Triathlons are dominated by the competitors who put in the most work leading up to the race and dig up the most grit come race day. (Check out Triathlon Training: Transition Workouts for Swimming to Biking and Biking to Running.)
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.
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