2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Bikes

Twenty bike reviews from the 2013 Triathlete Buyer's Guide, on newsstands now.

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Check out the complete bike section of the 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide below. Be sure to also view the bikes from the 2014 guide.

Jamis Comet
$1,775, Myjamis.com

The draw: Get the position without upcharge for frills

The biggest advantages of a triathlon bike compared to a road bike with clip-on aerobars are all about making the rider more effective—speed gains from the equipment itself are a marginal added bonus. Jamis’ Comet is one of the few remaining aluminum tri bikes, and also one of the most affordable. Although it lacks glamorous frame material or top-grade components, this bike allows any rider to get the most out of him or herself because of its geometry and dedicated aerobars. The Comet offers most of the speed and comfort of more exotic tri bikes at a fraction of the cost.

RELATED – Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Beginner Bike Kit

Quintana Roo Dulce
$2,100, Quintanarootri.com
The draw: Smooth ride

Carbon tri bikes don’t get much more affordable or functional than the Dulce. The fit profile of this women’s-specific model is geared toward moderate to conservative positions, preserving the frame’s intended ride characteristics by eliminating the need for most riders to use a tall stack of flimsy spacers. The frame creates a smooth ride experience by absorbing most road roughness, although it isn’t the stiffest. The components are barebones but up to the task and, as an added bonus, Quintana Roo is one of just two bike makers to include the popular ISM Adamo saddle. Small gearing and small frame sizes are the two primary women’s-specific features.

RELATED – Beginner Kit: Swim And Transition Race Necessities

Fuji D-6 3.0
$2,649, Fujibikes.com
The draw: Stiff and responsive ride

The D-6’s massive tubes do more than draw attention; they make it one of the stiffest tri bikes around. It sprints and climbs with the spunk of a road bike and is genuinely fun to ride. If you travel frequently, make sure your mechanic skills are sharp. Both brakes are mechanically challenging—the rear is hidden by a cave in the frame and the front cable routes through the headtube. Taller athletes be weary: Sizes L and XL force the rider into very aggressive positions.

RELATED: Announcing 2013 Buyer’s Guide “Best In Class”

Giant Trinity Composite 2
$2,400, Giant-bicycles.com
The draw: Stands out from the crowd

While Giant may not be fully committed to the needs of triathletes, the Trinity Composite 2 boasts a frame with aero bona fides that you won’t see on every transition rack. If you want a bike with tri-friendly geometry that stands out at an affordable sticker price, this fits the bill. However, the aerobars create a very tense wrist grip, and component quality is lacking: Shimano’s base-level Tiagra groupset has a relatively short lifespan, and the side-actuated brakes aren’t on par with most calipers.

RELATED: Go Aero On The Cheap

Cannondale Slice 5 105
$2,450, Cannondale.com
The draw: Efficient choice for speed and value

This bike is light on fancy upgrades, but stocked with the key ingredients for a fast bike split. The Shimano 105 component group is modest, but functional and durable. Cannondale’s Slice frame isn’t integrated, but feels incredibly balanced and responsive. The fit is perfect for athletes who ride true tri positions, yet aren’t flexible enough to lick the front tire. Cutting extraneous upgrades while hitting every important attribute puts the Slice 5 105 at the peak of value and performance.

RELATED: Announcing 2013 Buyer’s Guide “Best In Class”

Trek Speed Concept 7.0 WSD
$2,730, Trekbikes.com
The draw: High-end frame with room for upgrades

The cost of some bikes is reflected in componentry, but this one is built with simple components and a fantastic frame. Fancy parts can come later. The Speed Concept 7 Series frame rides responsively and is as aero or better than many frames costing much more. Its geometry is suited to moderately aggressive fits—you don’t have to be a yogi to ride this bike. Spinnable climbing gears and Bontrager’s ergonomic RXL Hilo saddle could be considered women’s-specific features, but this bike can be fast and comfortable for athletes of either gender. (Trek also offers a men’s version.)

