When it comes to triathlons, there are no rules or specifications placed on what kind of bike you should use. You are free to choose any bike that you would like to use. Whether that means you decide to use a bike from the local store or a tricked out triathlon bike is completely up to you. But it must be said quickly: triathlon bikes are by far the best choice. These types of bikes are much faster than the typical ‘road’ bike that you see. These bikes will help you push further toward your goals.
Top Triathlon Bike Comparison Chart
Whether you are trying to top your personal best or win the race entirely, a good bike can put you over the top and give you a much better chance to accomplish what you set out to do. In this buying guide, we’re going to take a look at the reasons you need a ‘tri’ bike, what makes them the best choice, and we’re going to help you select the best one possible with tips. At the end of our guide, we will rank the top ten tri bikes that are for sale this year.
Triathlon Bike Buying Guide
The point of this article is to make you more informed about all things tri bikes. But there are also some other things to consider before getting on too far. For one, a tri bike is heavily encouraged for anyone that is going to be doing a triathlon. However, it should be said that it is not always the answer for you. Depending on the race type (we’ll look at that later) and the frequency of use, you may want to look at other options.
If you are going to be doing triathlon as a hobby in an inconsistent manner, it may not be worth it to you to buy a tri bike. You might want to instead get a decent road bike and call it a day. Sometimes this is just the better option, despite what anyone will tell you. But if you’re ready to commit, then let’s look at some facts!
Another thing to look at is does the bike hold water bottles and how many does it hold? How many you want and need depends totally on the length of the race and how much you want to drink. You’ll have to make sure to find one that meets your needs, or you could be left disappointed!
Reasons to Get a Tri Bike
The most obvious reasons to purchase a tri bike is to help you gain speed in a triathlon. Every second really does count, especially to those that compete in these types of events. But who am I kidding? You probably already know that! No one likes to think that they are being slowed down by their equipment, so a tri bike can be the answer. It’s also important to quickly say that a bike isn’t going to just magically make you better, either. Practice and training is very much still a requirement. So a tri bike is great because of its speed. Now, let’s look at why it’s faster.
Tri bikes are obviously built for speed, but knowing why is also very important to learn. Tri bikes use aerodynamics to full effect in order to help you go faster. Everything is streamlined on this type of bike to allow you to go as fast as possible. This is a massive difference to what you will find with ordinary road bikes that you see everyday. No matter how small, light, or good looking they are, they’ll still be slower simply because of aerodynamics. The way that the frame is shaped allows the bike to be so much faster than what you would be able to do on a road bike.
For starters, the best tri bikes have a seat positioning that contrasts with that of a regular bike. The seat tube, which is the place where your seat post sets into, is much more upright than a regular bike. This will make you closer to the bike, and thus you’ll become more aerodynamic as a result. In addition to the speed you gain, it also helps you be more efficient with your energy. It literally saves your quads, a very important muscle for running, from being overused on this portion of the race, which will be a massive help to you as you run later on after the bike ride. They do this by requiring you to use your hamstrings more in an effort to power yourself. This is the case as you are much lower than you would be on the road bike.
The second big thing to notice is the handlebars on a tri bike. In contrast to the regular road bike, they are positioned in a much different way. Instead of being straight across, it is effectively in a U, or a bent shape. This is done so that it can cut through the wind better, which also adds to aerodynamics. It’s also made to help you be a little bit more comfortable as you’re going to be down lower than you would on a regular road bike!
Now, one thing that some people do is take a regular road bike and add ‘tri’ bars to it over time in an effort to slowly upgrade it. This is always an option, just in case you are looking that way.
The components of a tri bike are just important as anything. Components will determine how well your bike races and how well it holds up. If you’re purchasing a bike, you’ll need to make sure that all of the parts and pieces are in decent quality. You can get away with some of them being cheaper made, but there is a clear rule here. The more cheaper components on it, the more likely it is to letting you down in the end. That doesn’t mean that everyone needs to buy the most expensive bikes. It just means that you need to aware of the fact that they are not all created the same. This a generic term for any of the working parts of the bike. These include the shifters, the brakes, the bearings, and even the pedals themselves. These can make or break your day, and it’s important to take not when you see one that doesn’t look up to par.
The frame of a tri bike is something that is very important to look at. There are four main options that you can choose from. Each has advantages and disadvantages that should be weighed carefully so you get the best possible bike for you.
Steel bikes are the most traditional of the frames on this list. This bike was most popular way back in the 50s, and it’s held in high regard by old-timers and traditionalists alike. The biggest asset that steel has is that is a great shock absorber. This makes it incredibly comfortable on bumps and especially during the course of a long race. The disadvantage of steel is that it’s seen as heavy. Even though it’s sometimes just a couple of pounds heavier, some people just don’t want to be slowed down despite it’s comfort.
Aluminum bikes are the most commonly seen around. The reason is that they are both light and they are naturally stiff. This makes it great for coming out of corners as you can really accelerate very quickly indeed. However, this kind of bike gives very little support for lighter riders over long races. For people that are pretty heavy, it can be a really great option because you’re able to take the bumps much better. The suggested cut off is around 175 lbs, so be aware of that as you consider an aluminum bike!
