Why did you start triathlons?
Was it to stay in shape?
Perhaps, it was because one sport wasn’t enough and you wanted to do three in one.
Doesn’t matter your reason, the sport challenges your mental, physical, and endurance strength.
The bike leg of the triathlon is the longest no matter what distance you compete regularly in.
It’s no surprise that there is a market for triathlon specific bikes that have specially designed cock-pit framework, geometry, highly-developed aerodynamics, and storage solutions for serious triathletes.
I’ve put together this buyer’s guide and product review to help you pick the right triathlon bike for you. I’ll also briefly touch on how a triathlon bike differs from a road and time trial bike.
Best Triathlon Bikes in 2020
1. Cervelo P2 Triathlon Bike – Best Entry Level Triathlon Bike
Cervelo created its P2 triathlon bike with aerodynamics, usability, and high-quality rides in mind. All these make it ideal for either time trials or non-draft triathlons.
What makes this one of the most usable and accessible bikes?
It’s a one-stop bike.
One frame will fit a multitude of systems. This means you can be sure that any component you want to upgrade will be compatible with this bike.
You can describe your ride quality by how comfortable you are on your bike.
Cervelo tries to create a comfortable ride for you so it designed its bike for its intended use.
For its triathlon bike, it focused on static and dynamic comforts to make an overall high-quality ride. The ride has the optimal ratio between stiffness and weight. This ensures you can confidently handle the bike and have a significant power transfer.
To make this bike more aerodynamic, Cervelo created its Extended Seat Tube Cutout, which is a close-fitting curve in the seat tube. This design shields the edge of the rear wheel and improves aerodynamic performance.
The bike comes with deep-rimmed wheels, which actually can withstand gusting side winds. You might not panic as much with these wheels and cervelo’s stiffly-designed bike during a windy ride.
Another feature worth mentioning is the bike’s saddle, Selle San Marco ASPide TT, which although not the lightest, it does give you a lot of stability. This means you can be sure that no matter how hard you peddle, you won’t slip out of the saddle.
I’d recommend this bike to anyone who is looking into their first triathlon bike. It’s like an “everything” road bike. You can upgrade the parts and other components easily so you won’t have to upgrade to a new bike. This saves you money and time of getting used to a new bike. The bike’s stiffness might give you more confidence when you handle it and you can focus on pedaling yourself forward.
2. Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0 SL – Best Perfomance Triathlon Bike
The Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0 SL bike is known for its DT Swiss Arc 1400 Dicut Wheels along with Shimano Ultegra groupset that makes this bike ready to race.
If you’re looking for a time trial/triathlon bike, where price and performance meets, this might be your bike. It won’t break the bank, and the components are nice for a mid-level triathlon bike.
This bike comes with a Fizik saddle, Profile aerobars, and Canyon’s high-quality finishing components really push this bike to the top. It also has a carbon seat post, base bar, and wheels to make it look even more impressive.
Canyon installs its own integrations such as its Energy Box, which is great for storing triathlon racing essentials, such as a small repair kit and nutrition, or even out for a long ride.
If you want more integration tools, Canyon can install hidden brakes, integrated hydration system, and its own aero bars.
Be warned, the aero bars run wide, so if you are more petite you might have a harder time finding the right fit.
The braking system is reliable and you can stop with confidence so you can speed when you want and break only when you need to.
The only drawback to this bike, is the long crank arms, especially if you’re a smaller triathlete.
Although the price tag is not cheap, this bike is well worth it and I’d recommend it if you’re really serious about triathlons and slicing a few more seconds off your overall time. The bike doesn’t require too much attention other than making sure it has your specific specs. You could buy it on a weekend and race on it the next.
3. Diamondback Andean 1
Diamondback’s Andean 1 has come with the purpose of helping triathletes compete and not just compete but outperform their last best race.
The look of the bike itself is impressive and makes it stand out even more. Compared to a “traditional” triathlon bike, this one has nearly enclosed main frame that is divided into two arms.
The main frame has so much surface area that it can easily house up to six compartments for your electrolyte replacement, energy gels, food, and bike tools. It’s like all your wishes came true if you ever ran out of places to put your extra nutrition.
The Andean comes with cables (TRP Spyre mechanic discs) that fit perfectly in the bike’s frame and fork up to the HED Corsair aero cockpit.
