— By Michael Liberzon

Triathlon is not inexpensive. Between gear, training, race fees, and even nutrition it’s easy to spend many thousands in a single season. Easily the most substantial line item on your triathlon credit card bill will be the bike. There are some very good reasons to ride a purpose-built triathlon rig, but you will often pay more – than say a road bike of equivalent spec level – for the privilege. Here then are four options under $3000 that should be on any budget tri bike list.

Cervelo P2 105 5800 – $2899

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HIGHLIGHTS:

This venerable Canadian brand still dominates the Kona count with good reason. Cervelo’s bikes are undeniably fast. Sharing geometry and borrowing aero tube shapes from its pricier brethren, the P2 is a terrific entry-level option. In fact, the P2 frame (aside from the fork) is identical to that of the P3.

BUILD:

  • Carbon frame and fork
  • Shimano 105 (5800) drivetrain
  • FSA gossamer crank
  • FSA brake calipers
  • Profile Design alloy cockpit and extensions

Felt S32 – $1700

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HIGHLIGHTS:

Felt is an American brand with long-standing triathlon and track pedigree. Their S32 may be the most affordable bike on our list, but it retains the optimized geometry and aerodynamic tube shapes of other offerings. It also happened to be this author’s very first tri bike.

BUILD:

  • Alloy frame with a carbon fork
  • Shimano 105 (5800) drivetrain, with Microshift shifters
  • FSA Omega crank
  • FSA brake calipers
  • Felt’s own alloy cockpit and extensions

Argon 18 E-80 – $2200

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HIGHLIGHTS:

Argon 18’s E-80 is another Canadian option that makes the list. The E-80 has remained unchanged for years. This may not sound like a compliment, but in an industry obsessed with innovation, when your product is able to remain unchanged for 8 years, you’re doing something right!

BUILD:

  • Alloy frame with a carbon fork
  • Shimano 105 (5800) drivetrain
  • Shimano 105 crank
  • Argon’s own brake calipers
  • Vision alloy cockpit and extensions

Cannondale Slice 105 – $2899

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HIGHLIGHTS:

Cannondale markets the Slice as the every-athlete choice. The Slice combines a super light, carbon frame, a ride that’s stable in crosswinds, and non-proprietary components to make a bike that’s fast, rides well, and travels without a fuss.

BUILD:

  • Carbon frame and carbon fork
  • Shimano 105 (5800) drivetrain, with Microshift shifters
  • FSA Gossamer crank
  • Shimano 105 direct-mount brake calipers
  • Cannondale’s own alloy cockpit and extensions

Second-hand options

It’s not hard to find a great quality, second-hand triathlon bike for well under $2000 — even $1000. Triathletes love to upgrade, and triathlon clubs, local classifieds and word of mouth are great ways to find a range of bikes fellow athletes are putting up for sale. Be sure to ask lots of questions from the owner when buying second hand (including whether or not the bike has ever crashed) and take a full inspection before purchasing.

All prices are MSRP