RELATED – One-Of-A-Kind Ride: Julie Dibens’ Trek Speed Concept

Scott Plasma 30
$3,150, Scott-sports.com
The draw: Top-end frame built with affordable parts

The triathlete all other pro men fear on the bike is Sebastian Kienle, and the Scott Plasma is his bike of choice. The German rode this machine to the 70.3 world title in 2012, and it’s perfectly suited for an athlete who travels frequently because it’s easy to assemble. Handling feels stable—it steadily sweeps through corners without requiring much course correction from the rider. Its component spec doesn’t quite compare with some other similarly priced tri bikes, but the frame is a winner.

RELATED – Inside Triathlon Archives: Scott Plasma Premium

Specialized Shiv Comp Rival Mid Compact
$3,300, Specialized.com
The draw: Satisfies every need, from fit to function to straight-line speed

This bike was created purely for function—ego and tradition were left behind. Frame geometry is decidedly geared toward age-group triathletes. Bikes oriented for positions ridden by pro cyclists or elite triathletes force the vast majority of riders to shim and stack their way to their ideal position, impairing ride quality and in some cases aerodynamic performance as well. The Shiv, however, matches most positions without shoehorning the rider onto the bike. Its extremely adjustable aerobar allows for micro refinements to position and a host of practical additions such as external brakes and an integrated hydration system make the Shiv not only fast in a lab, but functional on the race course.

RELATED: Ben Hoffman’s Specialized Shiv

Kestrel 4000 Pro SL Shimano Ultegra
$3,100, Kestrelbicycles.com
The draw: Agile demeanor

Handling feels lightning fast and reactive—this bike is not a steady cruiser, and controlling it requires attention, but it can corner with rapid agility. This is an extremely high-performance frame at the price point, and the component spec is solid, although far from a complete Ultegra build, as the name would imply. The aerobars offer a broad range of reach adjustment, helping the 4000 Pro SL suit many different riding styles and positions.

RELATED: Triathlon Pro Gear – Ironman 70.3 California

BMC TM02 Ultegra
$3,699, Bmc-racing.com
The draw: Performance without complication

While some bikes have grown more complex in the hopes of saving a few seconds, the BMC TM02 is a refined take on the most functional and proven style of tri bike. With frame geometry keyed for realistic aero fits and a Profile Design T2+ aerobar capable of adapting to many different reach dimensions, the TM02 is shaped for real tri performance. Functional component upgrades such as the Shimano Ultegra crank and front brake make this build far more reliable and effective than the many tri bikes with downgraded kits.

Argon 18 E-112
$4,905, Argon18bike.com
The draw: Solid and stiff ride feel

Spending big for marginal gains to frame performance isn’t always the best way to stock your garage with fast gear. The E-112 has the same muscular frame shape as the Canadian company’s higher-end bikes, but utilizes a standard aerobar attachment system and brake instead of integrated options. Both of the supposed “downgrades” make a bike easier to travel with and maintain. The price for this complete bike is well beyond most with similar drivetrain components, largely due to the race-ready Shimano Dura-Ace C35 carbon wheels. The cost for functional and practical bike drops substantially when equipped with a basic wheelset.

Blue Triad EX
$5,000, Rideblue.com
The draw: Realistic and adaptable fit

Although a relatively new company, Blue set the trend to more upright geometry that many bikes now follow. The Triad EX positions the aerobars higher relative to the horizontal distance from the rider to the bar at every size, creating a bike geared for positions typically ridden by most athletes—not the hyper-aggressive fits that force most riders out of the aerobars late into a ride or race. Blue’s own Aerus TT270 aerobar keeps the front of the bike free of clutter and creates an assuring, solid grip.

Felt DA3
$5,169, Feltbicycles.com
The draw: Dedicated speed machine with fit flexibility

The aerobar attachment system on Felt’s DA3 can be situated for a super-low and aggressive fit, or propped high above the base bar for a more upright position. Felt created six different integrated stem pieces to mount the bar, and this range of options allows the bike to adapt to many fits. The frame, however, is ideally tuned for dedicated aero fits. This is a race machine, not a cruiser. The bike responsively snaps into corners and accelerates with punch. Shifting is precise and quick, thanks to the Sram Red drivetrain parts, although the crank is down-spec’d to keep the price under control.

