After 3 Olympic distance triathlons, 3 70.3’s, and 2 Ironman finishes.. I finally decided to go all-in on triathlons, and that meant getting a Tri Bike. In the hopes of being able to help others trying to decide on the route they want to go in regards to their bike, we decided to record my journey with the hopes of offering insight and guidance to others as they proceed on their own journey. Hopefully the path I took, and the reasons/rationale are something that are helpful to others going through the same decisions. This will cover what rationale, factors, and other considerations I took when I purchased each of my 3 bicycles. It is my hope that you will find this both educational, entertaining, and helpful.
Part one serves as an introduction and is meant to make the reader more familiar with where I am now, and how I arrived at each decision.
Introduction: My first bike
I did my first triathlon way back in 2014. At the time, like many other first timers; I did not know for sure how many triathlons I would do. I figured I would train for one, and maybe do one on and off again every so often. So with that said, I did what most every new person in triathlons did, and got a basic entry level road bike, the Giant Defy 5. It was aluminum, had mechanical shifting, wasn’t aerodynamic at all, but it worked and it was mine! I threw on some clip-on aero bars, and I was good to go for my first 70.3, for the modest price of $600 bucks!
Long story short, I ended up doing 2 tris in my first season, and then 2 more the following season, and decided I would keep going; and actually try for an Ironman race. Doing a 70.3 in an entry level road bike is one thing, but if I was going to go the distance then I felt I needed to upgrade my bike… The only question I had, was what I would upgrade to… what type of bike? Road or TT?
Road vs Triathlon/TT Bike: What’s a Tri bike anyway?
A triathlon (or time trial/TT bike) is significantly different than a road bike. Using the below picture though, we can really point out some of the differences.. Notice how in the red Road bike position, your back is at a slight angle compared to how in the green TT/Triathlon position it is a lot more flat. Why is this significant? While you are riding, one of the biggest obstacles is the wind you are battling. Wind slows you down, so you want to avoid the wind, and be more aerodynamic. If you are lower to the bike, that means you are fighting less wind, are more aerodynamic, and generally speaking; more faster.
The other difference is if you look at the angle of each examples hip and knees. Notice how in the road bike’s position, there is a small angle.. and in the TT position, it is almost a 90 degree down to your legs. The geometry directly relates to which muscles you are using when you ride.
In the road bike position, you will use more quad muscles; which is perfectly fine when riding a bike. However in a triathlon, you will find that you need those quad muscles later on for the run, especially for a marathon! So going back to the diagram, in the triathlon bike, the seat angle is steeper, and points towards the rear of the bike, which allows the rider to have a larger hip angle.. which in the end will make you use your hamstring and glute muscles a lot more effectively without relying too much on your quad muscles. The result of this, is fresher quad muscles, which will be super helpful on the run.
Deciding on a Bike… the first time
Now that I detailed the differences, I still needed to decide which type of bike I wanted. Sure, the triathlon bike had some great benefits, but it also had some downside. Essentially, a triathlon bike is just meant for races. You shouldn’t really train in it often because steering and braking are much harder than a road bike. If you have a closed course somewhere like a park, then tri bikes would be ok; but for me I was planning on biking on the main roads (spinning 100+ loops in a park was not going to work for me). Also on group rides, tri-bikes are not allowed since they tend to make other riders nervous since they can’t be controlled as well… If I were to get a triathlon bike, I had to be committed to triathlon, and I just wasn’t there yet. In the end, I decided a road bike was the way to go for me at the time.. I decided on an aero road bike, that would essentially give me most of the best of both worlds.
The road bike wouldn’t be an aggressive fit like a tri bike, and although my fitter tried to get my hamstrings and glutes engages as much as possible; it still used more of my quads than I would of liked. Obviously it wasn’t as aero-dynamic as a tri -bike would be, but I could get an aero road bike, that would emphasize aerodynamics as much as possible for a road bike.. On the plus side, I could still go on group rides and be comfortable training with it on roads.. To top it off, if I ever stopped doing triathlons, I would have an awesome bike to use for road riding.. The 2016 Giant Propel Advanced 0, which I would christen Placid was exactly what I was looking for, and it was perfect.. I threw on some clip on aero bars, and I was good to go for my first Ironman, Ironman Lake Placid 2016…
So low and behold, Lake Placid came and went… and I just friggen loved it. Placid lived up to her name beautifully, and got me through the bike leg and eventually to the finish line. I ended up signing up for 2017 Ironman lake Placid, and kept my same set-up.. The second time through, I had an even better experience! After 4 years of trying the sport out, I just fell on fell in love with it. I signed up for Lake Placid for a 3rd time, another 70.3, another Olympic, and will probably sign up for a bunch more before finishing this sentence…
In short, I was and am hooked; and I knew now that I needed to get that tri-bike. As I found myself much more competitive, now the advantages of the tribike were calling out to me. I wanted fresher legs and to fight less wind. Since I had a road bike to train with already, I won’t need to worry about training on the main roads, since I’ll still have placid to train with.. Finaly it was time to begin my… (cue dramatic music)…. Journey for the (Tri) bike!
Part 2 will cover the process of deciding on which triathlon bike I will choose. Check it out here!