One of the first big considerations you’ll have to make as a new triathlete is what bike you should ride. Any bike is better than no bike, so if you have an old eight-speed, or if a friend can loan a test ride, great! If you are in the market for a new bike, however, use these guidelines to find the right rig and avoid making a very expensive mistake. Then, enjoy our picks for the best bikes for beginner triathletes.
Ready to learn more about triathlon? Check out our complete beginner’s guide.
Get a Fit Before You Buy
The biggest faux pas many new triathletes make is shopping for a new bike without getting properly fit. An uncomfortable bike limits performance and enjoyment of the sport (at the very least), and worse, may lead to injury. The best bike fitters use a dynamic fit bike to get the right geometry from scratch, but even a fitter who works with different models and sizes is better than nothing at all. Online fit calculators and formulas are far from perfect and can easily lead you in the wrong direction. Check the fitter database on Ibfi-certification.com, or ask around for a recommendation of some fitters in your area.
Best Bikes for Beginner Triathletes: Road or Tri?
Many new triathletes are best served with road bikes rather than triathlon bikes. Road bikes are versatile and well suited for just about anything. Triathlon bikes can be tricky to handle; they are made for going fast in a straight line and are not ideal for group riding or easy endurance rides. Every triathlete should own a road bike, but not every triathlete should own a tri bike.
Best Bikes for Beginner Triathletes: Aluminum or Carbon?
Bike frame material makes a difference in the way a bike feels. Aluminum rigs can be just as light as carbon, but aluminum tends to ride harsher. Your budget will likely dictate whether your starter bike will be carbon. Even if you can’t afford a carbon frame, you can dramatically improve ride quality on any bike by outfitting it with high-quality tires and keeping them inflated to the appropriate pressure.
Your bike-fit needs will likely change as you progress in the sport. All bikes allow you to adjust fit parameters, but some rigs can be limiting or really challenging to adjust. Before you buy, ask your bike shop pro how hard it will be to move the position of the handlebar or aerobars. Some bikes are very easy to adjust, but others require a mechanic to make even small tweaks.
Most companies o er bikes at various price points with different component packages. When considering which bike is the best value for your dollar, look closely at the rig’s components. Some manufacturers mix and match some parts, and what they may be offering as Shimano Ultegra or SRAM Force groupset may not be 100 percent as advertised. Groupsets work best with 100 percent native parts, so look closely to understand exactly what you are getting.
Disc brakes are all the rage these days, and rightfully so. They give riders better control in all conditions and are far less troublesome than rim brakes. Disc brakes make swapping between wheelsets slightly easier as well, so if you are going to be purchasing a set of race wheels in the future, disc brakes will simplify your life. Generally, disc brakes cost about the same as rim brakes, so there’s no reason not to go disc.
Do Not Test Ride
This may seem counter-intuitive, but test rides can be incredibly misleading. There are many factors that influence the way a bike feels in a test ride (poor fit, uncomfortable saddle, etc.). Unless a shop is willing to adjust a few bikes exactly to your fit specs and then plop on a saddle of your comfort choice, the test ride will likely be a waste of time.
Best Bikes for Beginner Triathletes: Road
Cannondale CAAD12 105
$1575, Shimano 105 Mix
When it comes to aluminum bikes, the Cannondale CAAD12 is among the best options available. The aluminum frame and Shimano 105 parts keep cost under control, and this bike doesn’t give up much when it comes to ride comfort, thanks to Cannondale’s expertise in this category. The CAAD12 features a road- race geometry and will fit a rider with relatively shorter legs and a long torso well. This bike is a no-nonsense road- race machine, and as long as it fits, it won’t disappoint on speed or toughness.
Trek Domane AL 3
$1,020, Shimano SORA 9SP
The Trek Domane AL 3 is for the newb triathlete looking to test the waters before investing heavily in the sport. The Domane frameset is built around Trek’s endurance geometry, which positions the rider in a relatively upright position. The Sora 9-speed components are not of the same quality as the other bikes listed here, but they do the job and can tolerate abuse well.
Best Bikes for Beginner Triathletes: Tri
Quintana Roo PRFOUR Disc
$3,000, Shimano 105 MIX
Quintana Roo is the first bike brand to deliver disc brake technology at a lower price point. The PRfour is largely based on Quintana Roo’s flagship bike, the PRsix, and has a lot of the same great features. As a bonus, the PRfour comes with both top-tube and rear storage boxes. If you live in a rainy or hilly area, this is a great tri bike to keep you feeling comfortable in adverse conditions.
$3,500, Shimano Ultegra Mix
Ventum turned heads when it released the Ventum Z, a “superbike” pedigree frame built on a more mortal budget. This bike features a nearly identical frame to the Ventum One, including the radical downtube- less design, but it’s coupled with a conventional fork, stem, and aerobars, giving the Ventum Z far more fit adjustability than its big sister. For slightly more than the other tri bikes listed here, you get Shimano Ultegra parts, a huge integrated hydration system, and a superbike design.
$3,000, Shimano 105
The Cervelo P2 has long been regarded as one of the best entry-level triathlon bikes on the market. Built on the same mold as its big sister—the P3— the P2 packs great performance at a lower price. Built with a complete 105 groupset (no substitutions here), a nice ISM saddle and Profile Design aerobars, this bike is just about all you could ask for in an entry-level tri rig.