The shifting system (eTap Clic) fits perfectly into the aero bar extensions and the buttons are easily accessible while you’re cruising on your bike.
To top off the bike, it comes with HED Jet 6 Plus and Jet 9 Plus wheels that are deep-rimmed and aerodynamic to help you slice through crosswinds. And, the wheels are complemented with 23mm Continental GP 4000s II tires.
All these features come at a high prices tag, just be warned, but you’re paying for top-notch and the most recent technology by Diamondback.
I’d recommend this only if you’re willing to shell out a lot of money for this bike. Otherwise, you can get a comparable one for much less and upgrade the components as needed.
4. BMC Time Machine 02
As an overview, the Switzerland-based company created their triathlon bike with a Shimano 105 11-speed drive train, Shimano RSO10 wheelset, BMC Aero Post, and Profile TT Handlebar.
The bike’s Position-to-Perform (P2P) system lets you find your ideal contact point to optimize and maximize aerodynamics no matter if you want a very aggressive or more conservative position in the saddle.
To make the bike more aerodynamic, BMC experimented with its tube shapes. This means the bike comes with truncated profiles and a super-lean frontal area that makes the bike very stable in crosswinds.
The V-Cockpit and the Flat Cockpit technology is great if you’re on a long ride and don’t want to stay in a very aggressive position. You can use either of these two cockpits without compromising aerodynamics because you’re tired of being in a super aero position on the bike.
Of course, there’s integration on the bike, like other triathlon bikes. It has an integrated brake system that leaves more room in the frame for storage. There is a rear mounted equipment storage box, tube top fuel compartments, and a dual downtube bottle cage. All that can help you get through your longer races.
I’d highly recommend this triathlon bike, it has all the basic components of a middle to a high-end road bike with building priority of multi-sport athletes in mind. If you’re looking for your second or even your first, I’d look into this option. You might be surprised that this is the bike for you. The different options for aero also make it ideal especially if you’re not used to riding in the aero bars and need to give your arms and back a break.
5. Quintana Roo (QR) PR 3
The Quintana Roo is an excellent elite-level road bike with high-quality features with room to grow with the bike and upgrade parts.
Like the other PR series, this bike has SHIFT + technology, Boat Tail Airfoil, and QBox Storage system, but this bike has a few differences especially in the carbon layout and being budget-friendly.
Before talking about the bike’s performance, let’s briefly talk about the bike’s features.
To make this bike aerodynamic, the team designed an asymmetrical downtube to direct airflow away from the drive side of the bike. All of this helps the bike cut through the wind and might help you save energy on the bike. All in effort so you can have more energy and muscle strength for the run.
The QR team uses Boat Tail airfoil shapes to make the bike more stable and aero. The shape is made to prevent air pockets from accumulating around the back tube. This, in turn, reduces drag and increases aerodynamics and stability on the bike.
The bike comes equipped with Shimano 105 7000 series drive train to help give you a reliable performance during training and race day.
Depending on your budget you can either buy very deep-rimmed (62mm) Reynold Strike wheels to be even more aerodynamic. Or, Shimano RS100, which have a ride profile that you can rely on for seasons to come.
On the road, the bike is lightweight, responsive, and stable. The best you can ask for on any ride. It feels comfortable to go fast on the bike and still feel fresh enough for the run.
I’d highly recommend this bike if you’re looking into your first road bike or even an upgrade. You can get all the features of a more expensive bike for far less. And, best, yet, you might even take this bike with you for many seasons to come.
6. Felt IA16
The Felt IA16 is one of the most tough-looking bikes you’ll see on the course this year. The bike itself looks like a cross between a triathlon bike and something The Dark Knight might ride if he rode a bike.
The bike’s specs and performance live up to its looks.
This is an “ultra-grade” aerodynamic bike with the most up-to-date technology available. It’s well-designed with a well-thought-out frame.
Felt has an IAx frame, which is a revamped version of its original IA frame from 2013. For this bike, Felt uses Integrated Tri UHC Advanced + TeXtreme carbon fiber, MMC with InsideOut construction. To make this superbike very aerodynamic, responsive, and stiff on the road.
The carbon fiber, although not the top-grade form its previous models, is actually a step-up from its predecessors. The design team reached the crossroad between price and value when putting together this bike.
