Road Bike or Triathlon Bike: Which is for you?

June 15, 2017

Which bike is better? More importantly, which bike is the best choice for you? The versatility of a road bike seems to make it the best choice. However, if you are a serious triathlete and are looking to improve your bike split, you may want to consider a triathlon bike. It is well known that that tri bikes are difficult to control, are awkward to get around in, heavier, etc…, so what do you have to gain with a triathlon bike?  

Triathlon Bikes

A triathlon bike will have a steeper seat tube angle – meaning that the seat tube is nearly vertical compared to that of a road bike. This geometry places the hips of the cyclist directly above the crankset, recruiting mostly the quadriceps muscle which helps increase power. Moreover, the distribution and utilisation of this muscle group facilitates the execution of each pedal stroke. Despite a more aggressive positioning, the cyclist is in a comfortable position and much more aerodynamic, thus increasing efficiency.

 Advantages of a triathlon bike:

  • Increased transfer of power from the cyclist to the bike
  • Places the cyclist in a more efficient and aerodynamic position
  • Often the faster bike option, especially for flat terrain and straight courses.
  • The geometry of the triathlon bike minimizes recruitment of the glutes and hamstring muscles, helping keep those muscles fresh, thus facilitating the transition to the run.

Triathlon bike position
The geometry of a triathlon bike ensures the cyclist is comfortable and powerful while in a very aerodynamic position.  

 

Road Bikes

With its more traditional geometry, a road bike places the rider in a better position for climbing, sprinting, turning and for riding in a peloton. A road bike can increase a rider’s confidence given the many positions on the handlebars while always having quick access to the brakes. Road bikes tend to be lighter, offering more versatility and comfort for a variety of uses.

 Advantages of a Road Bike:

  • Versatile 
  • Easy and comfortable to ride
  • Lighter and more efficient for climbing
  • More stable, such that an experienced cyclist can be faster and more confident riding steep descents, taking sharp turns, etc. 

Road bike position
The geometry of a road bike makes it comfortable and easier to manipulate. Pedaling at a higher cadence is also easier, although the position is less aerodynamic.

 
It’s without a doubt that road bikes offer several advantages over triathlon bikes. They are more stable, often more efficient when braking, and the shifters and brakes are within closer reach. These attributes are particularly useful on a hilly course. Otherwise, on nearly all 70.3 and Ironman courses, a triathlon bike will always be faster. You can always modify a road bike by adding aero bars, however this will always remain a compromise without the incline of the seat post and other characteristics of triathlon bikes.

 Whichever bike you decide to buy, ensure to do all your trainings on this bike.  Independent of the aerodynamics, weight, stability in the turns, or of all other characteristics, the bike will not be comfortable or fast if you are not used to riding it!

 There is one last and very important factor to consider: the fitting. You can have the most aerodynamic frameset and wheels on the market, but the largest factor affecting aerodynamics on a bike is you, the rider! As such, it’s important to get fitted on your bike shortly following its purchase. For long distance triathlons, your position should be aggressive, recruit the right muscles, and comfortable enough for long rides allowing you to run 21km or 42km off the bike.

 So yes, the triathlon bike will be faster and more efficient on most courses regardless of the total ascent, which will allow you to switch to running with more strength and energy.

 

Written by: Stephanie Raymond, Argon 18