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Whether or not you’re into your first triathlon, you should know that you would spend most of your time cycling rather than running or swimming. Because of this, it’s only fitting that you choose the right triathlon bike for your next distance competition. Find here all the information you need to know about buying the best triathlon bike.
So how does a triathlon bike differ from other bikes?
Unlike other types of bikes, triathlon bikes follow a specific geometry. This is to help triathletes balance their power output during the ride. Tri bikes are also made to be comfortable during the long cycling time that is common to all four triathlon distances. These bikes also have special aerodynamics to see to your overall.
For example, the tube angle – located from the bike’s seat to the bottom bracket – in triathlon bikes are much steeper, about 76 to 78 degrees. Traditional road bikes only have 72 degrees. This steeper angle of tri bikes makes it possible for triathletes to have a better body position when racing. This design also makes triathletes drive the bike in a more forward position so there’s less pressure on the quadriceps muscles on the legs. This in turn allows you to save your legs for the running phase of the triathlon.
Unless you want to turn your road bike into a heavyweight tank of added accessories, buying a triathlon bike would be much better for you and is guaranteed to help you perform better during the race.
Important Factors To Consider
Before you buy a triathlon bike here are the three important things that you should keep in mind:
Since not all bikes are made the same, it’s very important that you choose one that is fit for the purpose that you’d like to use it to. Tri bikes make the cycling phase of your triathlon easier so you should be clear on your cycling purpose and goals first before buying your tri bike.
People come in all shapes and sizes. Whenever you buy a bike, you should ask the help of a representative to test your flexibility and get your measurements for a proper bike fitting. This way, you can get recommendation on which bikes would suit your body best. The fitting of a bike can make your go faster (if fitted well) or go slower (if the bike is not fitted well or not suitable for your body). Don’t just buy the bike that looks the best for you. Buy the one that is the best fit for you.
Even if you’re just a beginner (or maybe not), you should invest in a high-quality tri bike. It might be expensive at first but it will prove worthy of your money in the long run. Besides, it’s no use buying a cheaper or more affordable bike and yet you’ll splurge on several upgrades just to make it better. High-quality bikes are also more durable and there are less expensive options like aluminum and steel frame bikes against the more expensive carbon frames.
How To Choose Your Triathlon Bike
Choose a tri bike with a steep seat tube angle
You’ve read earlier why a steeper angle in important when choosing a triathlon bike. It’s to make your position forward, upright, and aerodynamically sleek. This kind of positioning also allows you to use all of your leg muscles the best way and save it for the next phase – running.
Determine your kind of bike frame
Even if you’re racing for a triathlon, there are still several frame materials that you can choose for your bike. The more affordable ones are aluminum and steel while carbon fiber and titanium is more expensive. So how does each material differ from one another?
Carbon fiber – the lightweight material of carbon fiber makes these bikes really popular. If you can save some weight by buying a carbon fiber tri bike, you’ll notice this in your triathlon times. Also, if you have a ‘bad back’, then carbon fiber frame bikes would be best for you. Because it’s shock absorbent and is very good for long-distance biking. Another advantage is that it’s the “softest” frame material and is made specifically to offer comfort to riders. It’s a recommended frame for those who suffer from backaches and other pains and lightweight riders.
Aluminum – this is the most common material used in bike frames. Basically, it’s because aluminum is the stiffest and one of the lightest frame material available on the market. However, it also wears down easily especially during long rides on rough roads. So they’re fitter to use for smooth and paved roads.
Steel – not many tri bikes are made of steel frames and mostly because they are relatively heavy. Although steel frames are stronger and less venerable to high impacts, most tri bike brands have stopped producing steel frame bikes. They are just too heavy compared to the lightweight of aluminum and carbon fiber.
Titanium – if you want a strong tri bike similar to steel frame bikes minus the heavy weight, then you should consider titanium frame bikes. Because titanium frames are very durable, they happen to be ‘heirloom’ type of bikes. It’s shock absorbent even on squeaky and bumpy roads. They’re also fit for every type of rider, lightweight or not.
The big downside is that titanium frame bikes happen to be the most expensive in the bunch due to the processing of the titanium, not because of the metal itself.
There are also cases where bike frames are somewhat hybrid. Aluminum can be combined with carbon fiber, or even titanium. This is to improve some aspects of the bike using the qualities of each material.
Familiarize yourself with groups
All the shiny stuff that you see hanging on the frame is most composed of brakes, derailleurs, and shifters. These are what you call a “group”. In the bike market, only two companies have established themselves as the reliable group provider – Campagnolo and Shimano.
Campagnolo, or Campy as it is more popularly known, is the Italian manufacture of top of the line Record and Chorus group for tri bikes. Shimano, on the other hand, is a Japanese manufacturer with more race-specific groups to choose from. Their best tri bike group offerings are Dura-Ace, Ultegra and 105. Both manufacturers are known to produce durable and high quality groups.
The forks are very important
In fact, it’s a critical component of your triathlon bike. What the fork blades do is that they flex and deflect shock focus forward on the tire and wheels so it doesn’t affect the rider and the bike.
Wheel size matters – probably
It’s still debatable but there’s not much difference whether you get a 650c or 700c wheel. However, you might appreciate the stable feel of the 700c wheels if you happen to be a six-footer or taller. Women and smaller guys would do well with the 650c wheels.
You might want to invest on aerobars
Also known as tri-bars, these allow you to take a more aerodynamic position so you’re almost perfectly horizontal on the bike when you ride. You can use an aerobar to rest your arms flat or a bit elevated for a more confident and better handling. Just make sure that your elbows are slightly more forward than your shoulders.
Choose some good wheels
Given that you’ll be on the trail, you should choose your bike wheels carefully. Good wheels are those that are aerodynamic, easy to maintain, reliable, stiff enough to avoid flexing, and lightweight as much as possible. Wheels with deep profile rims and solid disc wheels are aerodynamic. Aluminum wheels provide consistent braking. Wheels with carbon fairings are also a good option. Carbon wheels increase stiffness and help cut down rotational weight.
Go with rubber tires
When you choose a rubber tire, be very particular with grip, puncture resistance, rolling resistance, and weight. This way, you won’t have to worry about blowing a tire or losing your grip on the surface while on the run.
Where To Get Your Triathlon Bike
Although there are department stores selling ‘tri bikes’, you might want to look into the triathlon or race bike shop first. This is because specialised shops usually have expert professionals who can help you choose the right triathlon bike fit for you. Also, many department store ‘tri bikes’ aren’t really triathlon bikes at all. There is a difference between a road race bike and a proper triathlon bike! Get the correct advice from the specialists. Well known tri bike brands are for instance Kestrel and Fuji Bikes.
It’s also better if you can easily contact trained people if something happens and you need assistance with your bike. They can also provide you with some insights on how to make your cycling better, which you will not get on department stores.
After covering the basics, you should know by now what kind of bike you’d like to have for your next triathlon. You might get lost with the wide selection of tri bikes available but you don’t have to worry if you follow the three important factors: purpose, fitting, and price.
Admit it or not, giving your triathlon bike a higher budget would help you find a much better bike. Of course, you can always shop around and see an entry-level tri bike that would fit your needs just fine if you are on a budget.
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