Titanium bikes have been a godsend to the top triathletes in the world. This type of bike rides very similarly to a steel bike, but it is at less weight than steel. This naturally makes it very desirable to all kinds of different riders. It is able to absorb bumps, it’s quick off the corners, and titanium is very durable and will last a while. Any guy or girl would feel great and be quicker on this bike, no matter their size or ability level. But the drawback is definitely the price on this one. It’s not because of the titanium itself, but it’s all to do with how they process the metal to make the bike.
Carbon fiber is the bike for those that have bad backs and need a comfortable ride. It is the most un stiff bike out, meaning it is the softest riding one you will likely find. It has the best in shock absorption out there as well. As you go on, however, this bike isn’t quite as good at preserving your energy as others would be. Still a great choice for those that are lighter in weight or those that have injuries that want to take care of.
As you can see, comfort plays a large part in this process. Without the correct fit, you are going to be left in a desperate state of affairs. So it’s crucial to find something that fits YOU well. It’s hard to find this with reviews online. It’s great for general information to get you pointed in the right direction, but there’s nothing like trying out a bike just to make sure it fits you well. Then, you can always go back to the online method to buy if you like. This is something that is very crucial. This is also dependent on how long races are in which you are competing and where exactly you are going to be doing it.
If you’re on a road that’s going to be bumpy and hilly, you’d naturally want a little bit different bike. Some people will want something in between all of the variables so that they won’t have to worry no matter what kind, of course, they are set to face. Just remember that the more ‘tri’ in the tri bike, the more unforgiving it will tend to be. The speed is what you are looking for, and sometimes comfort will be thrown out the window. But you must still find a degree of comfort unless you just want to grin and bare it for the entire journey.
Other Possible Options
There are some other options that you can find to give you more choices for choosing a tri bike. These options have specific functions, and they could serve you well depending on what type of race you are in. If you know you’re going to be doing a short sprint mostly, or a race on flat and straight road, you might want to consider what is called a time trial bike. These are what you’d see Tour de France riders using in the last stage of the race. Time trial bikes are even quicker than triathlon bikes, but they don’t offer as much comfort, shock absorption, or turn quite as well. If you are going to be on mountains or rougher terrain, it’d be wise to avoid these for sure.
Best Triathlon Bike Reviews
Coming in at the premium price is a great looking and high-quality bike from Diamondback, a major player in this industry despite being very new to it. It comes in four different sizes, so that should accommodate most people. One of the drawbacks to this bike is that it’s difficult to change or upgrade parts on it. But overall, it is a very good bike that offers great aerodynamics and durability. There’s no question this is a super high-end machine that is of the quality worthy of Olympic competitors. The price tag should prove that.
- Great look
- Comes in plenty of sizes
- Good aerodynamics
- Very expensive
- Hard to upgrade
Here’s a great option for those on a budget. It’s not super cheap like $250, but it’s not priced like the Kestrel name would imply. This is a high-end tri bike company offering an affordable option. Kestrel makes the claim that this bike is the best combination of both road bike and time trial (aka “triathlon bike”) bike. It combines the best of both worlds into one bike to save your wallet from the carnage resulting from the purchase of 2 different bikes to use for training and for competition. It’s made of a patented EMH carbon (enhanced modulus hybrid) which is lightweight and stiff. You’ll want the stiffness to properly transfer each pedal stroke into actual thrust power rather than being lost in the flex of a more malleable and less stiff frame. You can even change the seatpost one way or the other to fit better for tri use or for road bike use. There are many proprietary components on this bike, and that’s a big bonus! Kestrel is one of the top triathlon bike companies in the world!
While not necessarily easy to put together, we determined that Kestrel has a winner in this model which is ESPECIALLY made for those just starting in the sport of Triathlon. This is not the bike to use if you graduate to an elite level, but then, you’ll know that if you get there! It is however, the perfect bike for anyone more serious than a one time competitor, and less serious than a professional triathlete!
- Unbelievable value for the price
- Best option for beginners
- Contains many options (including looks) found on bikes costing 3 times as much
- Made by one of the world’s best-known names in Triathlon, or time trial bicycles
- Not the absolute cheapest bike you can buy
- Not made 100% for triathlons only (has road bike qualities though weighted for tri use)
- Hard to assemble
The Talon from Kestrel is another carbon bike coming in at a reasonable price. This bike will help protect your lower back while still taking bumps very handily. The seat is proprietary and is designed to further increase your speed over the competition. However, you can also move this one to different positions depending on what you want to use it for. This is a good, happy medium sort of bike.
- Good price
- Protects back
- Seat design is great
- Wheels and tires are a little cheap
- Requires a lot of assembly
This bike from Diamondback is in the middle of our price range on the list. It’s going to come packaged ready for you to nearly ride already! In addition to quick assembly, it has a carbon frame to help you better protect your back and get around quicker. The frame is especially great, but the components are lacking a little. Overall, it’s a good mid to higher level tri bike.
