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Bicycles: Triathlon or Road Bike, Which is Right for You?

Updated on February 15, 2016
Jaynie2000 profile image

Jaynie is a seasoned marathoner, triathlete and soccer player with an interest in fitness and nutrition.

Choosing the Right Bike for Competition

Bicycles: Triathlon or Road Bike, Which is Right for You?

Choosing between a triathlon bike or a road bike can be tricky, especially if you are selecting your first professional grade bike. There are differences between the two that are critical enough to warrant careful consideration.

Ideally, athletes will have one each of road and tri bikes. But due to the high price of such bikes, many people cannot afford both. When making your decision you must be clear about the bike’s intended use. Ask yourself how much racing you intend to do. What distances will you be racing? How often will you be training? When not training, do you own a road bike, hybrid or mountain bike that you can use for leisurely rides? Once you have established your use patterns you will have a better idea which type of cycle will best suit your needs.

Road Bikes

Road bikes are built for distance and speed on long, flat roads. They have traditional saddle positioning that makes remaining in your aerobars for extended periods a bit more uncomfortable than remaining in them on a triathlon bike. If you decide upon a road bike, they can be very comfortable for shorter races such as sprint or Olympic distance triathlons. Road bikes typically have more rounded tubes because they are not built for aerodynamics like tri bikes. The tubes can be made of carbon fiber however, and therefore reduce the overall weight of the bike, making speed possible. If you choose a carbon fiber frame it will definitely add speed, but also cost. Some top-of-the-line road bikes are made by Felt; Cannondale; Trek; Giant; and Specialized.

Triathlon Bikes

Triathlon bikes are more aerodynamic than road bikes. This is important because in most triathlons, drafting is illegal, therefore optimizing one’s aerodynamics is crucial. Tri bikes feature aerobars, teardrop shaped frame tubes; reduced spoke count wheels, and aggressive alignments. The saddle positioning allows for preservation of the quadriceps that is critical for the transition between the bike and the run. This is one of the main reasons that athletes select a triathlon specific bike for competition. Some top of the line tri bikes are made by Trek, Orbea, Cervelo, Quintana Roo, Scott and Kuota.

Custom Choice, Custom Fit

To increase performance on either bike, athletes can add features such pedal systems, comfortable saddles, disc wheels added to the rear, and carbon fiber accessories such as tri-spokes and water bottle cages.

A good bike purveyor should offer custom fittings after you’ve made your purchase to assure that your bike is properly fitted to your body height and type. Some shops charge for this service and others include it in the purchase price. My fitting took roughly an hour and was well worth the $100 I paid for it.

Custom bike shops and shops for cycling enthusiasts are the best places to shop for quality bikes whether they are road or tri bikes. Top of the line items are not carried in department stores and the trouble with shopping for discounted bikes online is that you will not be able to have a custom fitting or to try the bike in advance. If you choose to shop online for discounted pro bikes, I would recommend trying out the same models at a local bike shop. Then you’ll know for sure what you want and you can order it online if you find a better deal. Inquire with the local shop about whether they will offer custom fittings for cycles purchased elsewhere. If so, factor in the added cost of shipping and custom fitting when determining the value of the online purchase.

Happy cycling!!

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© 2010 Jaynie2000


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    • Jaynie2000 profile image

      Jaynie2000 6 years ago

      Absolutely agreed.

    • Jaynie2000 profile image

      Jaynie2000 7 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your information.

    • toneyahuja profile image

      toneyahuja 7 years ago from India

      fantastic one. Bicycles: Triathlon or Road Bike, Which is Right for You? nice title insist to think about triatholon. Exciting range of Triathlon clothing and accessories - in addition to which, we offer you personalized, prompt customer service, tailored to your requirements.

    • Jaynie2000 profile image

      Jaynie2000 7 years ago

      Thank you so much for the positive feedback. I'm sorry to hear about your knee. Triathlon and marathoning have taken a small toll on my knees and hips as well. But I keep plugging away. I'm sure someday I'll be the next titanium woman, but for now, I'm just enjoying things while I still can. I have my eye on my first 1/2 ironman for July 2011. I hope I can pull it off! I need to invest in a tri bike. I have a fantastic Cannondale road bike, but 56 miles of cycling in a race might make the tri acquisition a great investment!


    • bruzzbuzz profile image

      bruzzbuzz 7 years ago from Texas , USA

      Excellent hub. I have been a runner and I have been a bicyclist for many years but I was never able to do a Triathlon due to my knee. My running destroyed it which is why I turned to riding. I am getting a total knee replacement this summer and asked the doctor if i would be able to do at least one triathlon in my life. All he said was that he did not advise it. Oh well, who cares about his advice. Anyway, great hub.

    • Jaynie2000 profile image

      Jaynie2000 7 years ago

      Thanks Ironracer. I checked out your hubs and I am impressed with the 6 Ironman races you've done. You've got some lofty goals, but good for you! I wish I had the build and stamina for something that grueling. I love Ironman. It's the most amazing physical feat out there. Keep racing!!

    • Ironracer profile image

      Ironracer 7 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Nice article. I agree - use a local, reputable bike shop and pay for the bike fitting! Too many people don't understand the need for a fitting. Cheers.