- Triathlon bikes vs. standard bikes
- How to choose your first triathlon bikes
- Size chart for triathlon bikes
- Does brand name matter?
- Types of bike frame materials
- Essential triathlon bike accessories and tools
Cycling Essentials: How to Choose Your First Triathlon Bike
The quality and durability of your triathlon bike largely affect your performance as a triathlete. So, you should choose your first riding buddy with knowledge and caution. In this guide, we’ll help you choose the right triathlon bike based on multiple factors that cover your needs, goals, and preferences.
How Different Are Triathlon Bikes To Standard Bikes
A triathlon bike has the appropriate frame geometry and efficient aerodynamics for rigorous training and demanding races. Compared to a standard bike, a triathlon bike aims to give riders the most comfortable experience and the best performance for long-distance and heavy riding.
Triathlon bikes’ seat tubes are mostly steeper than road bikes’ to lessen tension. Most road bikes have a 72-degree seat tube angle, while triathlon bikes have seat angles exceeding 78 degrees. This offers riders a comfortable position in long-distance riding.
Triathlon bikes also have better aerodynamics, so they always undergo wind tunnel testing before being introduced to the market. They can offer riders more comfort without burning too much energy during each push and drag.
Another difference is the storage feature. Triathlon bikes have more storage capacity than regular road bikes since triathletes need compartments to carry their tools, tubes, food, and fluids.
How To Choose Your First Triathlon Bike
Your first triathlon bike will mark the start of your journey as a triathlete, whether you wish to join competitions or just local triathlon clubs. For this reason, you must carefully choose the bike that will fit your needs, determine your goals, and improve your technical skills. Here are the best steps and tips on how to choose your first triathlon bike:
Consider Your Budget
If you’re serious about triathlon and being a professional athlete, you need to shell out some money and invest in quality gear and equipment. And one of the crucial pieces of equipment in a triathlon is the bike. A quality bike comes with a price, but you can definitely find the best one within your budget range.
Bikes for adults and athletes can range from 300 USD (4,700 EGP) to 2,000 USD (31,400 EGP). Some limited-edition bikes can even go over 8,000 USD. Many factors contribute to the cost of bikes today: design, materials, manufacturing, quality control, and market economics. If you want a customized bike, that would be part of the total cost, too.
In actuality, there is no price ceiling on the prices of bikes today. And it will undoubtedly continue to rise due to market economics. In the end, your budget range would depend on how serious this hobby or your triathlon career is for you.
Go For the Best Fit and Size
Athletes are built differently, so one of the most crucial factors you should consider is the fit and size of the bike in proportion to your height, weight, and overall build. Your height should be your top consideration. In addition, also look for the best bike for the right type of riding you plan to do. In this case, triathlon.
All these elements will make your ride more comfortable as according to a study published in the National Library of Medicine in the US, “cyclists’ bike perceptions should be taken into account when it comes to choosing the most beneficial position, since this can play a role in injury prevention and enhance cycling performance.” Your bike fit will determine your position and affect your comfort and performance.
Canvas And Look Around
Do some research and window shopping online and in physical bike stores. If you’re buying online, only buy from legitimate resellers and official manufacturers. Buying online, however, is not often recommended since you need to examine the fit and size of the bike.
If you’re visiting physical stores, shop around at local bike shops or bicycle-specific manufacturers. Move away from department stores or big box stores. The best option is to visit the actual brand or manufacturer selling the bike you want.
Is the Brand Really THAT Important?
Since we’re on the topic of looking for the best places to buy bikes, let’s tackle the issue concerning brand names. Today’s industry is dominated by giant brands like Cervelo, Trek, Specialized, and Scott. But do brand names matter?
Brand names may not always be a key indicator of unparalleled quality and performance, but yes, brands do matter. According to an article published by Harvard Business Review, names set expectations in brands—“When customers see a brand-name change, they expect radically new features”.
The aforementioned brand names dominate the industry for a reason—they produce quality, durable, and trendy bikes for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Manufacturers produce signature bikes with the latest technology and the strongest of materials because they have the budget and name to do so.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you should only buy bikes and other equipment from top manufacturers. You can also look for lesser-known but equally reputable brands that produce quality bicycles.
Take A Look At The Frame Materials
The first most important thing you should look for in a triathlon bike is the material used in making the frame and fork—basically the entire body. Generally, you’ll have the option to choose between carbon, steel, aluminum, or titanium. The choice isn’t straightforward as some frames and forks are made with two different materials; examples are entry-level bikes that are made with an aluminum frame and a carbon fiber fork.
To help you decide what type of material you should go for, here are the pros and cons surrounding carbon fiber, steel, titanium, and aluminum.
