Triathletes have long been known as innovators when it comes to bikes. In the 1980s Boone Lennon, the designer of the original triathlon bar – the Scott DH, was able to convince a bunch of triathletes to use the bars long before Greg Lemond would win the Tour de France in dramatic style on a pair in 1989. Canadian Andrew MacNaughton was the first to win a triathlon on the bars, taking the Crawfishman event in Louisiana over Mike Pigg in 1987, and the sport was changed forever.
Aerobars changed the way bikes were designed, for sure, but in the hunt for aero gains we’ve seen lots of, well, crazy-looking bike designs over the years. We figured we have a look at some of the, well, let’s just call them “different” bikes we’ve seen at triathlon events:
Softride / Zipp 2001/ Dimond
Softride developed the original beam bike in the early 1990s, with Zipp building a stiffer version of the bike for a few years (the Zipp 2001). Softride continued to build a version of the frame which Greg Welch rode to his Ironman title in 1994, and the bike became a popular choice for Ironman competitors in Kona for a few years after that.
In 2011 American TJ Tollakson won Ironman Lake Placid on a Zipp 2001 built in 1996. Tollakson tried to convince Zipp to start building the bike frames again, but they weren’t interested. They did provide him some support, though, and he would launch his own brand, Dimond. The innovative Dimond bikes are still made in Des Moines, Iowa.
Between 1998 and 2005 all the women’s championships in Kona were won on this bike. OK, all those titles were won by just two women – Natascha Badmann and Lori Bowden. These custom-made frames will set you back almost 10,000 Swiss francs (over $12,000) just for the frame.
Ventum bikes have become such a mainstay in transition areas over the last few years that it almost seems weird to include them on this list. Launched in Kona in 2015, the Ventum One’s z-shaped frame “was inspired by other non-traditional bikes from decades ago, but modernized for the needs of triathlon,” according to the company’s website. Canadian triathlon stars Jackson Laundry and Cody Beals both ride the Ventum One.
Diamond Back Andean 3
Are those fairings? Where are the seat stays? Not sure what else we can say …
Launched in 2016, the P5X was a game changer in many ways. The top tri bike brand seemingly opened everyone’s eyes to the importance of integrating all aspects of a triathlete’s needs into the bike. The bike was designed to be super fast even while carrying three round water bottles and all the nutrition you’d need for a full-distnace race. It broke down easily for travel – it even came with its own custom bike case. You can read our initial review of the bike here.
The Shadow-R won an innovation award at Eurobike in 2018 for its unique design. While aerodynamics was the main goal of the bike, it was also designed using standard parts, so it was surprisingly easy to maintain and break down for travel.
We don’t know much about this bike other than it goes fast – Kristian Blummenfelt rode this to the win at the Ironman World Championship. The bike will be branded by Cadex, Giant’s wheels and components division. There’s no top tube and extremely wide forks, along with some very different looking seat stays.