Isn’t it time you stop wasting your time on your old bike?
Do you feel your triathlon performance is not as great as it could be?
It doesn’t matter how much you train, an ill-designed bike guarantees failure. Now’s the time to ditch your hand-me-down bicycle from the 90s and fit yourself a tri-specific bike.
Sounds great, right?
But what exactly makes a great bike?
Tri-specific bikes are a dime-a-dozen. Thousands of triathlon-specific shops carry a wide range of sizes, brands and styles. At first glance, they may all look the same. But as you go further into your research, you’ll find each bike features unique features. Of course, after you buy your perfect bike, comes the fun part – cycle training. Make sure to read our Definitive Guide to Triathlon Cycling to take you to the next level.
The Five Steps to Buying the Best Tri-Specific Bike
Sure, there are literally hundreds of tips you can follow to find your ideal bike. However, these tips can be boiled down to five steps. Follow this guide and you’ll soon be flowing through the race like a fish in water.
Step #1 | The Perfect Steep Seat Tube Angle
The seat tube angle plays a direct role in the overall riding experience. It’s generally recognized the placement of this tube determines aerodynamics and energy expenditure. On triathlon bikes, the seat tube angle should be place more upright and forward than a road back. This position may be strange at first, but it increases the efficiency of leg muscles; specifically, your hamstrings. By saving hamstring energy, you’ll have greater energy for the running race leg. Its geometry calls upon your quads to generate most of your forward momentum. When resting on the bike, you should be over the cranks so you can lean forward and have a flatter back.
Step #2 | Bike Frame Material
The material your bike is made of determines your entire experience. Choose the wrong material, and your cycle race suffers. There are three primary materials used in tri-specific bikes. Let’s explore each type:
- Aluminum | The most common material for tri-specific bikes, aluminium is lightweight and sturdy. Love to sprint out through corners? Then you’ll love this bike material. Its weight helps propel you forward without draining energy. Because its frame doesn’t flex within the bottom bracket, all applied power goes to the front wheel for forward momentum. Its main drawback is its stiffness. Heavier cyclists tend to experience little shake, but lightweight riders are often shaken on rough roads.
- Steel | A standard for nearly five decades, it’s still considered one of the best frame materials. Its primary advantage is its shock absorbency. Because many Ironman races are on rough roads, this material absorbs the bulk of uncomfortable vibrations. Many triathletes prefer steel frames for long distance races. Its primary disadvantage is its weight. This is especially noticeable when compared to aluminium or carbon fiber frames.
- Carbon Fiber | Are you primarily concerned with comfort? If so, then carbon fiber is the way to go. Many triathletes with bad backs swear by carbon fiber frames. Its excellent shock absorbency makes it ideal for long races. Its primary drawback is its higher-than-average flex, which removes some power when you are out of the saddle. It’s ideal for lightweight cyclists or athletes who suffer from previous injuries.
- Titanium | The most expensive material, these bikes are designed for longevity. The ride quality is similar to steel, but it weighs much less. On rough roads, it absorbs the bulk of chatter. Perhaps the greatest benefit is its rider versatility. Riders of all weight classes benefit from its design. The biggest disadvantage is its cost. It’s not uncommon for a titanium framed bike to cost double when compared to other types.
Step #3 | A High-Quality Bike Fork
The fork of your bike is critical for comfort and speed. When bent over bikes front end on the aerobars, you’ll notice the bike fork blades flexing. This part of the bike is what absorbs the bulk of vibrations and jolts. Its primary purpose is to deflect shock forward on the tire instead of up the frame and to the rider. Want a comfortable, fast experience? Choose a bike with a well-designed fork.
Step #4 | The Best Wheel Size for Speed and Durability
There’s much debate regarding the best wheel size. Depending on who you ask, 650c is best while others stand firm by 700c. In reality, there’s not much difference between the two. When it comes to choosing the best wheel, you must look at your size. Those over 6 feet tall are generally more stable on 700c wheels. Smaller men, and women, generally find 650c wheels to provide ample stability and less rolling resistance.
Step #5 | Things to Consider When Buying a Tri-Specific Bike
While we could go on and on regarding specific features, the best bike for you is a unique decision. Before heading off to the bike shop, spend some time answering the following questions. Bring your answers to the shop to help guide your purchase:
- What’s the purpose of your bike? For example, are you mainly racing in Ironman competitions or Sprint triathlons?
- What’s the average distance you’ll cover in a single race? Or, what’s the typical distance you plan on racing?
- What’s your training schedule? How much training are you prepared to do per week?
- What’s the type of riding you’ll do? Are races hilly or primarily flat roads?
- How much money do you wish to spend?
- Do you suffer from back problems?
Taking the Next Step…
Now you have a better idea of the best bike for you, what’s next? Well, now’s the time to begin your training preparation. Download our Free Triathlon Success Kit to learn industry secrets for boosting your performance and establishing a powerful training schedule.