Bicycle or tri-cycle?
April 22, 2008 11:53 AM   Subscribe

I'm planning on buying a bike for road rides, but I am also planning on training for my first sprint tri. Is a regular road bike alright for a beginner tri-athlete? Can I use a tri style bike for long road rides? Does it even make a difference?

I'm planning on starting to train for a sprint triathlon. I found some great training advice on other threads and figured with the amount of folks responding I might get some good advice on another question.

I've been thinking about buying a road bike for a while now. I have some friends who take some long rides and want to start getting in gear to bum along. I'm also planning on the whole first sprint triathlon thing. Should I really consider a triathlon style bike or would I be alright with just a regular road bike? I'm not looking for recommendations on brands, just want to know does it matter much between the 2 types and if for example I want to do a bike only race or long ride is the tri-bike usable? Thanks!
posted by jeffe to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think a road bike makes the most sense for you. Except for your actual triathlon most of your miles will be on the road and you'll want all your controls (brakes & shifting) like on a regular road bike and not in your aerodynamic tri position. Also it is relatively easy to add aero bars to a regular road bike.
posted by cuando at 12:07 PM on April 22, 2008

i used a regular road bike to do sprint duathlons, club rides, chairty rides, long rides and everything else for 6 years. i just got a more tri bike and i indeed to do everything on that also.

the disadvantages of a road bike in a tri/du are the different position and the slight weight added by road bars/shifters/brakes. the weight is not going to make enough difference in a print length event. the different position will make you a bit less aerodynamic and your muscles will have a bit tougher time transitioning between sports but i would not worry about that either.

yeh, just get a road bike if you want to use it for eveything.
posted by annoyance at 12:20 PM on April 22, 2008

I used my road bike to complete a half-iron distance tri last season. If you're going to be doing most of your riding in support of tri training, get a tri bike. If you're going to be doing group riding, charity rides, etc, go with a road bike. To me, it sounds like you'd best be served with a road bike. If you're going to do anything longer than a sprint, get some aero bars, and if you can, get professionally fitted in a tri position.

Fit is more important than anything. Weight, materials (carbon, titanium, steel, aluminum etc), cost, bling, all take a back seat to fit. You could have the nicest bike in the world but you'll be miserable after an hour if it doesn't fit properly.

...if for example I want to do a bike only race or long ride is the tri-bike usable? Tri bikes are made specifically for long solo rides. Aero bars are illegal in mass-start road races (but legal in time trials).

Get the road bike. Next year when you know what you really want in a bike you can sell it and trade up if you think you need something different.

The forums at have tons of great information about triathlon, road biking, and training in general.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 12:33 PM on April 22, 2008

Also, until you are racing longer tris or get really really into the sport you can make do with using a road bike and buying a set of aero-bars. the geometry won't be exactly like a tri bike but it'll still work for your purposes. i say get a road bike.
posted by rlef98 at 12:33 PM on April 22, 2008

Can I use a tri style bike for long road rides?

I only have a tri bike and have done 100m+ training rides on it.

Having said that, unless you plan to do a lot of triathlons or really prefer the aero position, the roadbike is probably the way to go.

A roadbike will certainly not be out of place at a sprint. Hell, I saw a guy do a 1/2-IM on a mountain bike once.
posted by probablysteve at 1:01 PM on April 22, 2008

Doing my first tri in 2 weeks! (Wildflower Olympic distance - shooting for Big Kahuna half in Sept) - By far get the road bike for now it will do all you need and you can throw on some aero bars if you need them. You're in no position now to even really appreciate the benefits of a true tri bike - as everyone else has mentioned.

You also haven't mentioned your price range but when I was bike shopping, tri bikes cost about twice as much as road bike - and are more specific in their usage. I got a nice Fuji road bike for about $1200 and would have spent about $2400 for a decent tri bike.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:03 PM on April 22, 2008

I've not ridden a tri-specific bike, but have done all my tris (inc 2 half-IMs) on my trusty road bike which I used for time trials and road races way back when. I'm looking to buy a new bike this year and will stick with a road bike for my next purchase. Ditto the comment re fit. That's more important than the type of bike.
posted by poissonrouge at 1:04 PM on April 22, 2008

Oh yeah I should mention I have every intention of doing my half IM on my road bike with aero bars and expect this to be a more common configuration then then those on tru tri bikes.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:04 PM on April 22, 2008

Another stupid but relevant note. You may get some funny looks doing a Sprint tri on a tri bike. As much as I love the gear that goes with tri-training you'll look like you're bringing a bazooka to a knife fight.
posted by bitdamaged at 1:06 PM on April 22, 2008

Also consider that on road bike races, tri-bikes may be specifically forbidden because the tri-bike position gives less control than a normal road bike. Other bike riders will be wary around you for the same reason.

You may also consider the Cervelo brand of bikes - many of their normal road bikes can be set up more similar to a tri bike than other bikes, with more emphasis on aerodynamics than normal road bikes. Very pricey though.
posted by meowzilla at 1:20 PM on April 22, 2008

Tri bikes are definitely, absolutely verboten in road racing (in the U.S.). Nthing all the above comments about road bikes vs. tri bikes. I think you, as a beginning cyclist, will be far more comfortable in a road bike position than an aero position, as found on a tri bike. The latter has you really far forward and down. Not super comfortable on the nether regions, and I say this as someone who's done loads of time trials over the years. A road bike is more forgiving, and gives you multiple hand positions on the drop bars.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 1:45 PM on April 22, 2008

Given your description, I would definitely go with the road bike.

However, the biggest (imho) benefit of a tri bike is that the more aggressive geometry of the bike saves your legs for the run. That being said, the overall benefits of a road bike outweigh the very specific benefits of a tri bike.

As for brands, one thing to keep in mind is that a road bike is essentially all about the components - the gear set, etc. You can get an off-brand bike with better components (like the shimano ultegra groupset) for less money than you might spend on a name brand bike with cheaper components.

Also, if you haven't already picked out a bike shop, pick one in your area that specializes in road bikes fits (super important), and one that offers free life-time maintenance, many do.

Good luck!
posted by jazzkat11 at 2:51 PM on April 22, 2008

Other bike riders will be wary around you for the same reason.

This is very important to consider if you ever want to train with a group. Many cycling clubs frown on or ban tri bikes on group training rides.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:27 PM on April 22, 2008

Road bike is fine. I'm not even sure what the tri bike adds, personally. The tri I raced had people on every kind of bike imaginable.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:15 AM on April 23, 2008

« Older How can I get a good deal with AT&T retention...   |   Has the cost of home building gone up or down? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.