Journey For The Bike Part 2

Journey For The Bike Part 2

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.

In Part 1, I discussed the rationale and reasoning I used to determine that I would go with a Triathlon bike. Now the next part would be where I take everything to the next phase; and go through the process of determining what bike I would choose.

Like many folks, I began with a Google search, and following that even made a post on a local Facebook group. After seeing the replies and reading a few websites on tri-bikes, it was easy to understand why many people do no place too much emphasis on either. Essentially, there are a lot of options, and everyone has a different opinion! After shuffling through everyones opinion/advice,  I noticed that when everyone (bloggers and facebook users) recommended a bike, there were certain features they would champion. I took an inventory of the features that struck out to me, and used it to create a short list of all the features that I felt like really mattered to me. Then used that list to find the bike that suited my needs…

The most common features I heard were aerodynamic, integrated storage, aggressive fit, easy to steer, light weight, UCI regulations, crosswind resistant, fast, etc… While all those things can be significant; for me there was basically only 2 things I cared about. The other items I don’t list are all certainly important, but I felt like every bike took care to do their best in those regards (for example, no bike manufacturer is going to call it’s bike slow, hard to steer, and not-wind resistant).

Features that I wanted:

  • Fit/Comfort:  10/10 triathletes will agree that whatever bike you are most comfortable with; will be the bike that you are fastest with. This single factor is why I wanted to emphasize fit above all else. I wanted a bike that can be easily adjusted to match my body perfectly. It goes without saying, that each person’s body is unique. A bike that may fit one person perfectly,  may be completely uncomfortable to another person; even if they are of similar height and weight. I knew from going through the process once already; that my body is very unique when it comes to bikes, so having a bike that had an emphasis on fit and comfort would be a big thing for me.  (Random note, If you are curious on the fitting issue, this is the problem I ran into: https://blog.bikefit.com/cycling-knee-pain/ it’s a cool read on it).
  • Real World Aerodynamics: What was the point of a really beautiful looking aero bike when you had to throw on after market fuselages, bento boxes, and storage for your repair equipment.
    Getting everything you need on the bike will negatively affect your aerodynamics
    • Look at the above picture, you need to store a lot of stuff when riding. Water, electrolyes, spare tubes, food, phone, keys, etc.. The above bike has no built in storage options, so he uses tape and 3rd party equipment to store it on the big. These accessorizes gives a lot of drag in the wind.  The hydration tank on the bars hits the wind, and then goes between that and the fork.. Each bottle pops out slightly to the side also hitting the wind, the gel packs are all flapping around the entire ride. Sure, this drag isn’t anything crazy; but it does add up, especially when riding long distances (which I am planning).
    • Personally, I feel that if you are going to pay thousands of dollars on a bike, to basically have it be as aerodynamic/fast as possible. If you have to use after market storage for your nutrition/mechanical needs which take away from the aerodynamics, thrn it defeats the purpose. Not as important, the storage also kills the look of the bike. There’s some great products out there, but at every triathlon I’ve ever been to; it’s clear that integrated storage is much more aero and sleek looking. It also makes the bike look beautiful, and clean.
    • This is definitely a more personal preference on my part, but I felt like it is a big deal. This was something I ran into with my Propel; and I just didn’t like the look of all the extra’s on the bike. I tried my best, but in the end I could never get that look right. Having a bike that integrated storage would be something that I would look at carefully and would prioritize this time around. If you are doing shorter races, where storage won’t be an issue, and can just stuff everything you need in your jersey pockets, then this won’t apply to you; but hopefully you can understand why it is important to me.

 

With those 2 features at the highlight of my wish list, I  began my search. I was looking for a bike that emphasized a good fit, and had integrated storage options. The integrated storage is something that a lot of bikes didn’t have, so it helped narrow the field greatly. In the end, I found 2 strong candidates.

 Giant Trinity

Since I already had a Giant, the Trinity always stuck out to me. When I first started getting into triathlons, I would not see too many Giants out there. On the rare occasion I did, I would always say Hello to my Giant brother-en because it was exciting… Now however, I was seeing them more and more often, which led me to talking to a lot more people. It was clear Giant was making great progress on their tribike. I found that the Trinity riders were always very happy about their ride., and for good reason.
It had an integrated hydration system for water, and a storage compartment on the top bar that would be useful to store gels and other supplies. The hydration system was very aerodynamic, and easy to get to. Plus, it came with an aerodynamic bottle that was molded to fit directly behind the frame so it would not drag in the wind.
Hydration System and Aero Bottle look good!