When it comes down to the frame’s features and construction, you’ll find BB30 on the bottom bracket, so the bearings are pressed directly on the bottom bracket shell. The rear dropouts are horizontal and can be adjustable. Of course, all the cabling is internal and even the brake cable is hidden behind the fairings.
The aero bars that come with the bike are made of carbon fiber and have a large range so you can find your “perfect” fit.
The drawback of this superbike is its size. It only comes in five sizes so if you fall into either extreme you might not have luck with this brand. And, this bike doesn’t comply with UCI standards so be careful which races you bring this bike to.
While this bike is very nice and has great technology, I wouldn’t recommend it to many people. I say this because it doesn’t comply with UCI racing rules so you’re limited where you can race with this bike. And, even if you use it during training, triathlon bikes aren’t the best to use if you’re pace lining or doing casual riding.
You might be better off looking at a more versatile triathlon bike, one that complies with race rules.
Best Road Bikes in 2020
1. Cervelo S3 Disc Ultegra Road Bike – Best Perfomance Road Bike
Cervelo came out with its first S-series road bikes and created one that combines aero, handling, comfort, and stiffness.
Instead of focusing on making the most aero bike, the team looked into putting the right technology in the right places. To do this, the design team looked to control the handling in relation to the rider’s position.
Cervelo designed four different fork sets to ensure that bike handling was the same, no matter the bike size when integrated with the head tube angle and the trail.
The cockpit of the bike sets the S series apart from different models and truly makes it an elite triathlete’s choice.
The cockpit has a mountain bike-esq look that’s combined with a time-trial hinged for design. This look is accomplished with a twin spar stem which is blended into the external steerer fork.
Other features of the bike include internal cable routing, disc brakes, external steerer fork, and a new seat post design.
On the road, the bike responds well and has a reliable performance no matter what the weather may be that day.
I’d highly recommend this bike if you’re looking for your next upgrade. It has nearly all the feature of an entry-level triathlon bike, but for a road bike. The price tag might be a deterrent for some of you, but if you’re reaching the elite and professional level, this might be a good investment for you.
2. Felt AR5
Felt has really made a big effort to take all the technology found on a triathlon bike and integrating it on a road bike without overloading it.
The AR’s seat post design, VariMount, helps prevent vibration and buzz you’d feel on an aluminum or other carbon fiber bikes. And, it fits, not through a traditional clamp, but with an expanding wedge on the inside of the seat post.
The drive train, comes with, you guessed it, Shimano 105 group, but the chainset comes with the Omega unit which follows the FSA’s top-notch design. It comes with decent chain rings so you can expect shifting to be smooth and easy.
The braking system is a combination of 105 unit in the front fork and an under-BB unit for the rear brake. The front brake performed more consistently than the rear, but that shouldn’t deter you from this bike.
The handlebars are over-sized oval shaped so you can be comfortable on the top and the semi-compact drop easily lets you ride in the drop bars.
On the road, the bike is extremely responsive and can accelerate easily and shift through the gears as fast as you need the bike to shift. The braking system is also top-notch, but be wary of the rear brake if you’re in less-than-ideal weather conditions.
I’d highly recommend this bike as an upgrade or even your first road bike. You can grow with the bike and you can be competitive on it even against people who show up with a “fancy” triathlon bike, costing twice as much.
3. Bianchi Aria 105 – Best Entry Level Road Bike
Bianchi combines the classic Italian and European bicycle look with the gear and technology of a road bike made for triathletes.
For the Bianchi team, they manipulated the shape of the tube’s profiles and structural combination to beat wind resistance and keep the rider aerodynamic.
The fork legs, minutely curved and tapered, bow out around the wheel to reduce air flow. This design was first used on Bianchi’s triathlon bikes. The fork leg design complements the teardrop base head-tube with a fork notched and a curled wheel-tracking scoop in an oval-shaped down tube.
The bike has separate brake and gear cable gears inserted behind the head tube to keep things simple. And, the short heat-tube makes it easy for a rider to ride in a flat-back position.
On the road, the bike feels as though it is being elongated and speeding along smoothly on the road or triathlon course. The shifter hoods very gently and naturally propel you forward.
The head has a 72.5 angle which makes going around corners at a swift and sweeping speed where you’ll feel confident.
