Being several years into triathlon, I had time to understand what differentiates a triathlon bike from any other bike and which decisions a triathlete needs to make to narrow down his search.
In this article, I will share the 8 things you should consider before you buy a triathlon bike, my recommendation, and a filterable list of triathlon bikes.
1. YOU DON’T ABSOLUTELY NEED A TRIATHLON BIKE FOR DOING TRIATHLONS
I want to emphasize this point, especially for beginner triathletes: you don’t absolutely need a triathlon bike! You can perfectly train and race with a road bike (or even a mountain bike for your first short-distance races).
The triathlon bike’s main advantage is its geometry: it lowers your upper body and moves it forward to a so-called aero position.
Adding aero bars to your road bike and adjusting your seat post will bring you to a similar aero position (without being completely the same) at a much lower price point.
I watched an interesting study from Cycling Weekly and Boardman that you can find on Youtube on the different positions. They concluded that most of the gain in aerodynamics comes from having an optimized aero position. They didn’t see a significant difference between an optimized road bike with clip-on bars and a time trial bike. Here is an extract of their results:
|Bike & Position||Watts required||Watts saved|
|Road bike, hoods||298||Baseline|
|Road bike, clip-on bars||232||-66|
|Road bike, clip-on bars, optimized||215||-83|
|Time Trial Bike||212||-86|
2. TRIATHLON BIKES ARE NOT ALWAYS UCI-LEGAL
When browsing through the websites of the different manufacturer brands, you might find similar models, which are called triathlon bikes and time trials bikes (often written as TT bikes). The TT bikes are always following the geometry rules of the UCI, which governs the cycling races.
On the other hand, triathlon, which the UCI does not govern, has much more relaxed rules for bike geometry. Hence, not all triathlon bikes will be allowed in time trial races.
If you are not interested in racing time trials, you can then choose both options.
3. BE AWARE OF THIS MARKET SHIFT
Whether you like it or not, the market for triathlon bikes is now shifting to disc brakes. As you will see in the table of triathlon bikes at the end of this article, most brands switch their entire series to disc brakes only. Only a couple of bikes are still available with rim brakes.
It is definitely something you should keep in mind when buying a new or even second-hand bike.
4. MECHANICAL OR ELECTRONIC GROUPSET
A mechanical groupset, which uses steel cables from the shifters to the derailleurs, is found on all mid-range triathlon bikes. The gear shifters are located at the end of the aero bars. They work perfectly when riding in the aero bars but are more difficult to access while climbing.
On the other hand, an electronic groupset uses a system with batteries. It requires less maintenance and has a more precise shifting in all conditions. The gear shifters are located at the end of the aero bars and on the handlebars, which means triathletes can change gears while riding in both positions! For someone living in the middle of the Alps, I am interested in it.
5. CHOOSE THE RIGHT FRAME SIZE
Buying the correct frame size is essential for any bike, but it is critical for triathlon bikes. You can switch many bike components, but you might never find your perfect position if you bought the wrong frame size.
I heard many triathletes suggest doing a bike fit before buying a triathlon bike. The idea is that the bike fitter would tell which geometry would fit you the best and then recommend you some brands accordingly.
In theory, it sounds great, but I have yet to experience it in practice. Each time I spoke with a bike fitter, they could only tell me which frame size could be for me if I selected a brand. Please let me know if you experienced something else. I am curious to hear about it.
6. PICK THE INTEGRATION YOU WANT NOW
There are some components of a triathlon bike that come only with a specific bike model. If you are after an integrated hydration system, you will need to check the bikes that come with it. You won’t be able to add it later on. The same is true for internal storage or internal cable routing. If you want something specific, you will need to buy this particular bike.
7. YOU CAN UPGRADE A LOT OF COMPONENTS LATER ON
Apart from the frame and the integration systems, you will be able to upgrade most of the other components on your bike later. It might be a great compromise to spread your budget over a couple of years.
I am thinking here especially about the aero bars, wheels, saddle, and drivetrain components.
8. THE COST OF TRIATHLON BIKES
Knowing that the cheapest triathlon bike costs roughly $2,700, there is no budget level for triathlon bikes.
