Fast For Less: Three Affordable Tri Bikes

These aluminum tri bikes—priced as affordably as any—have all the essential features you need to ride fast and comfortably.

Photo: Nils Nilsen

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These aluminum tri bikes—priced as affordably as any—have all the essential features you need to ride fast and comfortably. We road-tested them to help you find the best match for your riding style.

Specialized Shiv Elite A1 Apex


Any bike fitter will confirm that comfort, not a low position, is the key to a fast ride. If you’re most comfortable in an upright position, the Shiv is a perfect match. This frame is optimized for a high bar position, and the tall and adjustable bars further complement that riding style.


Thanks to the omnidirectional adjustment offered by the aerobar and reversible seat post, the Shiv can span an incredibly broad range of positions. Both front and rear shifting is crisp. Wide gearing options (52/36 chainrings with an 11-28 cassette) help you stay connected at high speeds while still offering spin-able gears for steep hills.


Road vibration is more subdued when riding the Shiv. It corners with incredible precision and stability, and turns a little more deliberately and quickly when riding in an upright position than the Blue.

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Blue Triad AL


Like the Shiv, the Triad AL is tuned to fit conservative (read: realistic) positions. The reach distance from saddle to bars is fairly short, and the frame provides a tall platform to elevate the bars. The Profile Design T2+ clip-ons create a wide range of adjustability to hone your individual position.


Front and rear shift performance lags behind the other two bikes. The Micro Shift levers lack the crisp precision of the Sram and Shimano alternatives. The Triad AL is the only bike in the lineup boasting a hidden rear brake, which functions acceptably well. Trustworthy Shimano R500 wheels can stand up to years of training and racing.


Steering feels controlled and stable at all times. Diving through tight corners isn’t its specialty, but the Triad AL holds a straight line almost by itself. Road vibration is minimized, and the frame feels stiff during quick sprints.

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Felt S22


Price is this frame’s only “entry-level” characteristic. If you’re comfortable leaning far into a textbook aerodynamic triathlon position, the S22 is your bike. Its geometry is perfectly suited for an aggressive aerodynamic position, and the bars offer a wide range of fore-aft adjustment.


Although braking performance isn’t exceptional, the Sram Apex drivetrain flicks through gears with rapid precision, like the Specialized. A brief soft-pedal stroke is all the assistance it needs for a sharp front shift. The shape of the aerobar extensions creates just the right amount of tension through the wrists to lock you in place without strain.


Stability and agility are in perfect balance. The S22 precisely carves through corners when you lean in the aerobars, yet never twitches or flinches in a straight line. Road vibration is moderately harsh, however.

Verdict: If you prefer an aggressive position, the Felt is your clear choice. For calm, predictable handling and a conservative position, the Blue wins out, but the Shiv blends superior componentry and a more agile ride feel with an equally comfortable fit.

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