The bike performs best a high speed and it is built that way since to finish off the bike, the team gave the bike big tire clearance. This design helps you sustain speed throughout your rides.
I’d recommend this bike if you’re looking for a bike that will help you sustain your speed and aerodynamics with the advantage of having disc brakes. Be warned that this bike has very high stability ratings, which is great for some riders. You might have to get used to handling the bike, but you should be ready by race day.
4. Argon 18 Gallium CS
Gallium has updated its Gallium model mainly adding more stiffness and refined some parts such as the head tube, fork, bottom bracket, and chain stays. All these improvements have made the bike lighter for a mid-sized bike.
Of course, all these upgrades come with Argon’s technologies such as optimal balance, Argon’s Fit System and Positioning and Geometry, 3D System, and Horizontal Dual System.
The 3D Head Tube System replaces traditional headset spacers with thread-in head tube extensions that adjust the position of the upper headset bearing. This increases stiffness and support you get when steering the bike.
The Horizontal Dual System means that the design team split the frame along an imaginary diagonal line drawn between the rear dropouts and head tubes. This line can be adjusted according to tube shapes, types of carbon fiber, and riding comfort and speed.
To finish off the bike, it comes equipped with Shimano components which include Dura Ace 7900 mechanical group, and even 50mm deep Dura Ace carbon wheels.
I’d recommend this bike as a trainer bike since this one is heavier compared to the other bike reviewed in this article. With all the technology and parts, the bike is about 7.32 kg or 16.14 lb. You can compete on this bike, but it might not be the most competitive one out there. You can use it for your first couple seasons but after you might want to upgrade to a lighter one.
5. Orca M30 19 by Orbea – Best Entry Level Road Bike
Orbea made this bike with no regrets as a very aggressive racing bike. The design really tried to create a bike that was both light-weight and very stiff.
To start, Orbea made this bike with laser cut carbon sheets and uses a full EPS foam mold, which makes for better compaction and a stiff frame.
The bike has a wedge system that is used to keep the top tube as clean as possible, which is similar to Cannondale’s Synapse. But this version is more user-friendly with a bolt that is accessible on the drive train side.
Of course, this bike comes with disc brakes to ensure that you have reliable and consistent results every time you need to hit the brakes during a race.
Just to note, the bike was made for larger frames so that it could keep the ride quality consistent as the rider weight increased.
On the road, the bike performs up to its hype. The stiffness gives the rider confidence to turn through corners and climb hills at almost recklessly high speeds. The handlebars will never “give out” on you even when you pull on them when you’re going up hills.
The drawback to such a light bike?
It’s not pleasant when you take the bike over rough terrains such as dried mud on a road near farms and agriculture.
But other than that, you’ll have a nice ride on a training or race day!
I’d recommend this bike to anyone who wants to be a serious competitor on the bike course. You might not need to “set aside” money for a triathlon bike if you buy this one. It has all the components of a triathlon bike and is light like one without the price tag.
Triathlon and Road Bikes – Buyer’s Guide
Triathlon Distances and Formats
Before I jump into the specifics, let’s quickly discuss the different triathlon distances and even the format of them. This will definitely influence your decision.
If you don’t know, already, a triathlon can take you either under an hour or over 15 hours to complete depending on the distance format. This means you can be on the bike for at least 30 minutes or possibly over 6 hours.
The two formats a triathlon can have are draft-legal and non-drafting. The majority of age-group events don’t let you draft. This means you must be at least five bicycle lengths or 12 meters behind the person in front of you. Exceptions of course when you’re passing.
In other words, in a non-drafting race, you cannot put yourself at an advantage by riding the wheel of the person in front of you.
For non-drafting races, many triathletes choose triathlon bikes instead of road bikes. This allows them to have the best aerodynamics without drafting. These bikes also have highly developed integration, and storage; while trying not to compromise comfort.
On the other hand, draft-legal races such as International Triathlon Union (ITU) races, World Champions, and even the Olympic games, allow triathletes to ride the wheel of the person in front of them.
In draft-legal races, time trial bikes are not allowed and road bikes must meet the UCI road bike regulations.
To sum up this part, all four distances (sprint, olympic, half Ironman, and full Ironman) can be non-drafting races, where triathlon bikes can be used. However, only sprint and olympic distances are most likely to be draft-legal and road bikes must be used.
