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Road bike or tri bike?

Triathlete cycling on a bicycle

One of the most common questions for a newbie triathlete is “should I buy a road bike or a tri bike?”
This is a great question and the answer depends on your personal needs as a triathlete. Let’s go over the basics.

The major differences between a triathlon bike and a road bike is the geometry of the frame — more specifically, the seat tube angle. A triathlon bike has a much larger seat tube angle (76 to 78 degrees) than that of a road bike (72 degrees for a typical road bike). The steeper angle of the the tri bike can create a much more “aero” position.


So which is best for you? Well, I say it’s best to have both, but if you can only have one, it depends on your needs and desires. Are you planning on focusing SOLELY on triathlon? Or are you looking to do some road racing and group rides as well? Typically triathlon bikes are not very well received on group rides and same for road races.

Are you typically riding on flat terrain, or though mountains with steep climbs and descents? Triathlon bikes were designed to put you into a forward position when you’re tucked down into your aerobats. This bodes well for flat terrain, where road bikes are typically better for steep climbing since aerodynamics don’t play as big of a role. Most people also tend to find road bikes more comfortable over longer distances.

As a coach, for the average newbie athlete I almost always recommend purchasing a road bike before purchasing a tri bike. My motto is always comfort over everything else. Since most people are much more comfortable on a road bike, if you have to choose between the two, I say road bike all the way. Whichever you choose, it’s very important that you are positioned and fit onto the bike correctly. I recommend getting a professional bike fit.

If you choose a road bike, and you want to use it for triathlon, you can pretty easily modify the frame by switching out the seat post and adding clip on aero bars. There is nothing wrong with experimenting with this for your first few years of racing. After your first couple seasons you may want to reap the benefits of a more aero position on the bike.

What are your thoughts? Road bike or Tri bike? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

Paul Duncan is a United States Army veteran, triathlon coach, and triathlete racing for Team Every Man Jack. Paul lives in Las Vegas, Nevada. Find out more about him at www.paulduncanjr.com and www.outstripendurance.com<