The bike leg of a triathlon could be your most expensive sport, I’ve shared some ways where it doesn’t necessarily have to be when entering the sport of triathlon.
Purchasing a new bike can be a daunting task, if you let it be. You have probably been seeking advice from friends in the sport or stopped into your local shop, or even read some articles online announcing the latest and greatest in the cycling world. If you ask for advice, you will get it. And it just may confuse you more. I performed my first few triathlons, and first Ironman, with a road bike and clip on aero bars. Basic training wheels and basic helmet. Starting with the basics allows you to see what works for you and what doesn’t, with a limited investment.
If you don’t currently have a bike, my first recommendation is to go and get a bike fit. I say this to all the new athletes I coach, and most have never received a proper fit. Invest in the fit, and you’ll invest in a bike that will last you for years. I have been fortunate to have one of the best nearby, Todd Kenyon from TT Bike Fit in Warren, RI. When you go for a fit, you’ll get properly adjusted for the bike, but with running strong in mind. After receiving your size requirements, the bike options will be presented to you so you can move forward with the right bike that fits you. Not because of the paint job or the price, but because it fits you for the 30 minutes up to 7 or 8 hours you spend on the bike depending on the race distance. What is utmost important is feeling comfortable for that long on your bike.
With that said, once you get a bike fit, and know the brand and sizes that fit you, begin to shop away! Ideally, it’s best to buy at the end of the season when shops and online stores are unloading their inventory to make room for new rides. A few sites to check out for great deals if you can’t find one in your local shop: all3sports.com, trisports.com, nytro.com
Another important purchase, and one that you should definitely buy new. Which helmet is for you depends on the fit on your head, and weather you think you’ll only wear it in the warm weather, or may use a headband or skull cap underneath, as these can affect sizing. You don’t need the high end helmet for a specific brand, and it’s best to go into a shop and try it on. Once you find a brand that works, you’ll want to replace it after a few years due to safety. Aero vs vented? To me it doesn’t matter for the level of most athletes. I’m sure their are studies you can read about the aerodynamics of one over the other, but I’ve just used the same helmet in training & racing. For me, I prefer the Bell Sweep helmet line, it’s been the brand I’ve used for many years. And I go for what’s on sale at either Performancebike.com, Jensonusa.com, Nashbar.com or Amazon.com.
In the 12 years of racing in this sport, I’m on my 3rd pair of shoes. They don’t wear down that much, even though I rarely wear socks in the summer when I train and race, and use them through the winter and summer conditions of riding in New England. You will need to swap out the cleats every few years though as they tend to wear down being the direct contact point with the pavement. My choice of triathlon cycling shoes always works around the most basic format of a shoe. This means 1 or 2 velcro straps only, the loop on the back heal to allow for pulling them on easily while racing, and a wide toe box. I used Carnac for years, but not sure those are even made any longer. I now have a great pair of Pearl Izumi Tri Fly V Triathlon Shoes that I got online for a discount as they were last year’s models. For me, carbon shoes are not a big selling point. I know that the more simple the shoe, the easier my day will be without complications from my footwear. There are many options out there, Shimano, Gior, Louis Garneau, etc… But find what works for you in your price range and comfort level. You’ll be in these shoes for hours and hours, make those hours comfortable.
Again, carbon to me is not as important as comfort and price when it comes to choosing a pedal. I recommend a bigger base plate so your feet have a wider surface to press down and easy to get in and out of if needed. I use Shimano pedals, and recommend either the 105 or R550, or a similar pedal that may not be brand name. If I have a new athlete coming into the sport, and price is a factor (usually is or definitely becomes that way), I would even recommend the Shimano R540 Road Pedals.
There are basically 2 types of ways to take in hydration on your triathlon bike, besides the standard downtube water bottles. You can use an xLab type of system on the back of your bike where you reach around for 2 water bottles. The other option is to use the Profile Design front bottle system or hydration bottle system. This front system will definitely keep you focused on nutrition during your longer races making sure you drink often. I prefer the X-Labs rear hydration system becaues it also includes the storange of your CO2 cartridges and spare tires & tire irons.
Race wheels or no race wheels? Well, let’s just say that if you are new to the sport, you’re best bet is to get a solid training wheel and if you feel so compelled to use race wheels, you can always rent them on race day. What are race wheels? These are wheels with deep rims and made of carbon. They are super aerodynamic, and allow you to go faster. But for the budget conscious triathlete, you can get a great pair of training wheels to use everyday and on race day. Plus, if you use a stationary trainer often, you’ll want to use training wheels, not your race set. Everyday training wheels you can find on most online websites, I’ve listed a few below. All are clinchers (regular tube/tires that you are familar with on most bikes).
Hands down, the Vittoria Zaffiro are the tires I use all the time for training on the road and on the stationary trainer. They are inexpensive and last a long time.
You can go big here…or just get what you need. With Garmin so accessible these days, it pretty much will give you the moon. But I like to recommend the basic tracking of speed, time and distance. Call me old school, but data can get a bit overcomplicated. Keep is simple, and pick up a CatEye.
I’ve used a few different brands, but overall the most consistent and durable has been the Cycleops Fluid 2. It’s durable, middle of the road in price, and doesn’t squeek like other trainers can do. You can usually find them used in the spring time as riders tend to unload their trainer while they head outdoors to train.
If you have questions on any other swimming gear you are considering buying, please feel free to ask here on this post.