The hydration system was cool, but  I had a hard time finding out what the Trinity storage can hold. Since my local bike store didn’t have a Trinity available for my to check out myself, I asked someone on facebook who was selling his trinity to send me a few photos of what it can hold. And they did! They advised that this top part is best for storing food, and not really forr  equipment. They recommended to put the repair equipment in the jersey pocket or under the saddle. He did send a few photos of what the trinity storage look like though:

Trinity can hold 4 tubes
Or 1 tube, but recommend using it for nutrition
The storage was integrated, and would be workable (but not perfect) for me. I needed to store a repair kit, water, and food. This had integrated storage for water and food (gels/salt/bar), but I would need something else for repairs. Now you would assume I would be able to easily find a nice aero saddle bag to store some equipment under my seat; but never assume. Turns out, Giant has a proprietary saddle; so I would not be able to use a third party equipment holder for my seat. I found this out the hard way when I couldn’t get anything more aero for my propel. Fortunately, Giant actually does now offer something I can use, although it is not aerodynamic.
That was storage, but what about fit? I knew the fit would be good since I was able to get an awesome fit for my Propel. Is that over simplifying it? Yes, but simple can be good! It did take my fitter a long time to get me right, but we did get there eventually. There was something to be said to go with the familiar and since this fit all my check marks, and I was strongly considering getting the Trinity.

Second Option

As part of my research, I also asked my local bike shop for their opinion based on which bike can get me a great fit and has good storage options.  My bike fitter  recommended to check out the Specialized Shiv. This was a bike that was marketed as ‘Aero, Fuel, Fit’;  when it was debited in 2011.  It sounded like exactly what I was looking for..

First of all, it has 5 different frame sizes.. so you will have a better starting point for your fit, which basically means less spacers for you to adjust the fit since you’ll be more dialed in. These spacer’s are note aero; so having less is good! Check the below clip art if you are unfamiliar with these terms.

Stem spacers and Pad spacer example
Spacers are used to make the handle bars further away, and higher up
Generally, bike come in four sizes (Small, Medium, Large, XL); and a rider would get a smaller bike that they need; and just add spacer’s to get the handle/aero bars to the preferred destination. The train of thought is that you can always make a bike bigger with spacer’s, but you can never make it smaller.  This is absolutely a passable thing to do, but like I said; if I’m going to invest a lot of money in being aero; it would be better to avoid using spacer’s as much as possible and get the proper size. Since the Shiv has more sizes available, it means that each size is more refined so will need less spacers.
The different sizes was just the first thing Shiv did to help with fit, it also embraced it’s flexibility. It is made to be very easy to adjust it’s reach and reach number’s. Stack and Reach are unique to each person, and generally can be a pain to get perfectly on any bike. Specialized had bike fitting in mind when it designed the Shiv and made something called a Control Tower Fit system that makes this entire process super easy.
Example of Stack and Reach lengths on different bikes (trishop.com)
To top it off, the Shiv had integrated storage! It has a fuelselage where the water bladder was actually inside the down tube of the bike, plus it has a fuel cell that goes between the tubes to store equipment and food, as you can see below:

I found the storage options very practical. The fuelselage (shown in the green rectangle above) would hold my hydration inside the frame. Bike frame’s are already hollow, so why not use that space for something useful, and more aerodynamic at the same time?  The straw will be right be at my aero-bars, which means I can drink while staying aero. I can also easily refill the bike with water since the opening is near the stem; and is designed for me to poor a bottle of water inside it quickly. I saw a few people do this in races, where they grabbed a bottle; turned it upside down; put it over the hole; and dumped the bottle entirely in the bike; all before they left the aid station. Very cool to see, but it highlighted just how easy it was! Also, keep in mind that since I’m going to be carrying water anyway, there is no increase in weight to do so.

Fuelcell example (tririg.com)
The fuelcell (shown above) has two different compartments. The bottom is specifically designed to hold an extra tube, CO2 cartridge, and a CO2 inflator. The top is made to hold gels, salt, and bars. I searched the web, and found a few good videos (and this) to see it for myself.  The top can hold 8 gel packets at once if I max it out, or 1 bar and 4 gel packets. In an Iron distance race, this would be enough food to get me by  for 1 loop, and refill it in special needs. It is also worth noting that the bike also has a bottle holder behind the seat; which I would use for electrolytes.

Trinity vs Shiv

I felt great that I had 2 great bikes to choose from, but it was pulling teeth trying to compare them and choose one. I even tried out both bikes at a local shop to see what I would like better, but it didn’t help too much.  Economically, the prize point was similar enough ($3700 Shiv vs $3300 Trinity) where it didn’t weigh in. Trinity was familiar, Shiv had better storage, and I liked the look slightly more for the Shiv. I was a Giant loyalist, but Specialized had become a staple in triathlons and was highly thought of. The existing color’s of both did not pull me towards either… that was until the new 2018 models came out though..
On Kona Saturday, I went to my local bike shop randomly to say Hi, and they actually had the new Shiv there; with it’s brand new color. It was Red/Blue, but was also Purple/Grey depending on the angle you were viewing it on! I knew right away, that it was beautiful and that was the bike for me. I was already leaning towards the Shiv because of the slightly better storage options, but this clinched it for me.
My Winner, The Shiv

Next Steps…

If you thought picking the bike was hard, well it get’s a lot more interesting after this! In Part 3, I will detail the accessories, and fitting process. Choosing the type of bike, and choosing what bike is just the beginning. I will soon be entering the fitting process, and then jump into the world of carbon wheels, pedals, power meters, helmets, and electronic shifting.

Click here for Part 3

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