Do I really need a triathlon bike for my first race?

triathlon bike

I wouldn’t suggest going out and buying a new triathlon bike unless you are serious about a long term career in Triathlon or riding in general, but, if you are, there are a few things to consider.

Is weight or aero more important to me?

This will be driven by where you expect to spend most of your time. In general, minimising weight is the goal of cyclists. It makes climbing easier, lets you maintain higher speeds, improves acceleration etc.

Going aero will require you to compromise that to some extent, but aerodynamic efficiency will make you faster and save you energy for the run, as long as the course is flat enough to remain aero. However, this is not always possible, especially if there is a lot of climbing on the course, or if you are not able to retain an aero position for the majority of the Bike leg. If you want to learn more about Aero, then read this article on the aero position.

Ultimately, your weight and shape is more relevant to your performance than either the aerodynamics or weight of the bike, ,and losing a couple of pounds and getting a good bike fit may have a much greater effect than the bike itself.

So, consider how much time you are going to be in the aero position before you decide.

How much have I got to spend?

A full aerobike, whether a specialist triathlon bike or an aero road bike is going to be a lot more expensive than the equivalent road bike. Using the Canyon example again, the Race bike starts at €1599, the equivalent Triathlon bike is €2299 and the Aero road bike is €2699 for a similar bike.

Where am I going to be riding?

Terrain plays a big part in bike choice, especially hills and mountains. Climbing is affected more by weight than aero, as, until you hit the downslope, you are not going fast enough for any aerodynamic effect, but added weight will slow you down.

What sort of riding will I be doing?

If you are planning on using the bike for general road races, sportifs or charity rides, avoid triathlon bikes as these are often banned from such events, as they are not suited to riding in packs. The same goes for commuting. If you need the bike for commuting, a specialist road bike isn’t the way to go!! 

This can’t be over stated. A bike thats costing you thousands has got to be useful in multiple situations. Triathlon bikes are very specialised and whilst great on a relatively flat triathlon course, they are compromised as a daily commuter or as a climber.

Comfort.

No matter how fast your bike is or how slippery your position makes you, if you can’t ride it for a couple of hours in races or training, it’s no good for you! It needs to be the right size for you and have a geometry that suits you and your riding style otherwise you won’t enjoy riding it and will probably stop. Remember, you are supposed to enjoy this sport, it’s not supposed to be torture!

Ultimately you should be investing in a bike that you are going to use as much as you can, so an around makes more sense. If you want to climb, it’ll be light enough to get you up the hills, and stable enough on the descents. If you want to go aero you can use the drops or when you become more comfortable in that position, you can add clip-on aero bars which will take you 90% of the way to the same position.

Can I use an electric bike?

In a word, No! but there is nothing to stop you using any other type of bike if thats what you have available. I know people who ran their first races on mountain bikes, their sisters bike or even bikes with baskets on the front quite successfully!