Bike

New Triathlon Bikes Are Changing Which Bike Fit Numbers Matter

Traditional bike geometry charts are irrelevant when considering a new tri bike. Here's why.

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Today’s top bikes are more aero, more integrated, and more adaptable to a wide range of fit requirements than their predecessors. The less notable—but potentially more important—improvement in this new wave of bikes is their easy-to-adjust aerobar systems, making it more likely that a rider will be able to dial in their bike fit just right. Adjusting the bars is no longer a daunting task, and all the parts required are included with the bike. Cervelo led this ease-of-use revolution for bike brands with their P5X’s Speed Riser aerobar, and the newly announced Orbea Ordu and Canyon Speedmax CFR/CF SLX are following suit with similar designs.

Traditional bike geometry charts are irrelevant when considering a new tri bike like the Orbea Ordu or Canyon Speedmax CFR. No bike fitter worth their salt will care what the effective top tube or seat tube length is on these bikes. When evaluating how a modern-day super tri bike will fit you, 99% of the focus will be on the arm pad position. Bike fitters use the terms “Arm Pad Stack (K)” and “Arm Pad Reach (L)” to define the location of the arm pads relative to the bottom bracket (see diagram above). Most of the time, the arm pad reach refers to the back of the arm pad, but occasionally some manufacturers use the middle of the pad as their reference point, so be careful what you’re looking at. Saddle height and position are also very important parts of bike fit, but pretty much any modern-day tri bike will let you move the saddle almost anywhere, so you can leave that out of the equation when comparing the fit of one bike to another.

The width between the arm pads is also often overlooked, but essential. Some aerobars have the arm pads positioned much narrower than others, and this can have a big impact on comfort if you have broad (swimmers) or inflexible (runners) shoulders. For instance, the Orbea Ordu’s maximum arm pad spacing is only 195mm (center to center)—considerably narrower than the 255mm available on some aftermarket aerobars, like the one from 51 Speedshop.

When considering how well a tri bike will work for you, always make sure you are starting off with a good bike fit in the first place. With your arm pad stack and reach coordinates in hand, have a look at the geometry charts or tables supplied by the manufacturer. Pro tip: Find a bike that fits your coordinates as close to the middle of its usable range as possible. For example, if your arm pad stack is 685mm and you are considering the new Canyon Speedmax CF SLX in a size medium, the maximum achievable pad stack of 691mm should be worrisome. It would be best to size up to the large, with a pad stack range of 619-729mm— assuming your reach values work out well. By aiming to be in the middle of the range, you are ensuring that the bike will continue to work for you, even as your fit needs change.

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