If you are new to triathlons and are looking for some advice on what kind of entry level bike to purchase for your first triathlon, event then you’re in just the right place. Here we discuss everything you need to know about what to look for your new sport.
Before jumping straight in and running off to purchase your new triathlon bike, you need to first consider several important points. As a beginner who is just getting into the sport, it will be a better idea to get used to how the transition and overall event works with a regular road bike, before splashing a load of cash on a bike specific for the sport. However, if you are more used to competing and think it’s time to move on to a more qualified bicycle, then you will need to ask yourself (or the store attendant) the following questions:
Ok so now you are aware of your unique requirements, here are the elements that are important to look out for when shopping for your new bike:
It is pretty normal for most modern bikes to have around 18 gears. However, some bikes can feature up to 30! Here’s where the question, ‘will I be riding on hilly terrain or flat surfaces’ comes in. If you are going to be cycling mainly on a flat pavement or road, then you won’t need to focus too much on the gears.
However, if you plan to train or compete in more hilly areas, then you are going to want to know about the gears. Lower gears will come in really handy and will make it somewhat easier for you when you are trying to push yourself up that dreaded hill.
The two most common frames to choose between are carbon and aluminum. But how do you know which one will be best for you? The main difference is that a carbon frame feels much lighter (most of the time) than an aluminum one, which in turn, makes it generally more expensive. And really, there is nothing wrong with a cheaper aluminum frame.
In terms of damage, an aluminum frame is likely to suffer a dent or bend but is usually easily fixable, but with a carbon frame, damage could happen internally and not be noticeable to our eyes. If damage goes unnoticed, then overtime, the inside of the frame can become weakened or cracked. If you are involved in a biking accident, then a carbon frame can actually shatter and will be unfixable.
Our advice? Unless you have a large budget, are an avid and serious triathlete or biker, then we’d recommend purchasing an aluminum bike.
If you have opted for a regular bike (not a specific tri bike), then you can always look at adding on an aero bar, or tri bar to the frame you already have. This add-on piece of equipment will help you to ride with a little more aerodynamics, and hopefully shed off a few crucial seconds to your race time.
When it comes to adding an aero bar, there isn’t really one that is overly better than another, because it comes down to personal preference. It will be a good idea to test a few different ones and ask yourself which one is most comfortable and which one can you see yourself using?
The most important thing to make sure of when purchasing a new bike? The comfort of the saddle! The types of saddles out there are endless, but if your saddle is not comfortable for you, then that really is no good. Remember, a saddle is not a ‘one size fits all’ type of deal. Try and test different saddles to see what works best for you. If you are a female, then saddles that are slightly wider and shorter tend to work better.
And of course, it needs to fit. If the saddle is too big or even too small, you will slip off of it and won’t be able to get the right momentum when cycling. Our advice is to try several different saddles out and also to remember that if this is something that is new to you, it is likely that you won’t instantly find any saddle extremely comfortable. As long as it fits your body shape and doesn’t dig or irritate in anyway, you should be good to go.
Even if you opt for a road bike, getting the right pedals will be a really important focus. The best kind of pedals to use for triathlons are the ones that allow you to clip into your shoes. Yes, you will also need to invest in some cycling shoes. Getting pedals and shoes that go together is essential. How do these pedals work? They feature a spring-like mechanism that attaches easily to the cleat of your cycling shoes.
When purchasing the shoes, make sure they are snug fitting without being too restrictive and make sure they don’t crush your toes! You should be able to wiggle your toes without your feet moving around the shoe. In addition, the soles need to be stiff, so as to make sure you maintain power and strength throughout the cycle, as well as so you don’t feel the hard pedal through your shoes.
If you are going to splash out on a bike for your triathlon, then we’d suggest focusing most of your money on the wheels and tyres. When it comes to your triathlon bike, you need to ensure that you have one that has a low rotating weight. This simply means the wheels and the chain need to be as lightweight as possible, so that you go faster and perform better.
When it comes to the material of the wheels, again we’d say to go for aluminum. Why? Because although carbon wheels are good, they are pricey, and if you want really good carbon wheels that make a true difference, they are REALLY pricey. And also, carbon wheels are easier to damage and can be harder to control.
As for tyres, first you need to know the difference between the main two types. These include clinchers (which are the most common type and feature a tyre and a separate inner tube) and tubulars (which has it’s inner tube sewn into the tyre, and then attached to the rim).
Our recommendation for triathletes would be to go for clinchers simply because of their convenience. You can change out the inner ub if need be relatively quickly and easily and then carry on riding.
Our wheel and tyre advice is to spend the most money on them, and get the best you can afford.
Your new bike has to fit you! Make sure the saddle goes to the right height for you, so that you can sit comfortably on it. And do the same for the handle bars. Can you get all the features to suit you just right?
And last but not least, don’t forget your helmet!