While we haven’t seen a lot of new triathlon bikes out in 2020 (thank you very much, coronavirus), bikes have still been flying off the shelves at local shops. The last few years have also shown a big shift by bike brands to the direct-to-consumer model, made even better by a pandemic that certainly discourages visits to a shop. For our big 2020 tri bike review buyer’s guide we looked at eight triathlon bikes that have either been released recently or maybe overlooked in other reviews. For the first time ever, we’ve also included a rating system that evaluates different aspects of a tri bike to help you find your perfect bike at a glance. (More on our rating criteria below.) Along with the comparison roundup below, each tri bike also has a longer review that goes into more depth. This year, all bikes were ridden and reviewed by one single tester, and while the bikes were loaned out by the brands represented, all bikes were selected independently by the tester without promotional consideration or brand input.
We base our tri bike review ratings off the following criteria:
Fit Range – This is not only the number of sizes offered, but also the range from smallest to largest. Obviously tri bikes can (and should) be adapted by a good fitter, and a fitter should ideally be consulted even before purchasing a bike, but this rating details how much adjustment (I.e., aerobar spacers, alternate saddle positions, etc) from the frame’s baseline could be required to get an optimal fit.
Value – Here we look at the value behind the complete bike, looking mostly at components, but also frame quality as well. This is not just absolute price from low to high.
Comfort – This rating specifically judges the complete bike on vertical compliance, not fit or handling. Keep in mind that more than just a frame can affect comfort, and since we evaluate the complete bike as it’s sold, other components can come into play—wheels, tires, even bars.
Acceleration Stiffness – This is another rating that looks at the sum of the parts on the complete build. Here we’re evaluating how the bike responds under high torque (standing up over a hill or out of a corner) and high wattage (powering over a roller). Again, other components aside from the frame can come into play here.
Handling Tightness – Separate from stability, this is the rating that scores how sharp the bike cuts corners. This isn’t necessarily a positive thing if you prefer a bike that sweeps more reliably through corners, as opposed to a bike that can turn on a dime. 5/5 here is very tight handling; 1 / 5 is a bike that swoops out on corners but might be more consistent.
Stability – This rating looks at how stable a bike feels in the aerobars in crosswinds and on descents. A more stable bike will require less input from the rider to stay straight, but again, it looks at the complete bike as a whole—wheels included.
Best Distance – This is a quick look at which distance tri the bike will be good for, out of the box. Of course pretty much all the bikes we review work for almost any distance, but these distances are where each complete bike—as shipped—will shine.
Ease of Assembly – With so many bike brands using the direct-to-consumer model, we rate how easy the home build would be for the average triathlete. Here, we’re assuming a low level of mechanical skill—for instance, the person we’re rating for could change a tire, but maybe not adjust a derailleur.
2020 Tri Bike Reviews