How To Choose A Bike For Your First Triathlon

by Jim P.

bikes, cycling, gear and necessities, swimming, triathlons, women athletes

triiathlon-bike-by-docc.jpg There are different triathlon distances. The most common are:

  • Sprint (swim 0.5, bike 12.4, run 3.1)
  • Olympic (swim .93, bike 24.8, run 6.2)
  • Half Ironman (swim 1.2, bike 56, run 13.1)
  • Ironman (swim 2.4, bike 112, run 26.2)

Notice that the longest leg in every triathlon is cycling, which means you’re going to be spending a lot of time training on a bike.

So, the next few posts are going to explore the cycling universe.

Biking, compared to swimming and running, involves the most gear.

The first thing you need is a bike. It sounds easy but there is a lot to consider.


Triathlon Bike vs Road Bike

There are basically 2 bike options for triathlons:

Here are the basic differences between a triathlon bike and a road bike.

Some people start with a road bike, then after becoming more devoted to the sport and doing triathlons more regularly, opt for the triathlon bike.

Despite the advantages of the tri-bike, others feel that the person who is new to triathlons should start with a road bike.

I have a road bike. But to be fair, if money was no object I would have a triathlon bike also.

Heck, if money was no object, I might also do all my triathlon training on Fiji’s Turtle Island!

There are an endless number of options for both triathlon bikes and road bikes. As you can see from the reviews, bikes can be expensive. This brings you to the question of whether to buy a new or a used bike.


New Bike vs Used Bike

In general, buying a new bike has the advantage of dealing with a local bike shop, and a trained professional who can help you determine the best bike to suit your specific needs.

First and foremost, you need a bike that fits right.

In hopes of keeping costs down, some people look to buy used bikes. Most bike shops don’t have a very big selection of used bikes, and many people will look on Ebay and Craigslist.

Here are some tips if you decide to buy a bike on Craigslist.

For that matter, you can buy a new bike on the Internet, which can be a little less expensive because it cuts out the “middle man,” which is the bike shop. Nashbar, Performance Bike, and Price Point are a few popular Internet options for bikes and cycling gear.

Here are a few more suggestions before you buy a bike on the Internet, new or used:

#1 Have a bike shop measure and fit you for a bike (you will have to pay for this but it’s worth it), so you know what size bike you are looking for. Buying a used bike takes some patience in order to find one that is the right size.

#2 Browse bikes at local bike shops to become familiar with the kinds of bikes out there, and the style you like.

#3 Ask people who know. Get some input from experienced triathletes and cyclists.

My $.02 About Bikes For Triathletes

I would say it’s best to purchase your first bike from your local bike shop (NOT A DEPARTMENT STORE!) so you can benefit from the knowledge and experience of trained professionals. It also means you will have a bike warranty, and people you can call or go see if something goes wrong or you have a question.

I am so thankful for the relationships I have built with the folks at my local bike shop. It’s true that you are going to pay a little more in some cases for cycling gear, but I have gained much more in terms of cycling knowledge and guidance, and being plugged into my local cycling community. As the saying goes, “Support your local bike shop.”

There is plenty of debate over what’s most important when purchasing a bike. For example, is it the triathlon bike frame or the bike’s components? If you want to educate yourself on the technical aspects of bikes, visit, a major cycling site created by the late beloved iconoclast bicycle tech guru, Sheldon Brown.


Remember the goal is to start in one designated spot and finish at another spot. However you want to facilitate that is up to you. Swim doggie paddle, backstroke or forward crawl, bike on a unicycle, tricycle or Tour de France time trial bike, run, walk or crawl. Just get to the end! —TriDaily

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