Orbea Ordu GDR
$6,499, Orbea.com
The draw: IM bike split record holder

After a long wait, Orbea has created a bike specifically for triathletes, not time trialists. Although road racers can certainly use this machine, it is Orbea’s first bike with a steep tri-specific seat tube angle—a must for aero fit. The front-end aerobar attachment system uses a rotating stem piece that affixes the bars to the frame. With multiple-length stems, it can fit a range of positions and is best suited to those on the aggressive end of the spectrum. The external front brake ensures easy service and ideal function, and the Sram Red component group completes a first-class build.

Guru CR.701
$4,000, (Tier 1 frameset) Gurucycles.com
The draw: Custom fit

Integrated front ends are appealing, but they’re also a pain. Instead of eking out a few grams of drag savings with an exotic nosecone, its custom geometry separates the Guru CR.701 from other premier bikes. This model’s geometry can be tailored to any fit, and the Canadian bike maker offers two lesser (and more affordable) levels of customization. External brakes and the traditional stem and steerer tube make the CR.701 mechanically reliable and simple, further helping an athlete get the most out of his or her body.

Cervélo P5-Three
$6,000, Cervelo.com
The draw: Translates speed in the lab to speed on the road

While many top-end bikes are becoming more complicated, Cervélo’s flagship is easier to use and more functional than any of its predecessors. While Cervélo’s two prior top-level tri bikes had geometry optimized for pro-level cyclists, the P5 is suited to positions ridden by the thousands of people that fill the transition area. Many bikes can be adjusted and corrected to fit many triathletes, but this frame does it better. Eliminating the need for gigantic spacer stacks contributes to the bike’s highly reactive ride feel and outstanding performance in a recent wind tunnel test conducted by the editors of Triathlete. Cornering feels steady and not excessively quick. Traveling with this machine is simple and easy, although cable routing requires a careful hand. The P5-Three has an external front brake while the P5-Six uses a fairing extending off the front of the headtube, complicating the design and saving a few grams of drag. Although Cervélo didn’t integrate hydration or storage, the company provided information to X-Lab, Dark Speed Works and other hydration brands, which have designed a host of accessories to complement the bike. The P5’s combination of speed, ride quality and function is unbeatable today.

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Look 596 iPack Mondrian
$7,500, (iPack frameset) Lookcycle.com
The draw: Fantastically fast ride feel

Before aero integration was cool, the Look 596 boasted a unique front-end system that helped create the bike’s responsive ride feel. It can jump and dive into corners without hesitation—the impressively stiff connection between the bottom bracket and aerobars helps harness the frame’s inclination to turn. Fit is keyed for full-blown aero fits, and the bike can be adapted to fit many different positions in this range. It is not ideal for riders with upright positions.

Parlee TTi
$6,200, Parleecycles.com
The draw: Tasteful craftsmanship with geometry options

This is a craftsman’s piece. Simple and elegant tube shapes set this bike apart from those rushing toward a flashier or more marketable solution to aerodynamic design. Parlee offers two different headtube lengths for each frame size, allowing each rider to pick a quasi-custom geometry by selecting a stack height to match their reach dimension. If you’re looking for an aesthetically clean and well-built machine, this American-made bike is hard to beat.

BH Aero
$10,900, Bhbikes-us.com
The draw: Exotic design

If you’re looking for a bike that stands out, the BH Aero’s muscular shape will definitely separate you from the herd. And while the frame looks outlandishly aggressive, its fit profile won’t have you twisted beyond control, with dimensions similar to the ever-popular Cervélo P2. Be ready to learn brake maintenance, because both front and rear are hidden and side-actuated, and brakes of this style often require a bit more care than external stoppers. Every other component is top-shelf. With the Zipp 808 race wheels and Sram Red drivetrain, this machine is already equipped with a pro-caliber kit.

Wilier Twin Blade
$12,000, Wilier-usa.com
The draw: Unique style

Forget practicality—this bike is overflowing with flash. The name comes from the bike’s unique integrated fork. Two struts run alongside the headtube to connect the massive fork blades to the stem to bolster the aerobar. This system results in a very broad front profile. Adjustability of the aerobar position is limited. Show up to a race with a Twin Blade and you’re almost certain to attract a crowd of onlookers with serious bike-envy.

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