

MultiSport Canada Sponsor Discounts.  Here's an easy one.  Sign up for the MSC e-newsletter, participate at the races, and take advantage of the discounts offered in person at the races and online between them. 

Some of the deals available through MultiSport Canada.

Coupon clipping.  Subscribe to the Running Room magazine and watch the back cover for coupons.  Likewise, sign up for the e-newsletters of local and online stores to make sure you're informed about sales.  

Fall coupons available for the Running Room.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday.  Last year, Power2Max had a big sale on their power meters around this time of year, as did some other manufacturers.  Keep an eye out for deals online.  

Race Expos.  If you participate in larger marathons in your community, most of them will host a pre-race expo, chock full of vendors.  Remember the Runners Shop, which I mentioned above?  They're at all the race expos AND they add increase the discounts on their sale rack.  Bonus.  

E-Stores.  I'll offer my thanks to Jesse Bauer, as well as Garvin, for putting me on to sites like Wiggle, OneTri,, Ribble and Chain Reaction Cycles.  The deals are unmistakeable.  But remember, the mistakes can happen when you try to install the equipment because unlike your LBS, these guys won't do it for you.  

Learn from Others
Almost all of the knowledge I'm sharing today I learned from others.  I stand on their shoulders and pass it along to you.  I admit I'm still learning and making mistakes, such as when I recently rented a bike box that I later learned I could have borrowed.  Still later I learned I didn't even need to box my bike on the train.  Ask questions of your fellow athletes and your coach, if you have one.  Without exception, everyone I've contacted in the multisport community has been very willing to share their ideas and advice.

Since this is an online medium, I also recommend you keep an eye on the blogs of people in the field.  You should swing by duathlete Jesse Bauer's blog and scroll back to his post about easy and cheap(er) ways to pick up speed in a race.  Triathlete Cody Beals has described in detail his experience going pro and how he affords it.  One of his recent Facebook posts listed all of the fresh food he would typically take to a race weekend, to ensure proper nutrition and save money at the same time.  

At the end of the day, there will always be something newer and sleeker on the market.  My personal approach has been to focus first on the engine (i.e., me) and second on the cool equipment.  Rigorous, systematic  training will give you the most benefit.  (Until this spring, I rode my used tri bike with regular wheels, but with hard work, I was passing cyclists atop carbon steeds with Zipp wheels.)  When I realized I was serious about this sport and with coaching began inching towards higher achievements, I started working in the new/used/borrowed equipment.  

I hope these ideas help you save a little money.  I'd love to hear what tips you have to recommend.  Give me a shout by Twitter or Facebook and I'll share.  If I get enough ideas, I'll write another post.