Buying A Bike

Buyers Guide for Road Bikes / Tri Bikes / Tri Bars and basic fitting guide


Buying a new bike today is a bit of a minefield to say the least, the choice of bikes brands and bike styles has never been so numerous. 20 years ago you only had a choice of a road bike and about 4-5 main brands. The only choice you had to make was the sizing.


I will try make things as simple as possible and give you some guide with regards to choosing the right bike for yourself and equipment to go along with it.


A good starting point is your local bike shop, get some advice from your fellow club mates or athletes and choose a shop that has good knowledge and experience, preferably the person selling you the bike has actually competed at some level in road or triathlon and therefore know what they are actually talking about and have experience of riding the different type of bikes! You would expect a good shop will at the very least put you on a bike of the right size and for the right use.


It is good though to be going to the shop well prepared yourself and have a good idea of the size and type of bike you want for your needs.


Road V's Tri/Time Trial Bike?


This is a question I am consistently being asked, especially by people new to Triathlon. In my own opinion and experience of riding and racing bikes for 35years unless you are going to be competing for a top time or placing in an event a Tri Bike is a bit of a luxury, you can do just as much with a good road bike with a set of Tri bars and a tweak of your riding position on it. However if you have the money and are competing regularly and placing well then yes a Tri Bike can be of some benefit for you.


For the beginner to Triathlon a good road bike is the road to go down.


Benefits of a Tri Bike V's Road Bike;


- A Tri Bike has a lower stack height i.e. you can get more Aero on it

- A tri bike has steeper seat tube angles therefore sitting you further forward on the bike which helps improve your Torque on the pedal down stroke, also makes sitting into the Tri bars easier.

- Saves you having to change your road bike position and clipping on tri bars every-time you do an event or want to train in your Tri position


Benefits of a Road bike V's Tri Bike;


- A road bike is more comfortable to ride and offers you the opportunity to take part in Cycle Sportive events (In general you are not allowed to use Tri bike or Tri bars in these events) or ride with a cycling club.

- A road bike is easier to control on technical routes and descending, a Tri bike is harder and tricky to control on technical circuits. Tri bikes are also less efficient on hilly circuits.

- You can get a good road bike with good equipment at a better price than you will get a Tri bike.

- With a good set of Tri Bars and a tweak of your position you can get an excellent Tri Position on a road bike, therefore you are getting the best of both worlds with just the one bike.

- It is a lot more comfortable to do your long endurance rides on a road bike than on a Tri Bike.


Another thing to take into consideration, from next season Elite triathletes will be required to do Draft legal events and therefore you will not be able to use a Tri Bike, only a road bike!





Choosing the right size bike:


A rough guide on the correct frame size is your inside leg measurement from your groin to the floor in socks less 26cm. This will get you the rough effective top tube measurement of a road frame for you. See diagram below;













Once you have a rough idea on the size make sure you try the size and that you’re happy with it.

Typically for a Tri Bike you will go a size smaller than your road bike however this can vary with some brands of Tri bikes.


Getting the saddle height and stem length and height correct:


Looking at the image below the leg when it is at its lowest point on the pedal stroke should roughly have a bend of 150 degrees which will give you a good saddle height. Typically if the saddle is too low you will feel more pressure on the front of the knee and quads, if the saddle is too high you will feel it more at the back of the knees/ hamstrings and lower back.






















A good guide for the stem length is that when you are sitting in the dropped bars as below your knee should almost be tipping off your elbow.





















The height of your stem depends on your current state of fitness and your flexibility and of course your cycling goals.  Too high brings its problems and being too low can bring it problems too, this is a matter for you to decide after a few bike rides.


Saddle position fore and aft, a simple guide is when your crank is at 90degree to the front (or straight out) you are looking for you knee to be over the centre of the pedal. Also your saddle should be level.






















When using Tri Bars on your road bike, you should push your saddle forward all the way and keep it level. You can drop your handlebar stem lower, as tri bars actually lift you up a few cm. Make sure you use tri bars that are adjustable so you can get the reach and width right to suit you.



Setting up your Tri Bike will be similar in the saddle height, the frames are steeper than a road bike so therefore you do not necessarily need to have the saddle all the way forward, you do need to have the saddle forward but being too far forward will cause you to pedal backwards and drop power.


What to spend? And what to spend your money on?


This is the magic question! Basically as much as you can afford. If your new to the sport and are on a budget you can get some good road bikes for €1000.

I always say to riders going from a 1k euro bike up to a 2.5k euro bike you will notice a great difference, however going from a 2.5k bike up to a 5k bike you won’t notice a huge difference.

Unless you are competing at the top level or you have the money to spend! You will get a good bike for 2.5k.


Carbon V's Aluminium: On a budget you are probably better with a good aluminium bike, you will get good equipment and wheels on the bike and a carbon fork. A cheap carbon bike, you are just getting poor carbon on the frame and low grade components and wheels to keep the cost down. Most manufacturers are now making good aluminium bikes again as the demand is increasing for them.



- The best upgrade you can make on any bike is new wheels. Spending money on wheels will often be better than buying a new bike. €500 to €1,000 will get you a very good pair of wheel.


- Tri bars. These will make a big difference to your bike leg. Make sure you buy tri bars that are fully adjustable in all directions so you can set them up well to suit yourself.


- Clipless pedals. A lot of people new to cycling are often intimidated by the thoughts of using clipless pedals. However they are a lot safer than using the old toe clips and straps. They just need a bit of practice at home against a wall clipping in and twisting out or riding around a field clipping in and twisting out. They will make a big difference to your cycling. You need to make sure you have the cleats set up correctly though to make sure you don’t get any knee issues.


- Helmets: If you’re competing then an Aero helmet along with Tri Bars and deep section wheels will make more of a time difference to you then a TT Bike.

For everyone else a good road helmet is essential, I have no issues with someone spending money on a helmet, for me riding a bike without a helmet is plain silly. Never buy a 2nd hand helmet and if you have a fall and bang your helmet you need to change it ASAP!


-Cycle Computers, again the sky is the limit when it comes to computers. However a basic computer with cadence and a heart monitor can be purchased for about €100. I would highly recommend having heart rate and cadence as part of your training routine.


How do I make my bike faster?

Firstly the way you really make your bike leg faster is with proper training! You can get the best position on the bike and have the best equipment but it doesn’t make the pedals go around! You need to be strong and fast, the bike then comes next!


After fitness the best way of making you faster are as follows in order of most benefit time wise and bang for your buck!


Aero tri bars: These will make the biggest difference to you. Once they are well set up, you can expect to save minutes over 40km when using them correctly.


Aero Helmet: Next is a good Aero Helmet, there are now some good road helmets that are Aero shaped, so you don’t have to have the ALL OUT POINTY AREO HELMET!!


Skinsuit: As you are triathletes, you will be using a tri suit anyway.


Aero Wheels: A deep section pair of wheels will save you up to 40-60 secs over 40km, however they come with a hefty price tag! Also if it’s a windy day they can be tricky to handle!


Tri bike: Bang for your buck this will give you the least return! Using all the above on a road bike will give you the biggest advantages. As mentioned if you are looking at gaining as much time as possible or are looking to place in an event then you would use a Tri Bike.



So hopefully you are armed with some information that will help you choose the right bike and equipment for your triathlon. Remember having the right equipment will make your riding more efficient and comfortable but don’t get too obsessed! At the end of the day spend what you can afford and enjoy your bike!



Aidan Hammond Bikefitting Ireland NMT Therapist Level 3 Cycling Ireland Coach Cycling Ireland Coach Tutor PH: 01 2765715   087 9641167

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