Carbon is one of the most commonly used materials in bikes because of its flexibility, weight, and accessibility. Carbon fiber is significantly lighter than steel, titanium, and aluminum, so it can easily absorb road vibrations. Due to its features, carbon fiber bikes are typically some of the most expensive models in the market.
Aluminum is also commonly used in frame building because of its durability. Aluminum frames are mostly corrosion-resistant and lightweight but not as light as carbon fiber. The downsides of most aluminum frames are their inability to absorb major road buzz. They also wear out much quicker than other types of frames.
Steel was the king of bike building until manufacturers discovered alternatives and other materials. Still, you can find many bike frames made with steel today. Steel is denser, more durable, and stronger than most materials—especially aluminum. They don’t wear out easily. However, it’s heavier than carbon fiber and aluminum.
Titanium is mainly used in high-end bikes because of its versatility and durability. Titanium frames offer smoother rides and don’t break down easily. The downside to titanium is its rarity, so titanium frames are relatively expensive.
Examine The Groupset
After considering the frame of the bike, the groupset comes next. Groupset refers to the mechanical components of the bike, mainly the transmission and brakes. For specific parts, these are the gear levers, derailleurs, bottom brackets, cassettes, cranksets, brake levers, and cabling. Groupsets vary, depending on the skill level and category of the rider, so there are different sets for basic, intermediate, professional bike users.
When purchasing triathlon bikes and groupsets, you should go with what you can afford, but take note that high-end groupsets allow smooth shifting, offer a wider range of gear choices, and come with a more lightweight feeling. The three major manufacturers of bike groupsets today are Shimano, SRAM, and Campagnolo. You can find their names on most bikes today.
Find the Balance Between Comfort and Performance
Following the importance of fit and size are comfort and performance. Some bikes offer extreme comfort but won’t give you optimal performance. There are also bikes that can provide optimal performance but won’t give you a long, comfortable ride. In between these two categories, there are bikes that can offer both. Make sure to find the balance between comfort and performance when you choose your first triathlon bike.
Aside from the right fit and size, the material of the seat and handles will also contribute to overall comfort. That’s why test riding is essential. You can compare bikes based on comfort by testing them on physical stores.
Choose Your Preferred Design
Choosing a good design based on your preferred color, style, and graphics is optional. But while this won’t affect your performance in a triathlon, it can definitely boost your spirit and motivation. You’ll get a bike that actually looks good! After all, this would be your first triathlon bike.
When choosing a design, never compromise the quality and performance. This is where your research about brand names, bike designs, and bike performance comes in. Don’t fall prey to bikes with good designs but have an average performance.
Alternatively, you can choose to customize your bike’s frame and parts. If you wish to go down this road, select a quality customizable model. You can do plenty of things in a customizable bike, such as adding custom colored decals, spray painting the frame, or completely changing components like cranks, pedals, stems based on your preferred colors.
Compatibility of Accessories and Tools
Your bike’s accessories and tools are equally important as its actual body. They can enhance your performance and make riding more comfortable. Sooner or later, after you purchase your first triathlon bike, you’ll want to add more tools and accessories to upgrade it.
The sheer range of add-ons available in a bike shop can be overwhelming, so here’s a list of essential accessories that can truly enhance your triathlon performance instead of simply improving the look of your bike.
- Bike lock – Look for a triathlon bike that supports traditional and modern locks, such as cable, chain, or folding lock. There are also what they call D-locks and sold-secure locks.
- Cycling luggage – An essential accessory for travelers and racers like triathletes. Look for a triathlon bike with an easily accessible saddle for bag attachments.
- Mudguards – A triathlon bike that supports most mudguards and fenders attachments is best for triathletes who always train in areas with tropical wet-dry climates.
- Bottle cages – These are essential for training and competitions. Go for a triathlon bike that can support different sizes of bottle cages to fit your liquids.
How to Test Ride Your First Triathlon Bike
A good test ride only takes 15 to 20 minutes, so don’t skip this step before finalizing your purchase. Test rides are the biggest reason why you should buy your first triathlon bikes in physical bike stores instead of online stores.
When you spot the best bike that fits your needs and checks all boxes, ask the store or the manufacturer if they allow test rides. If they do, you can request the shop owner or manager to adjust or readjust any part of the bike that feels off. Afterward, you can get out of the store and do a test ride.
Feel the speed and responsiveness of the bike while considering your pace. Make a mental note of the positive and negative factors during the test ride, then make your final decision. Remember that all these factors, especially the bike’s orientation, material, and even configurations, will affect your performance.
When choosing your first triathlon bike, you have lots of options to choose from, regardless of your budget. And these options can be overwhelming. Over a hundred bicycle manufacturers today claim they offer the best triathlon bike in the market. The key is to research, compare, and contrast. Consider your needs and goals as a triathlete over anything else.