- Posted by
- Matt Cook
- May 2, 2017 9:00:00 AM
For your first triathlon, any bike you have access to is fine. You may have completed your first triathlon on a borrowed mountain bike or a hand-me-down road bike and had a great time. Now that you’ve decided to keep participating in the sport, you may be ready to upgrade your equipment. Triathlon bikes are different from other types of bikes. Here’s a guide to everything you need to know about these specialty bikes.
Triathlon Bike Features
The seat tube angle is a major difference between triathlon bikes and other bikes. On a road bike, this angle is usually 73 to 75 degrees, while on a mountain bike, it’s 71 to 75 degrees. A triathlon bike has a steeper seat tube angle, and is usually 75 to 80 degrees. The steeper angle is more suitable for racing hard in an aero position.
The tires are another big difference between triathlon bikes and other bikes. On mountain bikes, the tires are wide with thick treads for off-road biking. Road bikes have skinny tires since they’re designed for use on smooth surfaces. Triathlon bikes have skinny tires like road bikes, but the wheels have thicker spokes.
The handle bars are another major difference you’ll notice. Triathlon bars have handlebar extensions, known as aerobars. Instead of sitting upright and holding the bars with your hands, you lean forward and rest your forearms on the aerobars.
How to Choose a Bike
If you’re ready to buy your first triathlon bike, you should go to a specialty bike shop. At a specialty shop, the staff will be able to fit you for your bike, and help you choose the best triathlon bike for your needs. The right fit is important, because racing on the wrong bike can lead to injuries or poor performance.
At some shops, you’re allowed to take the bike for a test ride around the neighbourhood. If you’re allowed to test the bike, be sure to take advantage of the opportunity. If the bike isn’t comfortable on a short test ride, it won’t be comfortable during your triathlons, either.
Advantages of Triathlon Bikes
Triathlon bikes are designed for the unique needs of triathletes. The bikes let you ride in a more aerodynamic position, so you can go faster, and shave time off the bike legs of your races. The denser spokes of the wheels may also help you go faster, though there’s some debate about that in triathlon circles.
Triathlon bikes can also be more comfortable for long rides. After a long ride on your road bike or mountain bike, you may notice that your hands and forearms start to go numb and tingly. This happens because riding with pressure on your hands can pinch the nerves in your forearms. Since you rest your forearms on the aerobars when you’re riding a triathlon bike, your hands and wrists will be more comfortable.
Another advantage of a triathlon bike is that riding one is easier on your muscles. On a triathlon bike, your hamstrings do most of the work, so your quadricep muscles will be fresh when it’s time for the running portion of the race. This will make the running leg more comfortable, and you may be able to improve your time since your muscles will be fresh.
Disadvantages of Triathlon Bikes
If you only have the budget for one bike, a triathlon bike may not be the best choice. These bikes aren’t designed for multi-purpose riding so they’re not ideal for bike tours, group rides, or hilly road courses. If you want a bike that’s suitable for multiple purposes, you may want to get a road bike, instead.