Bikes for Triathlon
Triathlon bikes are a variant of the road-racing/time trial bike, created with a focus on optimizing the rider’s and bike’s aerodynamics. In triathlons, cyclists generally do not draft as in other cycling sports. Triathletes benefit by reducing wind resistance as much as possible.
Most bike components available to the triathlete are created with an aerodynamic profile:
- Oval and/or teardrop frame tubes instead of a circular cross-section.
- Handlebars are given a similar treatment.
- The infamous aerobar in lieu of traditional handlebars.
- Wheels with reduced spoke counts.
- Carbon fiber tri-spokes and discs.
- Bicycle frames with radical shapes and aggressive geometries.
Triathlon bikes generally sport an “aggressive” geometry, in English that means almost vertical tubes coupled with stem and handlebars relatively low to the rider’s saddle. This places the rider in a more aerodynamic position by creating a smaller surface. Some triathletes also feel cycling in this position preserves the running muscles by utilizing different muscle groups than used in running.
Aerobars sometimes referred to as tri-bars, are designed to put the cyclist in a position to decrease wind resistance. Instead of the standard “drop bars” used on road bikes, aero bars are mounted in the center of a set of bars that stretch straightforward. These straight bars are also referred to as bullhorns. Padded armrests just above the stem support the elbows or forearms and the hands hold the center bar. This puts the rider’s elbows in close to the body and lowers his or her torso compared to the usual upright placement. Brakes are usually mounted on the horns and the gear shifters are mounted on the tips of the aero bars permitting.
A dizzying array of aerodynamic and ultra-light wheels exist for triathlon bikes. For example, some wheels have an aerodynamic ring, flat spokes, or fewer spokes than the conventional 32 and last, but not least; carbon-fiber tri-spokes. Wheels which are lighter are traditionally preferred although this is not the only consideration. Large profile rims are more aerodynamic than typical low profile rims.
Solid discs are also an option, but not generally for the front wheel due to crosswinds. Disc wheels give a significant aerodynamic boost when mounted on the rear. Recently, disc wheels with a surface dimpled like a golf ball have appeared in an attempt to improve aerodynamics.
Some triathlon bikes opt for 650c rims instead of the typical 700c rims on road bikes. They weigh less, are less affected by crosswinds, and reduce the overall wind resistance of the bike by reducing the overall profile of the bike an rider. A potential drawback is the increased rolling resistance of the smaller rim. Which way you go will depend on the rider and the windiness of the course.
Triathlon cycling footwear is similar to other types of cycling shoes. Clip-less bindings that snap the rider’s feet to the pedals. Tri footwear differs in that they might be padded to permit use without socks, have holes to allow water to drain easily and have only one or two Velcro straps to easily fastening them.
Choosing the Right Bicycle
Choosing the right triathlon bike is important because you will spend over half of the race on it. Bikes come in many sizes and shapes and vary greatly in price. If you want a lightweight machine, the price of the bike will increase greatly.
It is important to choose wisely because whatever bike you chose will have an effect on the race. A good bike can shave minutes off your overall time during races.
Three things to consider:
- If you don’t have a bike yet, you need to figure out how much you are going to spend. You can spend a few hundred dollars on a bike, or you can spend $10,000. The majority of first-timers to triathlons will spend an average of $500-1000.
- You need to choose the bike that will work best for you and your needs. There are many types of bikes that are acceptable to ride in a triathlon. Features, components, and the type of terrain will play a factor in your decision.
- In order to find the right bike, you need to do your homework. Be sure to test all things; gears, handling, braking, cornering, etc.
A good triathlon bike can help you improve your race time. The reasons are:
Tri Bikes are More Aerodynamic.
A good bicycle helps you deal with wind resistance. The faster you go, the more wind you have to deal with. With a more aerodynamic position, you spend less energy trying to overcome the wind resistance. That translates to better speed. You also save energy for the run.
More Comfortable Riding Position.
Good tri bikes, especially those with aero bars, provides you with a more comfortable ride. The posture is more aerodynamic, allowing you to pedal smoothly and cover more ground quickly. Your elbows can rest on the handlebars and you can recover while your competitors are struggling on their bicycles.
Less Weight to Shift.
Carbon fiber and titanium bikes weigh much less when compared to traditional aluminum bikes. Of course, aluminum bikes are more commonly seen as they cost a lot less. If you have the money to spare, consider buying a full carbon bike. A full carbon bike can weigh 3 to 4 kilos less than a mediocre aluminum bike.
Better Power Transfer.
Triathlon bikes are engineered to transfer the maximum amount of power to the wheels. If you ride a poorly engineered road bike, you notice that much of the power is lost when you pedal. This is often described as “the bike is not very responsive”. High-quality road bikes prevent unnecessary energy wastage. As you pedal, the bike surges forward, and that’s what you want to achieve.