Road Bike vs. Tri Bike vs. Time Trial (TT) Bike
One of the most frequent questions, is what is the difference between a road, triathlon, and time trial bikes?
It mainly has to do with the geometry of the bike’s frame, specifically the seat tube angle.
If you’re not sure what the seat tube is, it’s the long tube that reaches down to the bottom bracket up to the seat itself. The angle of the tube is relative as if there is a horizontal line that runs through the bottom bracket.
On a traditional road bike, you’ll have a 72-degree seat tube angle.
While a triathlon bike starts with 76-78-degree seat tube angle.
As a rule of thumb, the steeper the seat tube angle, the further it places the rider on the bike and thus forces the rider into a more aerodynamic position.
On a road bike, the seat tube angle puts you in a position where you use muscles such as your hamstrings and quads. This is great if you’re just doing the cycling, but after the bike, your legs will have to adjust to running.
This is where triathlon bikes come in.
The theory, to this day, is that if you’re riding in a more forward and aerodynamic position you use your quad muscles less. And, thus saving them for the run after you jump off the bike.
Triathlon and Road Bike for Your Needs
So now the question comes down to, which bike is better for your needs?
Well, this depends on a lot of factors.
But one of the more important ones is the type of area you train and race in.
For example, if you live in a mountainous or hilly region, you need a bike that allows you to use all your leg muscles when you’re climbing up long and winding hills. A road bike would be ideal in this situation since you get the most power from sitting further back from the handlebars.
If you were on a triathlon bike trying to go up a hill, the bike’s geometry might force you to back out of the saddle just to stay in an aerodynamic position. This is not only uncomfortable for you, but also very inefficient.
You’ll hear people argue points from both sides when it comes down to it.
Many say that a good set of wheels make up for the inefficient geometry when you’re climbing hills on a triathlon bike.
While others point out that a traditional road bike can be made into a triathlon bike. You can change the seat post or buy clip-on aero bars.
Another factor is what you’ll use your bike for.
If you’re just using your bike for triathlons, then a triathlon bike might be a good option for you.
However, road bikes are very versatile and can be your “everything” bike. This is especially important if you bike outside of triathlons or even go on bike tours.
Buying a tri bike isn’t the wrong choice, just read further so you can pick the right one for you.
If you’re sure, at the point in the article, you need a road bike, you can skip to the product review.
Before going into the specifics of a triathlon bike, I’ll briefly tell you about time trial bikes.
Time Trial Bikes
Time trial bikes are a sub-genre of triathlon bike and are one of the most specialized bikes you can buy.
A time trial bike, while similar to a triathlon bike, has some differences.
For example, you’re not positioned so aggressively on the bike since no part of the bike can be three times longer than the rest.
Time trial bikes must adhere to the International Cycling Union (UCI) rules, which means that the tip of the saddle must be 5cm from the center of the bottom bracket.
And, time trial bikes are more commonly used for cycling races so it’s built with that purpose in mind.
The bike is good for shorter races, but not for Ironman type of events.
Triathlon Bike Specifics
If you’ve skipped to this part of the buyer’s guide, then you might be buying your first triathlon bike!
If you’re more interested in a road bike, skip to the next section.
To give you a more complete description of a triathlon bike, I’ll give you information about the fit, frame, gearing/components, saddle, handlebars/aerobars, and wheels.
A rider’s comfort strongly influences how a bike is built and triathlon bikes aren’t the exception to this rule.
Triathlon bikes need to make the rider feel comfortable in the saddle for long periods of time in the aero position. This affects how the rider feels after the bike and starts the run.
As a result, triathlon bikes are aggressively built so that the seat tube angle starts at 74-degrees and can go over 80-degrees.
This very aero and aggressive position are hard to maintain so to fix this, the crank length is often shorter than on road bikes. This helps you if you don’t have the flexibility or lack mobility in your lower back and hips.
Triathlon bikes also have a longer tube top and an elongated reach to put riders in a more horizontal position. This technology ensures that a rider’s weight is evenly distributed over both wheels.
Like any bike, aerodynamics is the main factor when they are being built.
Triathlon bikes come with more stops on the design map since they need to incorporate storage for any nutrition riders need for long races.
