Monday, September 21, 2009

Tri bikes for dummies

In case there's any question at all, I'm the dummy.

My old friend Kirk in Indiana has turned into an exercise nut over the past couple of years. He asked me where he can find a good deal on a new bike. After I pointed at the usual suspects, he told me he's training for a triathlon and he wants something that "I won't be embarrassed to be seen riding."

The Tri guys and girls have their own unique style when it comes to bike tech. I'm secretly jealous of some of their cool toys like the on bike hydration systems, but some of it is a bit much for me.

Does a triathlete bike review ever mention "vertical compliance"? Do they train on the same bikes they race on?

I'm obviously unschooled on the whole triathlon side of bicycling. Why the extreme angles on their mounts? Is there such a thing as an entry-level triathlon bike (like what Kirk wants)?


  1. If you ask me, the entry-level triathlon bike is your basic $300 hybrid bike. If you already have a road bike and it's a road tri - good for you. I know several tri-athletes and iron-men (who compete for the fun of it, not in it to win), and all of them tell me that biking is the least of their worries on triathlons - swimming is the butt-kicker, followed by running. Do those two alright, and you'll be OK.
    If you are buying some "triathlon-specific" bike, then you are clearly not an entry-level triathlete.

  2. @Shed: I'm sure it's beautiful to somebody out there. :-/ Are you in Vegas with Denny?

    @Ramkum: Ah yes, swimming. Little known fact about Fritz -- I was in an intramural college swim meet and nearly drowned when I ran out of gas. I had to be rescued and pulled out of the water.

  3. I think an entry-level tri bike is a road bike with clip-on aero bars.

    Tri bike ads don't mention "vertical compliance" cause they don't have any.

    I think at a certain point you train on your tri bike, but if you actually wanna go up and down hills and stuff, or (perish the thought) ride with other people, tri bikes are kind of a disaster.

    I think your friend (assuming he does not already have >5 bikes) would be best served by a nice standard road bike, onto which he can clip aero bars. For extra tri-geekiness, he can buy an aero helmet.

    There's some study I ready a report on recently that said something like 70 or 80% of the aero benefits you get from a full-on time trial bike are gained from just aero bars and an aero helmet.

  4. Any 'ol bike + tri bars + helmet == cheap speed.

    The MIT cycling geeks^H^H^H^H^H team did a study ~2006, using the school's wind tunnel: ,

    Aero helmet was good for 4x the drag reduction of an aero wheelset; position mattered much more than aero chi-chis.

  5. Steep seat and head post angles allow for greater power transfer to the pedals. However, with you lose stability which is why you see riders all over the road in a TT.

  6. Q1 "Do they train on the same bikes they race on?"
    A1 to answer this question.... Yes when you do 5 hr rides training for Ironmans you train on the same bike. It helps refine your positioning mostly.

    Q2 "Why the extreme angles on their mounts?"
    A2: Aerodynamics are king, same as a Time Trial bikes, Tri's are one giant time trial.

    Q3: Is there such a thing as an entry-level triathlon bike (like what Kirk wants)?

    A3: Check out the 2010 Felt 32, and the 09 F32 and F22, both retail for $1300 to $1600, or the Specialized Transition `$1400.

    Entry level equates to slightly more relaxed position, Aluminum Frame and 105 components. But as usual, if you got the skill they can be race winners.

  7. ...sheesh, fritz...yer story reminded me of the guy i knew who was trying so hard on his bike, he rode right into the back of a parked car w/ his head down...' wasn't me despite what 'cha might think...

    ...& triathlons are great !!!...except for all that dumb running & swimming... triathlete friend judi @ "miles & madness", just finished her first full length triathlon in something like 14 hours...

    ...but still, i have hope for her now that she just raced her first cyclo-cross race...she's starting to see the light, thank goodness...

  8. Tri's a whole different world. Thanks for the insights, all -- I'll point Russ to your comments. I hope I'm a little less of a dummy now than I was previously.

    @BGW: A good friend of mine in Colorado did that on the Diagonal Highway between Longmont and Colorado. Fighting a stiff wind, head down, mashing the pedals and *clunk*. Tragically, South Bay cyclist Neil Oda died after he reared ended a car and went through the rear windshield a little over a year ago!