As a lifelong runner and cyclist, it did not take much to get Bill Darnell interested in the sport of triathlon—competitions that involve running, swimming and cycling. However, when Darnell started getting into triathlons in 2008, he found a certain aspect of preparation rather frustrating.
Although a handful of stores in the Greater Houston area specialized in apparel and equipment for one or two of those three sports, Darnell found there was nowhere he could go to get everything he needed at one stop. He ended up having to drive to various stores to get the equipment he needed.
In March 2012, Darnell started up Tru Tri Sports to fill that niche for the growing number of competitors in the Greater Houston area. Today, people come to the store from Cypress, The Woodlands and Katy and from as far away as Clear Lake.
"As far as I know, there isn't anyone else out there who is doing what we do," Darnell said. "Some places might focus on running and have small displays for swimming or cycling, but no one targets all three pieces of a triathlon on the scale that we do."
The shop's stock includes mountain and road bikes, apparel designed specifically for triathlons, running shoes and swim apparel for open water and pools. Bike accessories, nutritional supplements, race recovery products and various electronics, such as heart rate monitors and GPS systems, are also available. Darnell was also inspired by his granddaughters Riley and Adalie to introduce cheerleading gear to the shop.
Tru Tri Sports has become known in the competitive community not only for its merchandise, but for its distinctly knowledgeable staff. Employees at Tru Tri Sports are either triathletes or are competent in one of the three components, Darnell said.
Employee Charlotte Byrne, who founded and still runs the annual Fairfield Triathlon, has worked at the store since it opened.
"It's not just about selling things to people, it's about giving them the guidance they need to be successful," she said. "Some customers are completely new to the sport and will spend hours here with us on their first visit. Some people are on a budget and need help working through that. We have the expertise to help in pretty much any situation."
Future plans could involve opening new stores around Houston, but Darnell, who still competes in marathons and triathlons, said he is taking it slow as he continues to learn the ropes of running the business. Business at Tru Tri Sports gets better every month, he said.
"Doing the sport and running the business are two completely different things," Darnell said. "I also work in oil and gas, but this is my passion and where I hope to retire."
Tru Tri Sports employs a bike mechanic who does maintenance on-site. Mechanic Frank Musil has been with the business for about 15 months and performs custom bike and wheel builds. Through a process called Retul bike fitting, which takes about 90 minutes, triathlon competitors can have their bikes custom fitted to their bodies, helping prevent injury and maximize efficiency, Musil said.
Hannah's Turkey Trot 5K/10K walk or run
Saturday Nov. 22
The event, held at 16919 N. Bridgeland Lake Parkway, benefits the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. Anyone can register at www.active.com. Registration closes Nov. 21. Packets can be picked up at Tru Tri Sports Nov. 20–21. The race begins at 8 a.m.
Customer Jonathan Cowen said he appreciates the advice he gets from the shop's staff. He often comes by the store just to be around fellow athletes, without actually looking to buy anything.
"If I have a problem or an idea, I know there will be someone here I can bounce it off of," Cowen said. "There is no other store like this that I know of where you'll find the range of expertise."
Tru Tri Sports
24324 Hwy. 290, Ste. 400
Hours: Mon.–Fri. 10 a.m.–7 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.–6 p.m., Sun. noon–5 p.m.