Often, triathlon bikes are built with oversized tube profiles, which makes the wind pass by the bike without creating drag. Oversized tube profiles are often found on a bike’s front forks, downtube, and seat tube.
Triathlon bikes also have hidden features such as brakes, cables, and storage. For example, the brakes are often found somewhere where the front forks are or behind the fairings of the bike.
Internal cables are being used over external ones since they aren’t prone to weather conditions.
And, finally, the wheels make triathlon bikes more aerodynamic. These bikes come with deep rims to help slice through the air.
Integration and Storage
I’ve mentioned storage in the previous sections, but let’s dive into now.
Integration for storing your nutrition on the bike is not just a part of the aerodynamic design, but a practical one especially once you get out on the course.
Storage comes in different forms since bike companies have gotten creative with it.
For example, some bikes have a front hydration system that can hold as much water as your water bottle. This helps you stay in aero while keeping yourself hydrated.
Other bikes have an integrated toolbox located between the front and rear wheel, which is great for storing extra tubes and tools.
Nearly all brands have a food storage box integrated on the top tube.
Triathlon bikes go beyond gear ratio and range since they already have the best on it.
The real choice comes between buying a triathlon bike with electronic or mechanical gearing.
Electronic gearing lets you shift gears from both time trial bars and the brake bars so you don’t have to come out of aero to shift. This also streamlines the shifting process since the bike has internal cables.
Be sure that if you go with electronic shifting that you’re all charged up for race day! The last thing you need is to be stuck in an extreme gear.
Saddles on triathlon bikes are meant to put riders in a more aggressive and aerodynamic position.
Compared to road bike saddles, they are shorter with the middle section cut out to take the pressure of soft tissue of the pelvis.
The purpose of the extension handlebars is to keep your wrist in a neutral position and keep your elbows and shoulders at a right angle. While this position seems odd, it actually provides good base support and won’t affect other parts of your body.
Extensions can come in different shapes and it depends on your comfort level.
Most extensions come in a straight, curved, or pointed upward shape. Try out a couple and figure out what works best for your body.
Keep in mind you might be in that position for hours at a time.
Road Bike Specifics
If you’re reading this part of the buyer’s guide, then you’re definitely buying a road bike.
Like the previous section, I’ll provide detailed information about the bike such as the frame, geometry, etc.
There are some components not found on a road bike such as storage and aero bars, but I will get into that in the following subsections.
To get a base understanding, road bikes are versatile and can be used to compete in high-level triathlons or for social rides and staying in shape.
From there you have different options, and we can begin the discussion there.
Types of Road Bikes
There are a few different road bikes out there for you to choose from. So as not to overload you with information, I’ll briefly describe each kind.
These bikes are made for speed and comfort so weight isn’t so much a priority for the rider. You’ll also find deep-rimmed wheels and nearly everything is integrated such as the brakes, cables, and shifting.
Generally, these bikes have a larger tube profile to reduce drag and increase stiffness.
Compared to traditional road bikes, Endurance bikes longer wheelbase, head tube, and a less aggressive geometry for rider comfort.
Often, these types of bikes are made from the same material as light-weight bikes such as carbon fiber.
For lightweight bikes, the name of the game is keeping weight down.
These bikes aren’t made to be aerodynamic, they are made with the lightest materials and are best used if you’re climbing hills
Gravel/off-road bikes are made so that the rider can bike anywhere, which makes them one of the most durable bikes on the market.
These bikes have a higher bottom bracket so riders can go through obstacle courses and wide clearance for fat tires. The gear ratios are lower so that riding off-road or in extreme conditions can be easier.
Similar to gravel/off-road bikes, touring ones aren’t so concerned with aerodynamics and lightness.
These are built for comfort and long rides if the rider is going from one city to the other.
You’ll often see these bikes with fender and rack mount for saddle bags.
Touring bikes are typically made of steel and its upright geometry helps the rider feel stable to help while carrying a heavy load.
Recreational bikes help riders get from A to B and are well suited for new riders or those who like to do a lot of social rides during the summer.
You’ll find flat bars, wider tires, and an easy gear ratio on these bikes as they are supposed to get the rider to enjoy riding with others.
For triathlon bikes, they are all made with carbon fiber or other light materials, which are easy to mold into different shapes. And that’s why triathlon bikes sometimes come in some interesting forms.