The cost of triathlon bikes varies greatly depending on the shifting style, the groupset, the wheels, and the integration systems (hydration and storage) provided. Based on all the triathlon bikes listed at the end of this article, see below the average triathlon bike costs per category:
- Cost of mid-range triathlon bikes: $4,250 with disc brakes, mechanical shifting, mid-range groupset
- Cost of high-end triathlon bikes: $8,400 with disc brakes, electronic shifting, mid-range groupset
- Cost of top of the range triathlon bikes: $13,100 with disc brakes, electronic shifting, top of the range groupset
If you are looking for a cheaper option, you might find good bargains on the second-hand market.
MY TRIATHLON BIKE RECOMMENDATION
If you are just starting triathlon, I suggest settling on a road bike with aero bars for a couple of years (see this article for more info on aero bars). During this time, you will probably figure out if you like the sport and which kind of bike will suit you best.
I have a particular living situation as I live in the middle of the Alps, and my family is 1,000 km away on flat land. Hence I am racing a lot of different terrains. For this reason, I decided to buy a triathlon bike with electronic shifting. I want to have this second shifting possibility on the handlebar when climbing. Due to its cost, I agreed with my wife to buy one only once I reach those two objectives: having an FTP higher than 300 watts and being able to run 10km under 40min.
Those goals are ambitious enough for me that I will have some time to save money, and once I reach them, the risk of having someone overtaking me with a road bike will be lower 🙂
This approach is working for my family and me. You don’t need to follow it. Just find something which works for you. If you are already ready to buy a triathlon bike, look at the table below.
FIND YOUR TRIATHLON BIKE
You can use the filters below to narrow your search or sort the triathlon bikes by clicking on a column header.
|Argon 18||E-117 Tri Disc||$$||Argon||Disc||Mechanical||Force 22||https://www.argon18.com/en-us/bikes/triathlon/e-117-tri-disc|
|Argon 18||E-117 Tri Disc||$$$||Argon||Disc||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://www.argon18.com/en-us/bikes/triathlon/e-117-tri-disc|
|Argon 18||E-119 Tri+ Disc||$$$||Argon||Disc||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://www.argon18.com/en-us/bikes/triathlon/e-119-tri-plus-disc|
|Argon 18||E-119 Tri+ Disc||$$$$||Argon||Disc||Electronic||RED eTap AXS||https://www.argon18.com/en-us/bikes/triathlon/e-119-tri-plus-disc|
|BMC||Timemachine ONE||$$$||BMC||Disc||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://www.bmc-switzerland.com/us_en/catalog/product/view/id/15015/s/timemachine-01-disc-one/category/1924/|
|BMC||Timemachine TWO||$$$||BMC||Disc||Electronic||Rival eTap AXS||https://www.bmc-switzerland.com/us_en/timemachine-01-disc-two.html|
|Canyon||Speedmax CF 7||$$||Canyon||Disc||Mechanical||105||https://www.canyon.com/en-us/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speedmax/cf/speedmax-cf-7-disc/3058.html?dwvar_3058_pv_rahmenfarbe=YE%2FBK|
|Canyon||Speedmax CF 7||$$$||Canyon||Disc||Electronic||Rival eTap AXS||https://www.canyon.com/en-us/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speedmax/cf/speedmax-cf-7-disc-etap/3060.html?dwvar_3060_pv_rahmenfarbe=WH%2FBK|
|Canyon||Speedmax CF 8||$$||Canyon||Disc||Mechanical||Ultegra||https://www.canyon.com/en-us/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speedmax/cf/speedmax-cf-8-disc/3059.html?dwvar_3059_pv_rahmenfarbe=BK%2FSR|
|Canyon||Speedmax CF SLX 8||$$$||Canyon||Disc||Electronic||Ultegra||https://www.canyon.com/en-us/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speedmax/cf-slx/speedmax-cf-slx-8-disc-di2/3063.html?dwvar_3063_pv_rahmenfarbe=BK%2FGN|
