Whether you’re new to triathlons and looking for the best road bike to get started on, or if you’ve decided to upgrade your current bike, there are a lot of factors to consider while you shop. With prices averaging around $2500-3500, a decent road bike is not a purchase most people are able to make impulsively.
You’re going to want to think hard about a lot of factors, such as your budget, your own personal strengths and weaknesses as a rider, what your current and future goals may be, and how comfortable you are with servicing your own bike. Aside from practicality, you might also want to look at how prestigious or reliable a company is, how attractive or personalized your bike looks, and any factors that may meet very specific needs or wants you have.
Let’s take a look at some recent models and how they may fit into your overall needs, goals, and desires.
If you have followed triathlon or road racing much over the last twenty years or so, the name of this bike may jog memories of Team CSC riding the original Soloist to many victories in the early 2000s. This particular incarnation shares little more than the name, however. After a history of appealing to professional racers, Cervelo has expressly designed this bike more for the everyday rider, and less for the pros.
Starting at $3400, the Soloist is somewhat more affordable than most of Cervelo’s line, reflecting the brand’s intention to appeal to the amateur racer. Its tidy under-stem routing for hoses and cabling allow for easy break down for packing into a bike bag for easy storage or travel, as well as being reasonably mechanically simple if you want to work on it yourself.
If you want to build your own bike, the frameset is available separately in a number of colors, including Alpenglow (white), Embers (black) and Gold Dust (metal flake gold metallic). Some find the down tube chunky, and under certain lights the carbon frame can make the finish look dirty, but most people feel that the overall look of the soloist is sleek enough and overall decently attractive.
At 8.1kg, it’s reasonably light but certainly not the lightest carbon fiber bike on the market, which for the price point could be considered a downside. However, its fast handling and smooth ride even over rough terrain make it a joy to ride. Although it buffers road vibrations well for a surprisingly comfortable ride, some riders find that the hollow tubes tend to amplify road noise more than is preferable for many.
Overall, for an attractive, prestigious model that you can ride, service, and pack with ease, the Soloist may be an affordable way to enter into a higher end carbon fiber bike.
Fans of this company know the lore of its founder selling his Volkswagen Bus in 1974 to fund his cycle tour of Europe, bringing back Italian bike components that ultimately led to starting his own company selling bike parts under the name of Specialized. There’s not a lot of new technology offered in Specialized’s latest Tarmac model, but that’s okay! There’s a reason the Tarmac has been this brand’s mainstay for years, and this newest offering continues to show how great these bikes can be, conventional as they are.
Fairly priced at $3000, the SL6 features a carbon fiber frame, rigid suspension, some internal cable routing, and a comfortable weight of 8.03kg. There are some fun color options, including Metallic White Silver, Tarmac Black and Raspberry, Tarmac Black and Chameleon, and Smoke. Some people do tend to find that the remaining exterior cables can look a little bit messy, but the simplicity of the overall construction ultimately is a win. It’s fairly easy to pack into a bike bag, and relatively simple to service, so if you travel for races a lot or a’re new to working on your own bike this factor may be a plus for you.
The handling mimics higher end models, but at a much lower price point. The low head tube angle and stable wheelbase give smooth cornering, and as with all Tarmacs it climbs well. Some people find that it doesn’t maintain speed as well on straightaways, but overall the everyday rider is likely to find that this bike meets all their needs.
As a company that is nearly a half a century old, Trek has been on the forefront of new concepts for more decades than most active triathletes have been alive. From their early days of experimenting with molded carbon fiber frames, to more recently exploring eco-friendly options and recycling technology, this is definitely a brand that consistently rolls with the times and continues to produce quality bikes.
The Emonda SL5 is no exception to the quality that consumers have grown to expect from Trek. Starting at $2700, it’s an affordable option for a new or casual rider, and provides a nice entry into a carbon frame bike. The Emonda is a lot heavier than many carbon fiber options, weighing in at 9.16kg, but its heft and firmness provides a stability that keeps you grounded while still allowing you to feel the road.
Its steep head angle allows for comfortable steering and a nimble feel on turns, but it doesn’t go unnoticed that the weight might give a heavy feel on steeper climbs. Internal cabling gives a sleek and tidy appearance, however if you’re newer to servicing your own bike, or aren’t especially mechanically inclined, you might find this unwieldy when it comes to packing up or working on this model.
Color options are minimal and not super flashy, offering brushed chrome and metallic blue, but if you’re looking to upgrade from an aluminum bike to a carbon option, this is an affordable and reliable starting point.
