There are bicycles for every form of competition from road sprints to climbs, and from XC to downhill. And then there are triathlon bikes. For those who still don’t know, a triathlon consists of a swim, a foot race and a bike race, all on the same day and without a break except for a quick change into an appropriate gear.
The main difference between a road bike and a triathlon bike lies in the positioning of the seat. On a triathlon bike, the seat tube is steeper than on a road bike, which forces the hips to sit forward and gives the rider less tension on the quadriceps and hamstrings. Road bikes typically have a 72-degree seat tube angle while a triathlon bike has an angle of about 78 degrees.
Because drafting is not legal in most triathlons, each triathlon bike is wind-tunnel tested during the design phase to be sure it is efficient and saves the rider as many watts as possible during the ride. A triathlon bike also features aero bars that place the rider in a very aerodynamic position so they’re able to ride comfortably for hours at a time. In addition, deep carbon-fibre wheels are used to increase aerodynamics. Triathlon bike races are usually long and demanding. They span from 10 km for the super sprint triathlon to 180 km for the Ironman triathlon. The standard and Olympic distance is 40 km. Therefore, the rider needs to be prepared for emergencies such as a puncture.
If you’re crazy enough to think about becoming a triathlete, you probably already have all the equipment you’ll need for the swim and the run. But you will need a bike. The first question is what’s best for a beginner. www.triathlete.com suggests that you may be better off, in the beginning, at least, with a road bike. “Road bikes are versatile and well suited for just about anything,” they write. “Triathlon bikes can be tricky to handle; they are made for going fast in a straight line and are not ideal for group riding or easy endurance rides. Every triathlete should own a road bike but not every triathlete should own a tri bike.”
But if you’re set on a tri bike, make sure it’s a good fit – literally. A bad fit will hamper your performance, limit your pleasure, and can even lead to injury. Check the fitter database on Ibfi-certification.com, or ask around for a recommendation of some fitters in your area, if there are any.
The next question is: aluminium or carbon frame? The decision will make a difference in how the bike feels during the ride. While aluminium frames can be as light as those made of carbon, aluminium tends to put up a harsher ride. If you can’t afford a carbon frame, you can still get a good ride on the aluminium frame by matching it with high-quality tires and making sure they are always inflated to the recommended pressure.
A good road bike for a beginner is the Cannondale CAAD12 105 with Shimano 105 parts. It will set you back about $1,600. An excellent beginner’s tri bike is the gorgeously designed Ventum Z with Shimano Ultegra parts, priced at about $3,500.
The only question I still have is: are you sure you want to do this?