|Canyon||Speedmax CFR||$$$$||Canyon||Disc||Electronic||Red eTap AXS||https://www.canyon.com/en-us/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speedmax/cfr/speedmax-cfr-disc-etap/3065.html?dwvar_3065_pv_rahmenfarbe=SR%2FBK|
|Canyon||Speedmax CFR||$$$$||Canyon||Disc||Electronic||Dura Ace||https://www.canyon.com/en-us/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speedmax/cfr/speedmax-cfr-disc-di2/2921.html?dwvar_2921_pv_rahmenfarbe=SR%2FBK|
|Cervélo||P5||$$$||Cervélo||Disc||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://www.cervelo.com/en/p5|
|Cube||Aerium C:68 SL||$$$||Cube||Rim||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://www.cube.eu/en/2022/bikes/road/triathlon-time-trial/aerium/|
|Cube||Aerium C:68 SLT||$$$||Cube||Rim||Electronic||Red eTap AXS||https://www.cube.eu/en/2022/bikes/road/triathlon-time-trial/aerium/|
|Factor||Slick||$$$$||Factor||Disc||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://factorbikes.com/products/slick-triathlon-bike/|
|Factor||Slick||$$$$||Factor||Disc||Electronic||Red eTap AXS||https://factorbikes.com/products/slick-triathlon-bike/|
|Felt||IA Advanced||$$$||Felt||Disc||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://feltbicycles.com/products/ia-triathlon-race-bike|
|Felt||IA FRD Ultimate||$$$$||Felt||Disc||Electronic||Dura Ace||https://feltbicycles.com/products/ia-triathlon-race-bike|
|Fuji||Norcom Straight 2.1||$$||Fuji||Disc||Mechanical||Ultegra||https://www.fujibikes.com/usa/bikes/road/competition/norcom-straight|
|Fuji||Norcom Straight 2.1||$$$||Fuji||Disc||Electronic||Ultegra||https://www.fujibikes.com/usa/bikes/road/competition/norcom-straight|
|Giant||Trinity Advanced Pro 2||$$||Giant||Rim||Mechanical||Ultegra||https://www.giant-bicycles.com/us/trinity-advanced-pro-2-2022|
|Orbea||Ordu M10iLTD||$$$$||Orbea||Disc||Electronic||Dura Ace||https://www.orbea.com/us-en/bicycles/triathlon/ordu/|
|Pinarello||Bolide TR+||$$$$||Pinarello||Disc||Electronic||Dura Ace||https://pinarello.com/usa/en/bikes/road/competition/bolide-tr-2/bolide-tr-dura-ace-di2|
|Scott||Plasma RC Ultimate||$$$$||Scott||Disc||Electronic||Red eTap AXS||https://www.scott-sports.com/us/en/product/scott-plasma-rc-pro-bike?article=286395056|
|Specialized||S-Works Shiv||$$$$||Specialized||Disc||Electronic||Dura Ace||https://www.specialized.com/us/en/s-works-shiv-disc/p/175307?color=293420-175307|
|Trek||Speed Concept SLR 6||$$$||Trek||Disc||Electronic||Rival eTap AXS||https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speed-concept/speed-concept-slr-6-etap/p/35754/?colorCode=grey_black|
|Trek||Speed Concept SLR 7||$$$||Trek||Disc||Electronic||Ultegra||https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speed-concept/speed-concept-slr-7/p/35577/?colorCode=pinkdark_black|
|Trek||Speed Concept SLR 7||$$$||Trek||Disc||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speed-concept/speed-concept-slr-7-etap/p/35755/?colorCode=green_black|
|Trek||Speed Concept SLR 9||$$$$||Trek||Disc||Electronic||Dura Ace||https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speed-concept/speed-concept-slr-9/p/35757/?colorCode=blue_black|
|Trek||Speed Concept SLR 9||$$$$||Trek||Disc||Electronic||Red eTap AXS||https://www.trekbikes.com/us/en_US/bikes/road-bikes/triathlon-bikes/speed-concept/speed-concept-slr-9-etap/p/35756/?colorCode=red_black|
|Ventum||ONE||$$$||Ventum||Disc||Electronic||Force eTap AXS||https://ventumracing.com/bikes/ventumone/|
|Ventum||ONE||$$$||Ventum||Disc||Electronic||Red eTap AXS||https://ventumracing.com/bikes/ventumone/|
A triathlon bike is one of the 20 essential triathlon gear on our list for race day, have a look at this article to find out more about the 19 others.