- Little assembly needed
- Great frame
- Carbon good for the back
- A little pricey
- Some components are little lacking
This bike from Italian makers Colnago is in the upper moderate price bracket. Its original designer collaborated with the makers of Ferrari, in fact, so you can be sure that this one will help you move faster. It’s a carbon bike that looks great, has the upright seat position you’ll need, and it also has the handlebars that you’ll need. This is definitely a speed bike for someone that enjoy comfort, but the wheels leave a little to be desired. That said, Colnago is one of the more iconic names in the road bike industry, and its bikes are used by teams and riders in every major cycling event on the planet. Some of the notable features on this cycle are the bearings which are installed directly into the frame making the bike easier to maintain, and stiffer (we like stiffness – excellent for speed, less ideal for comfort). It features an integrated seat post clamp which looks oh so cool. You’ll want to be sure to use the guide (on Amazon) to choose the right frame size for your body.
- Very luxurious
- Relatively comfortable
- Good speed
- Wheels lack a little
This is our first inexpensive bike on the list, and it comes from Schwinn, a company that’s very well known in the biking industry. This bike, like most at this price, is made from heavier aluminum. The seat tube angle isn’t quite what triathletes are used to, but it’s still a good choice for beginners or people wanting a friendly option for their budget. Components are obviously lower quality.
- Great price
- Aluminum is very comfortable for bigger riders
- Good budget bike
- Low-quality components
- Seat tube is not tri-specific
You know already that we think very highly of Kestrel because this is one of the few very high-end, elite companies that manufacture triathlon bikes and time trial racing bikes (basically the same thing for our purposes). The frame on this model is made of superlight carbon which gives the right blend of stiffness and compliance. The tri model (this one) comes with Oval Concepts base plus clip-on aero handlebar, Oval Concepts triathlon seat (saddle) and FSA Metron bar-end gear shifters. It features eleven speeds. This bike comes with Kestrel’s limited lifetime warranty which is an excellent deal.
- Really nice looks
- Great price
- Carbon helps you go faster
- World-class, elite manufacturer
- Not as cheap as the cheapest bike on the market
- Hard to assemble
- May not come in all sizes, so be sure to address the size issue before ordering
Blue is not exactly a household name in bikes, but let me assure you, as one who has done some research and who walks in triathlon circles, Blue is an extremely high-end bike which has many victories and professional (and amateur) cycling teams riding them exclusively! They are arguably the most aggressive, artistic and all around “best” looking bikes available – PERIOD! You’ll get the best deal on Amazon, but just for your research, check out Blue’s website at: rideblue.com/triad This high-end machine features all carbon fiber frame construction and Shimano Ultegra Di2 2 x 11-speed drivetrain. This is no amateur piece of engineering, yet it is not priced so high as to be unattainable to the masses.
- Good price for what you’re getting (aka “value”)
- Carbon frame for stiffness and lightweight
- Excellent transfer of power (aka “efficiency”)
- Over the $2K price point
Kestrel’s 4000 model is a very sleek looking bike that comes at a moderate price. It’s also carbon, but it looks great with the blue color scheme. The carbon will help you move faster while keeping your back comfortable on the long ride. The seating tube is positioned correctly for triathletes, and Kestrel is the first to have ever come out with an all carbon bike, so you can count on them! It’s also great for adjustments if you so desire.
- Easily adjusted
- Great look
- Company specializes in carbon fiber bikes
- A little expensive
- Seat clamp isn’t great
Blue is not exactly a household name in bikes, but let me assure you, as one who has done some research and who walks in triathlon circles, Blue is an extremely high-end bike which has many victories and professional (and amateur) cycling teams riding them exclusively! This model is perhaps the best “value” or at least equal to the best value, of any other bike on our list. It’s made by a very high-end manufacturer, but it’s the lower priced and lower-featured model. When I say “lower-featured”, I mean that it has a downgraded drivetrain for example, which won’t affect your performance unless you’re a world-class elite triathlete (in which case you wouldn’t buy this bike anyway). It looks almost like a bike costing $5K, but it’s just over the $1K price point. Visit BLUE for more details, then head over to Amazon if you’re serious about buying. One Blue’s site, you’ll probably see that most bikes are “sold out” but Amazon tries to keep a decent selection in stock.
- Relatively inexpensive
- Good for beginners
- High-end manufacturer
- Best value on our list
- Made for triathlons
- Not equipped like a professional triathlon bike
Conclusion & Recommendations
There are so many different choices to be made in this category because triathlons are very lax in regards to the biking stage. There aren’t many rules beyond no drafting or blocking/hitting others, so you can be sure that many will have a tough time deciphering what they need. Having a plan and knowing what you want is key. Whether it’s for comfort, durability, or pure speed, there are plenty of choices out there. Remember that you must also get the right biking shoes if you want to ride at your highest level. No matter if you’re budget is large or small, the right tri bike for you is out there, and it will help you go faster and feel better at the end of the day!