Bike

Ask A Gear Guru: What’s A Good “Second” (or Third) Bike?

With the race season on pause, and the outdoors calling louder than ever, there are some fantastic options for the multisport athlete looking to do new things on two wheels.

I won’t even bother reminding everyone that races are “on sabbatical” (or whatever fancy people call it when they take time off), but it is important to remind triathletes that we can still swim, bike, and run as a way to explore tiny nooks and crannies in our (smaller, now) areas around us. Being able to do three sports very well—no matter how fast, how slow, how pretty, or how ugly—is a pretty unique gift, and it makes sense that even though there aren’t any triathlons going on in 98% of places (Estonia, I see you…), we still consider ourselves triathletes. At the very least, this pandemic has answered that long-run philosophical quandary: “Are you a triathlete if you don’t race?” Yes, yes we still are. That said, while the skills and abilities are there to swim, bike, and run all over your city, county, and state, you might need some slightly different tools to adventure in your world: Power meters are probably gathering a little dust in the absence of interval sessions, but it’s possible the dirt is calling instead. Will you be working on slamming your stem and aerobars so low you’re scraping your nose on your front wheel? Probably not, but you might be biking to the grocery store or pool or field that you like to do your strength training in (in lieu of a gym). Sure, triathletes know aerodynamics and carbon and deep-dish wheels, but do we know much about the other dozen types of specialized two-wheeled power? Read on and you will.

Why Would You POSSIBLY Need A Second Bike?

Yes, this may be the exact question your significant other might be asking you, as you read this story and begin slowly sliding down the dangerous and morally questionable rabbit hole of polyamorous bike ownership. The reality is that bikes are cheaper (no, I’m not talking about superbikes), better, and more specialized than ever before. So you may not need another bike, but there are bikes available now that do some really fun things that’ll keep you fit, happy, and maybe even reduce your carbon footprint. Now more than ever, we know that at all three of those reasons are vital to our future: We’ve all seen how crucial health is right now, we’re also starting to see how important our possibly tenuous mental state is (WFH 24/7 anyone?), and of course the environment is still out there, getting worse all the time. The good news is: Now more than ever, there’s a bike for that.

What Types Of Bikes Are Out There?

Aside from a tri bike to train/race on, and/or a road bike to do the same with, there are some really cool options that have popped up on a grand scale in the last ten years while we’ve all been focused on drooling over non-double-diamond bikes for tri. First, and most notably, there are gravel bikes. While gravel bikes may look a little bit like the cyclocross bike of old, they’re far more popular than those lightweight offroad road-looking race machines ever were. And this is a good thing. With more brands making more gravel bikes (and more gravel components), you can get something very very nice with most of the features you want for not a lot of money. You can also get something very very very nice for a lot of money too—don’t worry. 

Aside from gravel getting both better and cheaper, e-bikes are also becoming more widespread, accessible, and accepted. And while I’m not talking about something you would necessarily train with (obviously no racing), e-bikes are good enough and inexpensive enough to help you commute, or better yet, get someone outside and riding with you who couldn’t normally. Imagine a long ride with your significant other who’s not a triathlete, or maybe a friend, parent, or older child who could finally see the same stuff you talk about when you get home from your ride.

Finally, there’s a whole class of specific bikes that let you do everyday things better, like go to work and even shop. Before, most brands only offered road, mountain, and hybrid, but today’s bikes are made to do exact things very well. Now you can find a whole category of utility bikes that can haul almost as many groceries as a car; now you have no excuse not to go pedal powered.

Without further ado, we look at a handful of very cool second (or third or fourth) bikes for triathletes:

Canyon Grail AL 7.0 SL Gravel Bike

$2,100, canyon.com

a second bike

Yes, there are much more refined (and expensive) gravel bikes out there, but we like this one because it’s tough, no nonsense, and does the important things well. The aluminum frame isn’t as harsh as you’d expect—just run the 40mm tires near the lower end of the pressure or go tubeless and super low. The upside to aluminum is you can strap whatever you want on it, smash it all over the ground, and just have fun with it, not worrying about the consequences. Looking for extreme social distancing? Bikepack this thing way out there.

Specialized Diverge Pro Carbon Gravel Bike

$6,700, specialized.com

On the other end of the gravel spectrum comes this all bells-and-whistles carbon beast from Specialized. While the price is clearly on another level, the Diverge Pro comes with 20mm of suspension, a full carbon frame, hidden storage, and heaps of tire clearance. This is the bike that you could easily do a gravel race on (“easily” is probably not the right word for a gravel race, however)—slicing and dicing through corners and still maintaining some comfort over varying terrain. In fact, Velonews loved this bike so much, they gave it four-and-a-half stars out of five.

Trek Domane+ HP Road eBike

$7,000, trekbikes.com

second bike

While not exactly cheap, this could be the exact bike to get someone you love out on rides—or reopen the roads to someone who hasn’t been able to ride for a while. A 500Wh battery helps the rider sustain speeds up to 28mph for a range of 80+ miles (mileage may vary, of course), and a host of cool gadgets like integrated lights, an onboard computer with all sorts of info and diagnostics, and a removable integrated battery will definitely entice any non-riders (or those who thought riding wasn’t possible anymore) to get out on the roads with you. A relaxed geometry, carbon frame, and even a proprietary “dampening” system help make this as smooth as it is fast.

Gazelle Medeo T10 HMB

$3,000, gazellebikes.com

Less than half of the price of the Trek, the Medeo is definitely more of a pricepoint choice for those looking to commute or simply get outside. While a 70mi+ range and a 500Wh battery will move you along to where you’re going, it’s a heavy, 50-pound bike that supports the rider only up to 20mph. It won’t have all of the gadgets of a higher-end e-bike, the Medeo still has hydraulic disc brakes, a minimal onboard computer, and fenders and a rack. This is definitely utilitarian, but also won’t need a lot of upgrades for getting around.

Surly Big Dummy

$2,150, surlybikes.com

Well, for anyone who thought there’d never be a Surly bike in a Triathlete gear guide, it’s strange times like these that make weird things happen. Though this design has been around for over a decade, the popularity of long-tail cargo bikes (or really any cargo bikes) in the U.S. hasn’t really caught on until more recently. While the Dutch have the market cornered on hauling lots of stuff on two wheels, this classic hauler can carry up to 400 pounds of groceries, hardware, supplies, or even homeschooled kids. The affordable price makes it an option for those looking to reduce their gas-powered trips around town while putting in some miles, and its beefy construction means you’ll have it for years.