Competing in endurance cycling events, such as an Ironman triathlon or road race, requires an athlete to be dedicated to their training program. It also requires the athlete to have access to the right tools and the right equipment. And, for triathlon athletes, this means investing in a bicycle designed for use in triathlon competitions.
What is a Triathlon Bike?
Triathlon bikes are specialized bicycles that are designed to maximize athletes’ performance in a triathlon setting. Triathlon bikes are unique and vary from other high-performance bicycles, such as a road race bike or a mountain bike. They’re built for speed and, generally speaking, for straight, flat, courses.
They’re intended for use by triathlon athletes to train for and compete in triathlon events.
As such, a triathlon bicycle’s features and engineering design are uniquely specific to triathlon training. The right triathlon bicycle can enhance an athlete’s cycling performance while retaining muscle energy for the event’s marathon portion.
Purchasing a Triathlon Bike – Where to Start
Buying a triathlon bike usually means adapting to a new position and therefore it takes time to learn both the new position and the way a triathlon bike rides/handles. The new position is going to be generally lower in the front end, which is aided by the steepness of the seat tube, as well as more forward than a traditional road bike position.
It is not uncommon to have much shorter crank arms on a triathlon bike as this helps accommodate some balance between the forward and lower position. There is a misconception that the short crank arms will result in lower power numbers but that is not the case.
Perhaps the most noticable difference between a triathlon bike and a road bike is the handlebar setup and the slightly different gear shifting and braking setup. It is important to be aware of this and to practice with this new setup.
Different Ride than a Road Bike
A triathlon bike often handles much differently than a traditional road bike. A lot of brands have spent time and money trying to find a better balance on the bike so that handling is not the same concern it was 5-10 years ago. Most brands have been successful in doing this while still making a very fast bike.
The 5 Key Factors to Triathlon Bike Selection
When shopping for a triathlon bike to train for and compete with, understand the following five critical factors of triathlon bike selection:
- Seat Tube Angle
- Integration Features
Triathlon Bicycle Aerodynamics
In professional cycling, it’s often necessary to use equipment to meet the aerodynamic specifications and standards set out by Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI). However, when it comes to most triathlon events, the rules of the UCI do not apply. This means triathlon athletes can explore a broader range of aerodynamic design options when selecting their ideal bicycle for triathlon training.
For maximizing the aerodynamics of a professional triathlon bike, bike companies utilize different engineering designs that can include:
- Oversized tube profiles.
- Hiding bike components such as brakes and cables.
- Dropped or removed seat stays.
- Deeper wheel profiles.
Seat Tube Angle Designed for Endurance
A triathlon bicycle’s seat tube angle is essential to the competing athlete because it effectively impacts muscle engagement and endurance. The seat tube angle for a triathlon bicycle is steep and ranges from 74 to 82 degrees. The benefit of having a steep seat tube angle is to open up the hip angle and allow the athlete to get in a more favourable aerodynamic position.
Support Steep Seat Tube Angle with a Good Saddle
While a steep tube angle is useful for speeding through a triathlon’s cycling portion, it’s not always comfortable to the rider. One way to have a comfortable ride with a steep seat tube angle is by using a saddle specific to this purpose.
Find a Comfortable Ride
When triathlon training, you’re going to spend a lot of time on your bike! 20km to 180km can feel like a lot more if you’re on a bike that’s not comfortable. Therefore, make sure the one you choose is comfortable and that you feel confident when riding it.
It may take multiple adjustments to get your ride feeling “just right,” so be sure to select a bike:
- Can make various levels of cockpit adjustments.
- Has a triathlon-specific saddle.
- Supports your upper body well.
Test ride a triathlon bike before you commit to purchasing. And make sure you consult with a professional bike fitting expert who knows and understands the most effective position for triathlon athletes. A good bike fit is worth every penny and an incredibly important part of your bike purchasing journey. Make sure you test the bike out and note the features and functionality to get a good sense of the cycle and if it will be right for your triathlon training plan.
Integrates to Triathlon Storage Needs
An often overlooked triathlon bike feature is how well a bike can integrate with an athlete’s storage needs. How will the bike carry your fuel? Fluids and tools? How an athlete’s personal items and replenishment fuel is stored on a triathlon bike affects a bike’s aerodynamics. Therefore, understanding what you’ll need to keep on your bike during a triathlon will help with the buying process.
Cost of a Triathlon Bike
Triathlon bikes are specialized pieces of sports equipment and come in different price ranges. A new entry-level triathlon bike will cost anywhere from $1,500 – $3,000. Higher-end triathlon bikes can easily cost over $10,000. Before test-driving a triathlon bike, know what your budget will allow you to consider.
Triathlon bike costs are determined mainly by:
- Frame Material. Aluminum or carbon fibre?
- Shifting System. Mechanical or electronic shifting?
- Braking System. Rim or disc brakes?
- Condition. Are you buying new or used?
Consult a Triathlon Bike Gear Head (aka Your B78 Coach!)
Finding the right bike for triathlon training and competing is an investment that should be well considered. And, getting sound advice from coaching experts who understand cycling gear and your athletic goals should be part of the selection process. At B78, our coaches are experts in all things triathlon, including gear selection.