Are Triathlon Bikes Good for Long Distance?

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  • Matt Cook
  • |
  • Apr 6, 2017 9:00:00 AM

Are-Triathlon-Bikes-Good-for-Long-Distance.jpgAfter racing in a few shorter triathlons, you may be feeling ready to move up to longer distances like half Ironmans or full Ironmans. While your regular road bike or mountain bike worked just fine for your past triathlons, you may be wondering if you need to upgrade to keep advancing in the sport. Triathlon bikes are one option, but are they good for long distances?

Triathlon Bikes

Triathlon bikes are specialized bikes that are designed for the unique needs of serious triathletes. Like road bikes, they have skinny tires and are intended for use on paved surfaces. Unlike road bikes, they have aerobars instead of normal handlebars. Aerobars are handlebar extensions that provide armrests in addition to hand rests, so you can take the pressure off your wrists and hands during long rides.

Triathlon bikes also have different frames than road bikes. Triathlon frames have a higher bike seat angle than road bikes. On a road bike, the seat angle is usually between 73 and 74 degrees, and on a triathlon bike, the seat angle is between 75 and 80 degrees.

Benefits of Triathlon Bikes

A major benefit of a triathlon bike is that it’s more aerodynamic than other bikes. The higher bike seat angle forces your body into a more aerodynamic position, so when you’re riding the bike, you’ll be able to go faster. Most riders can go about 2 mph (3.2 kmph) faster on a triathlon bike, so if you’re looking to improve your time, a triathlon bike can help a lot.

These specialty bikes also make it easier for you to transition to running after the bike portion of your race. Since you sit lower on a triathlon bike, your lower back muscles won’t have to work as hard as they do on a road bike, and this can lead to less cramping. When it’s time for the running portion of your race, you’ll be more comfortable and more ready to start running. Being more comfortable during your run can help you improve your running performance, so this is a major benefit, especially in longer races.

Choosing a Triathlon Bike

These bikes are specialty items, so you’ll need to go to bike shops in your area. In the bike shops, the staff will measure you and help you select a bike with the right frame size for your body. Tell the staff that you plan to ride the bike for long distances like half Ironmans and full Ironmans so they can recommend the best bike for your needs. Don’t worry about what the bike looks like; you want performance from a triathlon bike.

Many bike shops will let you test triathlon bikes on the road before you buy them, so make sure to take advantage of this opportunity. If the bike isn’t comfortable for a short road test, it won’t be comfortable when you’re riding long distances during your next triathlon.

Is Upgrading worth It?

Triathlon bikes are best for triathletes who are competitive and focused on getting an edge on other competitors. If you’re racing to beat your best times or to pull ahead of other competitors, a triathlon bike may be a good investment for you.

On the other hand, if you’re mostly just racing to have fun and aren’t too worried about improving your times or winning, a triathlon bike may be an unnecessary purchase. This is true even for longer races like half Ironmans and full Ironmans. If you just want to have fun, any road bike or mountain bike that you already own will be fine.

Your budget also plays a role in the decision to buy a triathlon bike. These specialty bikes are expensive, and you can expect to pay at least a thousand dollars for one. Many triathletes don’t have room for a triathlon bike in their budget.


Topics: Triathlon Training


Matt Cook

Matt Cook

Father of 3 and former competitive swimmer, Matt completed his first Ironman 70.3 in 2013 in Muskoka. He has since completed another 70.3 and is planning on doing a full Ironman in 2016 or 2017. Matt took up triathlons for the challenge, to relax and to just to stay in shape so he can enjoy life with his family.

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