Although the Canyon name didn’t start appearing on bikes until the mid 1990s, the company had already been working in cycling parts and supplies for a solid decade. The original Aeroad has been around since 2010, and those who have followed the success of prior models in the last six years aren’t surprised to find that the Aeroad CF 7 Disc gained popularity quickly.
Starting at $3999, this carbon bike is on the heavy side, weighing in at 7.95kg. The white and black paint job can make this an easy bike to find in transition!
It’s not necessarily the easiest bike to work on if you prefer to do your own work, especially if you’re new to servicing your own bike. Some people find that the brakes can be a little bit fussy to get right if you have to remove the wheels for servicing, but there is a lot of adjustability that even beginners can utilize for the best personalized experience.
Performance wise, this bike is impressively responsive and climbs well, but can have somewhat of a road feel when speeding up or cornering. It’s still surprisingly comfortable, however. The frame geometry has been carefully engineered to make sure that you feel good spending time on your aero bars.
Overall, this bike provides a decent mix of components, a solid ride, and a race-ready unit that suits riders of all levels.
From their modest start manufacturing bike bags before branching into hand made bicycle frames, Cannondale has now become an international name in cycling, sponsoring numerous Ironman World Championship athletes. Their CAAD line (for “Cannondale Advanced Aluminum Design”) was introduced 30 years ago, and has moved from mountain bikes to the competitive racing road bikes they’re known for today.
Starting at $2500 and weighing in at 9.1kg, the CAAD13 moves away from the traditional diamond frame seen in previous models and leans into a frameset that more closely resembles more modern race bikes. This improves rider comfort as well by creating a smaller rear triangle and allowing for more flex through the seat tube. New aero features such as truncated aerofoil tube profiles reduce drag by as much as 30% over prior models. The CCAD13 also accommodates larger wheels in both front and back.
Aesthetically, some people tend to find this bike less attractive than other options that may put a little more focus on a clean, sleek look. The paint job and exposed welds can give a cheaper look, and the color schemes can seem flat. However, the semi-exposed cable routing does allow for a simple and straightforward construction that may appeal to some.
Despite its relatively hefty weight, the ride is surprisingly lively and climbs more effectively than you might expect. It offers clean handling and cornering, and a ride as smooth as a more expensive carbon option.
If you’re not overly fussy about how fancy your bike looks, the overall performance and comfort of the CAAD13 makes this a reasonably priced option well worth considering.
Quintana Roo is considered by some to be the height of innovation in the triathlon world. Over a quarter of a century ago, they were the first company to introduce a triathlon specific wetsuit, incorporating new characteristics such as increased buoyancy and flexibility, as well as easier transitions with an outer coating more resistant to fingernail tears. Only a couple of years later, they then produced the first real triathlon specific bike, building off of the introduction of aero bars to create a full unit truly designed for racing triathlons.
In the years since these innovations, bike brands across the world have built on these ideas to continue to deliver the best possible technology for triathletes. Quintana Roo has stayed in the thick of it all, sponsoring numerous triathletes over the years.
The SRFIVE is a speedy option, offering a comfortable, stiff ride. At a fairly middle of the road weight of 8.3kg, you are allowed a lot of control in shifting your body weight through turns, and minimizing braking. It climbs relatively well, though some warn that you may want to decrease speed more than usual on steep descents.
Starting at $3000, the prestige of the brand name is enough for some to make the price tag worth it, but for others it seems over priced for what may seem like middle of the road weight and handling. The look is as sleek as it gets – a clean frame with completely hidden cables, eleven excellent color options, and a hand painted finish job that seems more solid than some.
You’re bound to like this bike from the get-go, but you may find you outgrow it sooner than you expect, which can be a problem at this price point, especially if you upgrade to make the base model truly race ready.
You may be more familiar with this line under the name B’twin. A household name for many years, Decathlon moved to overhauling the bikes under just the name Triban, in order to differentiate between the sheer number of bikes they produce across varying platforms.
Triban bikes are the lower price point in the Decathlon line, coming in well under the higher end Van Rysel models. Starting at a very affordable $1500, it’s probably not surprising that you’re looking at a heavier bike without any particularly exciting features. With color choices unambitiously ranging from navy to grey to blood orange, you definitely won’t have the prettiest or fanciest bike on the course with the Triban RC520, but it will certainly be much easier on your wallet than many other options. So, is it worth it? Let’s take a look at what it can (and can’t) do.
This bike is definitely designed more for comfort and distance than it is for speed and aerodynamics, but depending on your experience, needs, and goals, that may be a plus for you. Its ergonomic handlebar is a great shape for comfortable road riding, and the backwards sweep sits you in the saddle a little more upright, allowing you to ride all day in pretty comfortable form.
