- Posted by
- Matt Cook
- Sep 27, 2016 9:00:00 AM
For triathletes putting in their bicycle training mileage on an old commuter or mountain bike, this thought has no doubt occurred often: how much better off would I be investing in a triathlon-specific bicycle? Even a high-end road bike won’tprovide the specific features found on a tri bike. As every triathlete knows, tri bikes are not at all cheap, so here’s a list of three reasons why you might want to consider upgrading your ride, and what advantages you would get out of doing so.
1. Frame Geometry
You may have noticed that the frame of a triathlon bike isthicker in some places. The tri bike is also angled forward to increase the rider’s leverage.To that end, a triathlon bike will also have a steeper seat-tube angle than most other bikes. The geometry behind this design is to generate greater aerodynamic flow and to make pedaling easier on the muscles that the athlete will need to keep as fresh as possible for their run component.The tri bike will have the rider’s hamstrings doing most of the work, while lessening the demands of the big quadriceps muscles on which running so depends.
If you have been training on a bicycle with flat handlebars, you likely feel a numb sensation in your forearms after a lengthy ride. That’s because spending longer periods of time leaning your upper body weight down onto flat bars puts pressure on the nerves in your forearms(the ulnar and median nerves, to be specific) and leads to fatigue and that unpleasant tingle. Dropped handlebars, or horns, are common on road bikes and are much better for your arms, allowing the rider to change grips often and rest the affected nerves. Many triathlon bikes come equipped with the handlebar setup most accommodating to your arms on long rides, and that’s the tri-bar (or aero-bar). Tri-bars have cushioned pads to lean your arms and elbows down on, which will draw the rider’s body down into a tucked position. This will result in better dynamics overall, but the drawback is that the arms are set a bit further away from the brakes and thus make the ride a bit more unstable.
Triathlon bikes should come equipped with aero or racing wheels, again with the intention of improving the bike’s aerodynamics. Wheels are a broad topic and can add thousands of dollars onto the price of a tri bike, so research as much as possible to sort out which is the correct pair for you. Racing wheels will be made of a lighter material such as carbon fibre, and some triathletes favour a denser, wider spoke called a tri-spoke—this spoke configuration streamlines the wheel and can slice the through the air like a rotor blade, though the actual benefits this provides is a matter of ongoing debate within the triathlon community.
So in review, a bike engineered and built for the purpose of training and competing in a triathlon is all about boosting aerodynamics and preserving your bigger leg muscles as much as possible for the run. Price is always an issue, but if you have the money and the will to invest in a tri bike, you’ll no doubt see a marked improvement in your cycling times. If nothing else, the tri-bars will make your arms feel great when riding!