For road bikes, you have a handful of choices to choose from. And, it all depends on what you’re going to use your bike for.
Carbon fiber is one of the best materials you can find on a road bike. It has an optimal balance between lightness and stiffness to give you a comfortable ride. The carbon helps to absorb most of the bumps you would feel if you were on an aluminum bike.
The only disadvantage of an all-carbon bike is its fragileness. The material is prone to cracking if there is a large amount of stress put on an area such as a crash’s impact. You can compromise the carbon if you over-tighten the bolts on your bike as well.
Once the carbon has been compromised, you’ll need to either replace or repair it. Otherwise, it is unsafe to ride.
Aluminum is the next lightest material after carbon fiber and has some of the same properties such as lightness and stiffness.
These bikes have a strong power transfer thanks to aluminum’s stiffness and the tube’s thickness.
Often, so that the rider won’t feel the vibrations of the road, aluminum bikes will have carbon forks.
A downside to this material is that it will wear down over time, but with proper care, it can last for years to come.
Aluminum can be a good option if you’re looking for high-performance but on a budget.
Titanium is relatively light-weight compared to steel and is more durable than aluminum and carbon fiber.
Titanium is one of the most difficult materials to work with, so it does make the bike more expensive compared to an aluminum or steel one.
Titanium is the strongest of the materials I’ve discussed so far. The material is so durable that it stays resilient even after a crash. It takes a lot to break a titanium bike.
New building and machining techniques allow titanium bikes to be light and have all the riding comforts of an aluminum or carbon fiber bike.
Steel, while still a solid option for a road bike, is best if you’re buying a gravel/off-road or touring bike. They will last for a long time and can be your “forever” bike.
Group Set/Drive Train
A bike’s engine is its brakes and drivetrain, no matter if it’s a road or triathlon bike.
A drivetrain is made of cranks, chainrings, chain, cassette, derailleurs, and shifters. All these mechanisms help move the bike forward as you pedal.
The better the drive train, the more efficient, durable the ride becomes, and the shifting is nearly seamless. Of course, this comes with a high price tag.
Entry-level group sets are made of low-grade aluminum while higher ones are made from carbon fiber and titanium.
For a more detailed rundown of a bike’s group set/drive train check out this article.
A gear ratio is a combination of the number of chainrings found on the front and the number of teeth on those chainrings; and the number of cogs and the number of teeth on the cogs in the back.
Now that you have the definition of a gear ratio, you’ll understand when I say that gear ratios vary greatly and it largely depends on the bike’s purpose.
Most road bikes will have two front chainrings with 53-teeth for a regular set-up and 39-teeth for professional and high-level athletes. Generally, a smaller chainring has easier pedaling ratios.
For the back gears, it cassette’s cogs can be changed to make the gear ratio easier or harder for the rider.
Most cassettes have either 10 or 11 cogs and the smallest ratio is 11-25 while the largest is 11-28.
What does this mean?
If you have an 11-25 cassette ratio, the smallest cog will have 11 teeth while the largest has 25.
If you have a big difference between the small and large cog, the more the chain has to move when you shift gears. This makes your pedaling speed inconsistent while you change gears.
A bike with an easy pedal ratio will have smaller chainrings on the front and a larger ratio cassette on the back. This also gives the rider a large range of gears and pedaling rations.
The opposite of this is for bikes built for speed and have a smaller range of gears.
The last part to talk about are the wheels of the bike.
If you remember from a previous post, I talked all about wheels and that it’s basically made of a hub, that the wheel spins around, the spokes connecting the hub and rim, and the nipples which connect the spokes to the rim.
A wheel’s depth and width indicate how it will feel during a ride.
Your bike, if you buy an entry-level to intermediate level, will come with aluminum wheels of various qualities.
If you’d like to know more about wheels, please check out my other article:
Triathlon and Road Bike Wheels – Buyer’s Guide
Choosing a road or a tri bike, no matter if it’s your first one or an upgrade, is exciting and a big deal. While this list is a good start to your bike search, be sure to get fitted at your local bike store! There you can tell them your needs, budget, and goals for biking. They’ll help you from there.
If you’re an experienced triathlete, be sure to read the return policy if you’re buying from an online store.