Its not going to give you an edge on speed, however. At 10.5kg, you’ll feel the weight of this bike in climbs, cornering, and overall agility. A big bonus for this bike is its excellent gearing, which does offset the weight to a certain point.
If you’re new to the sport and want a less expensive first try, this is a good bike for training and early races. However, if you are at all serious about advancing in triathlons it’s likely that you will find you outgrow it soon enough that even the minimal price tag may not make it worth it for you if you are planning to continue in the sport to any significant degree.
Ridley is a somewhat newer company in the world of triathlon bikes, but they have quickly made their mark on the sport. Started in Belgium in 1997 by a frame builder and painter, the company soon became the leading racing bike manufacturer in the country, and has become world renowned for quality triathlon bikes, and can boast 18 Tour de France titles.
Starting at $3010, this is an extremely affordable bike for the new or intermediate rider. It may seem uncomfortably stark at first glance, but despite its minimal frame, the Fenix is firm and stable and unlikely to incur significant damage from any bumps you might encounter, and provides for a more enjoyable ride than you may expect. If you’re looking for a smooth ride, you should know that some riders find that uneven terrain is less comfortable than you may prefer. On smooth roads it’s an impressively comfortable ride, but when you encounter bumpy terrain, you’re going to feel every pebble.
It’s not as aero as some other options in this price range, but again the comfort on long miles is a plus. At 8.1kg, this road bike is reasonably impressive in its handling, and you are likely to find that its biggest advantage is its performance on slopes. You’ll find yourself able to ascend and descend comfortably without any loss of speed or control.
Overall, its stiffness and handling are excellent, but it’s not the lightest road bike you’ll find at this price point.
Over 50 years ago, Giant was established as a bike company in Taiwan, and to this day is the world’s largest bike manufacturer and designer. In the late 1970s, the company joined forces with Schwinn, which ultimately became three quarters of Giant’s sales at that time. When Schwinn went in a different direction in the late 1980s, Giant moved forward to forge its own way. As a triathlon bike company, there’s no more prestigious connection than their sponsorship of world champion Kristian Blummenfelt, arguably the world’s most forefront champion triathlete today.
The Liv concept was founded in 2008 as a line produced specifically for women. Their focus on what they call the 3F – Fit, Form, and Function – is designed to specifically meet the needs of female athletes who may struggle to find equipment that makes sense for their particular needs.
The Liv Avail Advanced is an endurance bike that offers versatility at an affordable range, in both carbon and aluminum options. Designed as it is for smaller, female riders, it offers a number of features such as smaller shifters, narrower handlebars with a shallow drop, and a size range ideal for riders as short as 5 feet. Small shifters with a short reach are ideal for smaller hands.
At 8.01kg, this bike gives sharp, easy handling and fast reactions. It feels peppy, agile, and responsive. Although it is built more for endurance than speed, it still feels very race-focused. Narrow seat stays eliminate a lot of road noise and comfort is definitely at the forefront.
There are great color options such as gloss chameleon blue, and combined with the neat and tidy integrated internal seat clamp, the overall look is sleek, clean, and attractive.
Starting at $2500, this bike is a great choice for smaller riders who need a more comfortable option, and it doesn’t lack in aesthetics, speed, or comfort.
Finding the Right Bike for You
Choosing the right road bike for your budget, body, mechanical aptitude, and overall needs can be complicated. You will want to consider where you are in your riding, training, and racing goals. You will need to seriously consider a number of questions, such as:
How serious are you at delving into triathlon racing?
This can determine whether you’re in a place to purchase an entry level bike or something a little bit more advanced.
How many races a year will you be competing in?
Take a look at whether you’ll be entering a lot of races or spending more time on the road training, maybe for fun or fitness.
Will you need to travel?
If you’ll be competing in races across the country or even the world, its important to consider how easily your bike can be dismantled for packing, and rebuilt for racing.
Do you want to work on your own bike, or take it to a shop for service?
A bike with less complex mechanisms is easier to work on by yourself, but a more complicated bike may cost you more in the shop.
What does your budget look like?
This can be one of the trickiest questions to answer. You might have a limited amount you’re able to spend, so determining what your priorities are can help determine whether a bike in your personal spending limit is really worth it for what your personal needs are.
No matter what bike you choose, you’re bound to find things you love and things you would prefer were different, and that’s okay. The perfect bike probably doesn’t exist – as long as you learn and grow with whatever bike you have, you’ll discover more and more about what works for you. Always be ready to grow to the next page of your own journey, or as technology advances.