Q: What type of bike should I buy – road or triathlon bike?
A: This is a frequently asked question and it really depends on the level and goals of the triathlete. First, it’s important to note the major differences between a road and triathlon bike. The most obvious difference is triathlon bikes have aero bars attached to the handlebars. The aero bars allow the triathlete to reduce wind resistance and at high speeds ride faster. Another major difference between road and triathlon bikes is the angle of the seat tube. Triathlon bikes have a more aggressive seat tube angle, usually around 76-78 degrees, which pushes the saddle further forward. This forward angle uses less of the hamstrings and hopefully saves your legs for the run. Also, the forward angle of the seat post helps open up the angle of the hips to provide the triathlete with more power while riding in the aero bars. A road bike seat tube angle is typically between 72-74 degrees. This angle uses both the quads and hamstrings. Some argue triathlon bikes can climb just as well as road bikes if riding at a high cadence (90 rpms or above) but I personally think road bikes climb much better.
Which bike an athlete should buy is a personal decision and the athlete should consider many factors. If there is ever any doubt I usually recommend an athlete purchases a road bike. The road bike tends to be a better overall bike. Since the brake levers are in the same spot as the shifters the athlete is able to ride with their hands next to the brake levers. This makes it much easier to ride in a group and also much safer. Road bikes, due to their design, typically handle better around corners also improving the safety of the bikes. These factors, along with increased climbing capability, make the road bike a better overall bike.
If the road bike is a better overall bike why would anyone purchase a triathlon bike? Simply put, triathlon bikes are faster on flat courses. If an athlete is able to sustain 20 mph on the bike there is significant time savings riding on a triathlon bike. Our bodies comprise the largest amount of wind resistance while riding, so getting more aerodynamic can provide a huge boost. Another reason, as previously mentioned, is triathlon bikes help save your legs for the run.
My recommendation for anyone buying their first bike is to buy a road bike. Race a season or two on the road bike and maybe install clip-on aero bars. Once you get more experienced you will know when the time is right to buy a triathlon specific bike.
Equipment for a triathlon
This is a list of necessary gear to complete a triathlon. A few items may not be essential, such as a wetsuit, but once you become more involved in the sport they are worthwhile to have. There are hundreds and maybe thousands of accessories you can get. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions on gear
- Swimsuit / triathlon suit
- Swim Cap
- Ear Plugs
- Bike (Road or Time Trial geometry)
- Bike / tri shorts
- Bike / tri jersey
- Cycling shoes
- Hydration bottle
- Running shoes
- Run shorts / Tri shorts
- Run top / Tri top