According to a survey that U.S.A. Triathlon conducted among its members in 2016, the average income of a triathlete was over $100,000 a year, about $40,000 more than the current median in the United States.
Although a U.S.A. Triathlon membership is only $50 a year, the price tag associated with racing is far higher. The average entry fee, $90, has held fairly steady for several years, according to people in the business and a recent annual report of race trends, but some registration fees can exceed $300. The Escape From Alcatraz, one of the most expensive triathlons in the country, is $750, a $300 increase from 2015.
A road bike, the type used by most racers, generally costs at least $500, with many priced at over $1,000. Pool time can also be expensive.
Kreideweis, who founded the Empire Triathlon Club in 2010, said the sport needs to do a better job of telling potential triathletes that they don’t need top-of-the-line equipment.
“Once people get hooked, you can always upgrade things as you go,” Kreideweis said. “It’s just showing people that you can do this with what you have and you don’t have to spend a fortune in order to participate in the sport.”
Triathlons also have more competition for participants, including relatively new events that are more like parties than races, such as color runs (entrants are doused with bright powder along the way) and mud runs (obstacle courses with a lot of dirt involved).
“I think race directors need to be better at taking the temperature of the audience that they want to attract and building a race that scratches that itch,” said Dan Empfield, a 40-year veteran of the sport and a U.S.A. Triathlon Hall of Famer.