Jan 20

I asked this question when I started out and recently I’ve been asked the same question from friends thinking about doing Triathlons, “road bike or tri bike”.  When I started most of my friends were also just beginning and for the most part they all rode Road Bikes with clip on aerobars.  These friends, the ones that told me it really didn’t matter, are all now riding Tri Bikes.  So do I keep up with the Jones or keep my Road Bike.  I’ve only done 2 races and I’ve been training for about a year and I have been bitten by the Tri Bug.  Because of this I decided to do some researching on this question, Road bike or switch to a Tri Bike?  Ryan_Bike_2

The number one question to ask yourself , “what are you going to be using the bike for”?  Are you going to be riding with roady friends where drafting and handling are important or is most of your riding going to be for Triathlon training?

The biggest argument that I’ve read about in favor of a Road Bike is handling.  This can be important if you are riding with friends that do a lot of drafting or riding with non-triathlete friends.  Starting, stopping, moving in and out of drafting positions and the need for fast handling are all better on a Road Bike.  This is not to say that an expert rider on a Tri-Bike isn’t going to be able to handle that bike just as good or better than a lesser skilled rider on a Road Bike.  I’ve actually read about riding groups where a Tri Bike is discouraged because of handling.  Then again I’ve seen and heard of individuals in the same types of groups riding their Tri Bike.

You can put a set of clip on aerobars on your Road Bike and make your longer rides a bit more comfortable.  However, if your going to do multi-sport races such as a Triathlon or Duathlon a Tri-Bike may be better suited for your needs.

A Road Bike is going to set the position of your body back away from the handlebars compared to the Tri Bike.  This you may want to take into consideration when finding a bike that is more comfortable for you.  Notice the position of Lance Armstrong on his Tri Bike as apposed to my position on a Road Bike with aerobars.  You can really tell the difference in the angle of the arms at the elbow.  Also notice that on a Road Bike you gears are located on the brake lever.  On a Tri Bike the gears are at the end of the aerobars and the brakes are on the handlebars.

Lance Armstrong Paul_Bike_2

The Tri Bike has been specifically designed for a comfortable ride when positioned in the aerobars.  It is also believed that the transition from bike to run is easier because of the positioning and that you will be using more hamstring muscles leaving your quads feeling better for the run.  I’ve talked to a couple of riders that say their average speed was increased between 2 and 4 mph when riding a Tri Bike on long runs as apposed to the Road Bike.  However, keep in mind they were not really designed for group rides.  There is no drafting in Triathlons.  They were built for flat and rolling courses with less climbing.

So after researching this on the web, talking to the owner of Meridian Cycles in Meridian, Idaho and talking to my friends there are a couple of items you wan to take into consideration when choosing a bike.  What is you main purpose for the bike?  For what types of races are you training?  What type of riding does your group of friends do?  Most importantly, which bike is more comfortable for you?  Would it be cheaper to wait until one of the Jones family upgrades and buy theirs at a friend discount?  Unfortunately for me the Jones already upgraded and the new Jones snatched them up before me.  So it’s buy new or Craig’s List here I come.

One Response to “Tri Bike vs. Road Bike”

  1. Shane Says:

    I still don’t think it matters one lick. Look at the bikes at any triathlon and it’s likely to be an equal mix of road and tri bikes, aside from the pros of course. But for all of us regular schmos, who really cares other than the poser factor? Sure, some will tell you that a tri bike might make you x amount faster yadda-yadda, but for us schmos what does that really even mean? Maybe you’re faster than a few more schmos around you? At the end of the day, we’re just talking about degrees of schmo-ness, and none of us are earning a living off this. In fact, our enthusiasm for the sport and desire to have the “right” crap in order to supposedly achieve that next higher level of mediocrity is really only making these equipment companies and retailers money at the expense of our own future comfort in retirement. I’ve certainly contributed my share to them.

    I switched bikes only because I made a mistake in buying a bike that was too big for me the first time around. Given that I needed to go smaller and because we are playing around with this tri thing, I figured if the opportunity presented to get a tri bike that fit, I would go for it. I was fortunate that Todd was upgrading and willing to part with his old one for a price my cheap ass could afford. Plus being a bottom-feeder when I bought my old road bike, I knew I wasn’t going to get stung too bad even if I had to practically give it away.

    In your case, you have a really nice ride already. Knowing that bikes depreciate worse than lettuce at a farmers’ market in August, switching out could likely be a costly move, unless of course that great Craig’s deal lands in your lap. But regardless, it would seem to be only a move to get what someone might call the “right” kind of bike as opposed to something that would make a material difference in schmo-ness. Unless you’re putting a motor on it, we all know it’s really about lungs and legs anyway.

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