In a triathlon, an athlete will spend the majority of their time on the bike leg of the race. While nothing can replace hard training to compete at your best in a triathlon, the bike you race with can have a huge impact on your overall results.
Triathlete bikes are as unique as the athletes that use them. At the highest levels of competition, the adage ‘you get what you pay for’ is very true for a triathlon bike. But does the same rule apply for beginners just getting into the sport?
This article will explain what goes into choosing a triathlete bicycle, and recommend some good starting options for you to consider.
Bike Considerations for a Triathlon
There is no one best bike for a triathlon. The event you are training for will determine several features you’ll need in your bike.
First, the distance of the bike leg varies greatly between different length triathlons, summarized here:
- Sprint Tri: 20km
- Olympic Tri: 40km
- Long Tri (e.g. 70.3): 90km
- Ironman / Ultra: 180km
This means you could be spending anywhere from 30 mins to 6 hours or more on your bike. This means considerations change from the fastest, most aerodynamic rig possible, to something that can house your hydration and nutrition options during a long ride.
Besides, different triathlons have different rules. Typically, a triathlon will be draft legal or non-drafting. This determines whether you can ride the wheel of the athlete in front of you or not. These categories also determine what types of bikes are allowed.
Ergonomics and Injury
The height of the handlebars and seat, and the position of the saddle can enhance or reduce your power, and the wrong type of positioning on a bike can lead to unwanted forces being placed through the neck, lower back, and lower limbs.
Your bike must support your performance and your body, without causing you harm. The positioning of your bike can affect your leg muscles in such a way that it even has an effect on your running in the next leg of the race.
Frames and Components
Triathlon bikes have changed dramatically over the years. They come with lightweight frames, specialized tires, wind-resistant rims, and specifically designed ‘aero bars’ for the athlete to lean on to take weight of the lumbar spine and lean into a more aerodynamic position with the elbows tight to the body.
The various components of a triathlon bike can be assessed on their price, quality, and the ease with which you can adjust them. Some specialty components need a bike mechanic to make even minor adjustments.
Road Bikes vs Tri Bikes
Many triathletes, especially those new to the sport, as well as those who want to use their bike for other activities as well as triathlon, will use a road bike for their triathlon.
Road bikes position you comfortably for everyday training. They are ideal for long-distance rides, and they are better for tackling hills and windy roads.
In terms of triathlon-specific bikes, they might be an option if you’re considering competing in triathlons more frequently. These bikes are not only for elite athletes. They are built for speed and will make your triathlon bike leg considerably easier and faster.
That being said, tri bikes are built for a single purpose, so make sure you plan to get your use out of one if you decide to go that route.
We highly recommend getting visiting a specialist bike store to get a proper bike fitting session done when searching for the best bike for you.
There are dozens of subcategories of tri and road bikes to explore, with hundreds of materials and component options to make these bikes super customizable.
While the homework is up to you, here is a good place to start:
Some Great Bikes for Beginner Triathletes
Best for Training
One of the best road bikes for triathlon in this category is the Trek Domane AL 3. It’s a versatile aluminum road bike that’s perfect for new riders looking to log some training miles for a triathlon while also enjoying other road cycling activities.
It’s comfortable and can handle a wide variety of terrains, making it a good option for beginners who may be experimenting with different sports before upgrading to more specialized options
Best for Competing
One of the best entry-level tri bikes for those who want to invest in the specific bike for triathlon events is the Cervélo P-Series 105 Disc. This model is a new update to the famous P models, and sports a lightweight carbon fiber body and disc brakes.
While not top of the line, this is a perfect starting option for short or long course events.
Best for Female Athletes
What about women’s triathlon bikes for beginners? While the thinking (and research) around gender-specific bike models have evolved over the last decade to lean more towards adjustable components than actual frames, some companies still make female athlete specific bikes.
One of the most popular on the market is the Liv Avow Advanced, which offers a mix of comfort and speed specifically tuned for the female rider.
Best for Price
If you really don’t have a huge budget and just want a good all-round road bike that can get you going, the Giant Contend 3 is worth looking at. It’s comfortable yet fast, making it a well-rounded bike great for beginners.
Alternatively, there’s always the option to source a great second-hand bike if you want to get into the sport without breaking the bank. But be sure to get the bike checked out by a technician before committing.
We hope this helps inspire you to get out there and find your perfect triathlon bike. Let us know your favorite bikes below in the comments!