When it comes to bike equipment for the Ironman World Championship on Hawaii’s Big Island, dealing with the wind is the primary concern. The crosswinds along the Queen K highway can literally blow people off their bikes in the worst years. That didn’t happen in 2023, but when it comes to bike set up for racing in Kona, you have to assume it will. Here’s a look at some of the bike gear we noticed at this year’s world championship that might make a wonderful gift for the triathlete in your life. (Or, maybe a nice gift for yourself!
Frame only: $4,500/ US$3,600
Named after the Japanese short sword, the Katana is Ceepo’s most versatile triathlon frame – light (just 1,195 g), practical and aerodynamic. That means it will serve you well on the hilliest courses, or when you have to push the pace in an aero tuck on a super-flat course thanks to the NACA 0021 truncated airfoil tube shapes. The geometry of the frame is also designed so you can dial in an aggressive forward position for the ultimate in aero performance. 2022 world age group champion Sharon Mackinnon (full disclosure – wife of TM editor Kevin Mackinnon) upgraded to the disc version of the Katana for this year’s race in Kona and, no-doubt thanks to the bike and the near-perfect conditions, dropped 15 minutes off her bike split. Mackinnon loves the all-around nature of the Katana, which serves her well in the mountains of Lanzarote (she won her age group at 70.3 Lanzarote in March) and when it’s time to get into an aero tuck on the Queen K.
SRAM Force AXS
Mackinnon’s Kona race machine was armed with SRAM’s new Force AXS groupset, which offers many of the innovations and features you’ll find on SRAM’s flagship Red eTap AXS components, but without doing the same damage to your bank account.
There were a lot of pro bikes that featured the Force groupset in Kona this year, a tribute to its performance and value.
The integrated chainrings and the redesigned front derailleur provide smooth shifting between chainrings, while the rear derailleur can handle many of the big gear jumps that are becoming more prevalent these days, too, especially for those who favour 1X set ups.
The integrated chainring design is also stiffer and lighter than the old Force AXS gruppo, and Mackinnon’s includes the Force AXS power meter option, too, for precise power meter measurement through the spider of the crankset.
In terms of the other key component to any gruppo – braking – the Force disc brakes provide precise and reliable stopping power regardless of the conditions.
While it’s not as light as SRAM’s Red groupset, the Force AXS components still feature lightweight alloys and carbon fibre, providing excellent performance and not much of a weight penalty. Paired with the Katana’s light frame the Force components makes for a lightweight speedster that’s ready for Nice’s climbs or Kona’s windy Queen K.
Hunt 54 Aerodynamicist Carbon Disc Wheelset
Rounding out Mackinnon’s all-around package are the Hunt 54 Aerodynamicist Carbon wheels. We loved the original Aerodynamicist rim-brake wheels, and the disc versions have been every bit as impressive. With the name it comes as no surprise that the wheels are extremely fast, and while the deeper 8387 version we reviewed last year is likely even quicker, with windy races in Kona and Lanzarote on her schedule, Mackinnon opted for the shallower 54 version of the wheelset to ensure she’d be able to stay in an aero tuck for as much of the race as possible. The Hunt wheels offer exceptional lateral stiffness, which is much appreciated when climbing, but remain comfortable for long stretches in the aero position. At 1,524 g the Aerodynamicist 54s are light enough to be a very viable option for the worlds in Nice next year, too. Hunt’s Sprint SL hubs are surprisingly smooth and quick, too, adding to the value of this wheelset.