But it also helps to have a minimalist machine underfoot that slices seconds off your time, whizzes past the competition, and is comfortable to boot. We've scanned through the most technologically-advanced, athlete-approved tri-specific bikes to give you a range of options. Now, if you're new to triathlons, the main difference between a tri bike and a traditional road bike is the geometry, or the frame, and the angle of the seat tube (the long piece of tubing that extends from the bottom of the bike).
A triathlon bike has a steeper seat tube angle than a road bike, so it's closer to vertical. This steeper geometry places your hips over the crankset (where the chains attach), which engages your quads more. Not only does this position give you a better power output, but it actually makes the transition to the run easier since you're relieving strain on some body parts and engaging others. For example, since you're in a forward-leaning position, your upper body and its weight is supported more by your skeletal system than your muscles, reducing fatigue. A triathlete looks like they're in an incredibly uncomfortable position, hunched over and all, but this is actually easier on your body, more comfortable to maintain, and more efficient during racing.
If you're doing a sprint or Olympic triathlon for the first time, it might make sense to get a road bike and attach some aero bars so you can easily transition to everyday leisure rides and race-day. (A road bike may be cheaper, too.) But if you have a feeling triathlons and Ironmans are going to become your new hobby, find a tri-specific bike in this gallery that speaks to you; and hit the road. It's a worthwhile investment.
Trek's line of completely customizable Speed Concept bikes offers one of the largest ranges in size and adjustability so you really can find your perfect fit. Made to defy wind resistance (drag), the bike is aerodynamically sound, and one of the fastest on the market. In fact, its storage reservoir (where you can stash gels, keys, etc.) is integrated into the design of the bike to retain aero efficiency. It's also easier and quicker for you to access what you need—so no second is wasted.
Tested (and proven!) to be one of the most aerodynamically efficient bikes in a wind tunnel, the Cervélo P5 is next-level. The frame is the company's most efficient, best-fitting, and highest-quality option that's elite enough for triathletes, professional cyclists, AND Ironman champs, yet user-friendly enough for everyday use. The bike's deep rims have superb stability that are hungry for speed; luckily the bike boasts incredibly responsive brakes.
In 1987, Kestrel launched the world's first all-carbon bike frame, the 4000, so they know what they're doing when it comes to speed, efficiency, and (just as important) comfort. This modernized 4000 bike is crafted for the demands of long-distance racing. The head tube is slightly longer for a more upright position, which keeps your legs fresher and primed for the run portion of the triathlon. Plus, the handlebar and stem are incredibly easy to adjust and customize without any special tools. And if you need more validation, it's been tested by some of the most elite athletes in the world. The list includes former Olympian, 4-time USAT Triathlete of the Year, and 22-time Ironman 70.3 winner Andy Potts.
The Norcom Straight is perfect for world-class time trialists and amateur triathletes alike. Its claim to fame is unparalleled adjustability and a focus on fit, because the more positioning options available, the more easily you can find your most aerodynamically efficient position and optimal level of comfort. This is key in triathlons because you want to have enough flexibility in your hips and energy left in your body when you get to the run. No one wants their lungs constricted while cycling (especially when a run follows), which is why this bike was put through a series of VO2 tests—to find the best positioning for athlete's to increase their oxygen uptake and decrease lactic acid buildup. The bike is also geometrically customizable (there are 5 frame sizes) to accomodate athletes who are 5'1" to 6'5"—to give everyone the ability to adjust seat height, stack, and reach parameters so they can have an open position that's natural and individualized.
Nothing is missing from Orbea’s latest Ordu tri-bike. You can shift quickly and efficiently from multiple positions across the bars; and the frame is flattened on the sides so you can slice through air, even at lower speeds, to manipulate the wind. One of the best features: it's customizable. Orbea calculated linear progression between sizes for various heights and saddle positions, so you’re guaranteed to get a bike that feels like it’s made for you.
Aside from a wind-tunnel test, the PRsix has been analyzed and tested over and over to push the boundaries of what's possible in a tri bike. Because you're not just racing the clock as you swim, bike, and run; you're trying to make the quickest possible transitions between each. In consideration of these changeovers, Quintana Roo has made this model super easy to pack, adjust—even assemble/break down during training. The frame and tubing are made so air doesn't create vacuum pockets as you pedal against wind; you glide through air. You can choose from over 10 sizes to find your best fit. The bike's clamp on the front end lets you attach any base bar/clip on aerobars so you can create your own cockpit; you can also choose any brakes from Shimano, TRP, Magura, and TriRig depending on how sensitive you like yours. Plus, the storage system at the back of the bike under your seat makes your bike more aerodunamic.
Hop on this powerful triathlon bike; it's been designed and renovated using input from IRONMAN champs and professional triathletes. In short: It has one of the company's lightest carbon designs that doesn't skimp on performance. Naturally the bike is aerodynamic, but where it really shines lies within the details. The triathlon-specific geometry boasts a seat tube angle of 78 degrees (bikes can range from 76-80), an adjustable saddle position (+28MM to -28MM), and an aerodynamic gain of 14.89%.
$5,750 for the frameset; $8,850 for E-119T+ Ultegra Di2; $12,250 with DuraAce Di2 and Metron 55, argon18bike.com
The beauty of Specialized's Shiv Race X1 is it's been designed with the intent of making you faster, but also for versatility and ease. Case in point: The aerobars, made from carbon, can be adjusted for a multitude of fit options whether you're looking for maximum power, aero efficiency, or all-day comfort; and they're wind-tunnel optmized to reduce drag/air resistance head-on. The frame and fork of the bike offer the same aerodynamic lightweight performance, and even include integrated hydration built in.
Designed to get you across the finish line lighting-fast, Giant factored in 250 different frame configurations to refine shape and minimize drag before settling on the high-performance design of theTrinity Advanced Pro. Engineers focused on three key factors: superior aerodynamics, integrated hydration (you can drink from a straw) and fuel storage, and specific triathlon geometry and fit.
The engineers behind the Serios have dedicated the time and effort to research, just like you've put in the time to train. What they found? Aerodynamics doesn't always come down to thin, flat frames and profiles. By experimenting with new, unique shapes, Diamondback says they've created a bike that offers nearly half the drag of competing bikes.
Set yourself up for a speedy, energetic run by cutting through crosswinds on Cannondale’s Slice Hi-Mod Dura Ace D12 (slice is in the name after all). The bike boasts special shock-absorbing technology called AERO SAVE that mitigates jarring vibrations from the road so you can stay in the aero position longer, maintain better control over rough surfaces, and come off the bike fresher for the run.