TRIATHLON BIKE BUYING GUIDE

Shaun George BOTS Guides, Triathlon

Arguably one of the most fun stages in a triathlon is the biking stage, at least we think so. The objective during this stage is to finish the biking leg as fast as possible – in order to do this, you need to be as efficient as possible. Immense core strength and overall stamina are required to complete this leg in decent time. Beyond training and diet comes equipment. A good tri bike is a good idea to have if you really want to perform to the best of your ability. Buying a triathlon bike can be a daunting task. It’s one of the biggest investments you would be making for your tri equipment. We’re going to help you choose the right kind of tri bike for your requirements.

WHAT’S A TRI BIKE?

A triathlon bike is a kind of bike designed specifically with the requirements of aerodynamics, speed, comfort, and endurance in mind. They are designed specifically for triathlons – giving you the most optimal position on the bike for the fastest time. Triathlon bikes come in all shapes and sizes, and all price points. Here are a few things to consider before buying a tri bike.

Bicycle manufacturers such as Felt, Cervelo, and Specialized particularly specialize in making Triathlon/TT bikes.

DO I NEED A TRI BIKE OR A ROAD BIKE?

One of the most common questions for a newbie triathlete is whether to buy a road bike or a tri-specific bike. The answer to this question depends on your personal needs as a triathlete.

The major difference between a triathlon bike and a road bike is the geometry of the frame, more specifically, the seat tube angle. A triathlon bike has a much larger seat tube angle (76 to 78 degrees) than that of a road bike (72 degrees for most road bikes). The steeper angle on a tri bike can help you get into a much more aero position for maximum efficiency.

The other real major difference would be the shape of all the frame tubes. Visually, triathlon bikes are going to look a lot “flatter” from the sides. This is because the bikes are designed to be as aerodynamic as possible – the knife-like edge will allow the bike to slice through the air. This will help the rider ride a lot more efficiently against the air and at a much faster pace.

So which is best for you? A road bike or a tri bike? We’d say both. It really depends on you, if you plan to focus solely on triathlons or Time trials then a tri bike is perfect. However, if you plan to do group rides or long-distance rides, maybe races, then a tri bike isn’t an ideal option. Triathlon bikes were designed to put you into a forward position when you’re tucked down into your aerobats. This bodes well for flat terrain, whereas road bikes are typically better for steep climbing since aerodynamics don’t play as big of a role – triathlon bikes are also heavier than most mid-range road bikes. Over longer distances, road bikes are a lot more comfortable too.

BENEFITS OF A TRIATHLON BIKE

1. SEATING POSITION

On a triathlon bike, the seat tube is steeper than a road bike. The angle of the seat tube on a triathlon bike forces the hips to sit forward which gives the rider less tension on their quadriceps and hamstrings – they are able to generate a lot of power this way as they are seated in a very aggressive position. Road bikes typically have around a 72-degree seat tube angle, where a triathlon bike will have an angle closer to 78+ degrees. On a tri bike, you are essentially sitting inline with the bottom bracket – on a road bike you are often sitting behind the bottom bracket which is a great place to be for overall riding.

2. STORAGE FEATURES

Since most tri bikes these days are made of carbon fiber, their frames can be manipulated to accommodate storage spaces. On-board storage spaces on a tri bike are essential to store nutrition and hydration. Additional storage compartments and water bottle holders are often provided for a triathlete to place tools, inner tubes, food, and fluid. A triathlete has a longer race than what typical road bikes are used for and needs to be prepared for an emergency tire puncture.

3. AERODYNAMICS

Carbon fiber has the ability to be moulded into more complex shapes than compared to aluminum or steel. Not to mention that carbon fiber is also lighter. Drafting is not legal in most triathlons so each triathlon bike is wind-tunnel tested during product design phases to be sure it is extremely efficient and saves the rider as many watts as possible while they ride. Triathlon bikes also feature aero bars that place the rider in an extremely aerodynamic position that they can be comfortable in for many hours at a time. Deep section or sometimes full dish carbon fiber wheels are also used to increase the aerodynamics of the triathlon bike.


Tri bikes are a worthy investment for an aspiring triathlete without a doubt. The final decision depends upon your long term triathlon goals and budget. We’d recommend beginner triathletes or athletes who arent too sure about investing in a tri bike to invest in a good road bike. A road bike is a lot more versatile for everyday usage and can also be made triathlon worthy with the help of a few minor adjustments and an aero bar.

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