What bike should a new triathlete buy

I have this question asked quite often by beginner triathletes: “What kind of bike should I get?” People that are just getting into triathlons are often confused with all the bikes out there. Although they are looking for which brand of bike to purchase – we usually answer with ‘A Road Bike‘. After the odd look, I start to explain my reasoning.

Tri-athletes may think I am crazy when I tell them that they should get a road bike and not a triathlon bike. But there are many important reasons why your first bike should be a road bike, and not a triathlon (TT) bike like this:

Leader 735TT bike

Some of my reasons are:
1) Your hands will never be far from your shifters.

2) Your hands will never be far from your brakes.

3) Your weight is not shifted as far forward (on a road bike) due to less vertical seat tube angle.

4) On a Triathlon bike, your arms & steering points are not as far forward past the steering tube – stem length + aero-bar length.

5) On a triathlon bike, your points of contact are now very narrow, rather than tri-angle shaped (road) points of contact – seat, Left & Right hand. This makes it harder to maintain a straight line while riding.

AND the most Important reason is you can focus on your bike handling skills FIRST!

Unfortunately people often go into bike shops and say, I’m going to do a triathlon, I need a tri-bike. Truthfully, they do NOT. They need a road bike, so that they learn how to ride on the road, before riding a bike in a triathlon or time trial position.

Riding on the road is dangerous. Learning the fundamentals of steering, braking, shifting, dealing with traffic, riding near other cyclists, food and drink, all should be learned before purchasing a triathlon bike. Although it may sound expensive to purchase a road bike to ride for 2 years before getting a triathlon bike, it is actually a much smarter decision to work on the fundamentals of cycling. Also, a Triathlon bike is not the ideal bike for every triathlon, a road bike can be a faster bike on some hillier courses.

Team RoundHere Racing new Parlee bikes

A great tip that I give to people attempting to fuel while on the bike is to use the hand that controls the front brake to get food, drink. This way your rear brake hand remains near the rear brake. It maybe awkward at first, but it can save you a lot of trouble in case anything happens.

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3 thoughts on “What bike should a new triathlete buy”

  1. Plus, if you find you really like cycling, you can use your road bike in bike races, whereas you could only use a triathlon/TT bike in time trials and not in “mass start” races. That’s why I consider myself lucky that I got a road bike first and not a tri bike… now I’m a cyclist. :)

  2. After a race re-cap w/ my client that did Ironman Wisconsin (a hilly course w/ turns), I asked her how much she was in her aero-bars – less than 5%.
    Just because you are doing a triathlon, does not mean that a Tri bike will best suit the course.

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