Buyer’s Guide 2023: Bikes
A look at some of the latest triathlon bikes for athletes at all different levels
Your bike will be your biggest equipment investment. The sky is the limit when it comes to bike prices, but at the end of the day even the most expensive bike won’t be any faster if it doesn’t fit you well. That’s where you need to start when it comes to your bike choice. Position is paramount when it comes to faster bike splits, followed by your wheels. More expensive components will get you a lighter bike and more durability, but not necessarily much of a change in race-day performance.
The final price of your bike is determined by the components on it. A groupset, or gruppo, includes all the mechanical components on your bike: crankset, bottom bracket, brake levers and shifters (often combined), rear and front derailleur, cassette (the gears), chain and brakes.
More expensive groupsets are typically lighter and more durable. As technology improves, manufacturers typically include the features previously seen in high-end gruppos in their lower-level offerings. This year the big change for triathletes is the availability of electronic shifting in the more affordable gruppos – 105 for Shimano and Rival for SRAM.
The two big players in the component world for triathlon are Shimano and SRAM. Campagnolo has a long history in the component world, and you’ll see some bikes set up with the Italian company’s gruppos, but not too many.
The flagship groupset for Shimano is it’s electronic 12-speed Dura Ace Di2 R9200. Next in line is the Ultegra Di2 R8100, another 12-speed electronic gruppo. There are two versions of the 105 gruppo – the electronic 12-speed 105 Di2 R7150 and the 11-speed 105 R7000. You’re not likely to see many tri bikes equipped with the lower end Tiagra, Sora or Claris groupsets.
At the top of the line-up for SRAM is its Red eTap AXS 12-speed wireless electronic gruppo. There are two other levels of the Red groupset – the Red eTap 11-speed and the Red 11-speed. The next level for SRAM is its Force components, including the Force eTap AXS, another 12-speed wireless electronic gruppo, along with the Force 11-speed offering. Continuing to move down in price, we get the Rival eTap AXS 12-speed wireless electronic groupset, and the Rival 11-speed. Finally there’s Apex 1, an 11-speed groupset, along with the 10-speed Apex.
While our focus is mostly on triathlon and time-trial bikes, we have included one aero road option in our guide this year – for those not solely focused on triathlon racing, that can be a viable option to allow you to purchase one bike for all your riding needs.
Canyon Speedmax CF 8 Disc Di2
Starting with the Speedmax frame that Jan Frodeno and Lionel Sanders have used to rip up bike courses around the world, this race-ready bike features Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 electronic shifting and power meter. Add to that the 80 mm deep DT Swiss ARC 1400 Dicut wheels and you have a bike that’s ready to rip through any bike course in speedy fashion.
Argon 18 E-117 Tri Disc SRAM Force 22
With a combination of outstanding aerodynamics and handling, the E-117 offers many of the features you’ll see on the Canadian company’s flagship bikes at a more affordable price. If you’re OK to skip electronic shifting (the more expensive E-117 with Force eTap AXS is pictured above), the Force 22 gruppo offers excellent value. Down the road you’ll want to invest in some speedy wheels to enhance your race-day splits, but the Vision Team TC 30 wheelset included will get you started and serve as a great training option.
Felt IA Advanced Ultegra Di2
Felt was the original triathlon bike and continues to be a powerhouse when it comes to performance bikes. With the IA Advanced Ultegra Di2 you get all the benefits of one of the sport’s fastest and most successful frames without breaking your bank account too much. The Ultegra components provide excellent performance, and the Devox bars allow you to dial in a great aero position. The Reynolds AR 58/62 DB Custom wheel set that comes with the bike means that you’ll be race-ready from day one.
Cervelo P-Series 105
When Cervelo burst on to the triathlon scene in the late 90s, the Canadian-born brand revolutionized the market. The company remains the bike-count leader in Kona, a sgn of both the brand’s popularity and performance. The P-Series offers some more affordable options to the company’s flagship P5 including a 500 ml aero bottle, 400 ml of top-tube storage and an integrated rear seat mount. It’s a speedy combination of speed, storage and comfort. All you’ll need to add are some aero race wheels and you’ll be ready to compete at the highest level.
Scott Plasma RC Pro
High-performance is the name of the game with the Plasma RC Pro, which features the Plasma 6 Disc Carbon HMX Frame and fork with its integrated hydration and cockpit. Add to that Shimano’s Ultegra Di2 gruppo and Zipp 303SE Carbon Tubeless Disc wheels and you have a rocket that’s very similar to the ride you’ll see the sport’s top pros using.
Trek Speed Concept SLR 6
Everything about the Speed Concept is designed to get you going fast, while remaining comfortable along the way. The lightweight aero frame features the aero Kammtail Virtual Foil tube shaping, integrated fuel and hydration systems, along with Trek’s IsoSpeed shock-dampening system. You also get SRAM’s Rival AXS wireless electronic 12-speed drivetrain and power meter and Bontrager Aeolus Pro 51 wheels – it all adds up to a set up that would thrill many pros.
Liv Enviliv Advanced Pro
For women who are occasional triathletes who do a lot of riding, the new EnviLiv Advanced Pro offers a great combination of riding performance and aerodynamics. The lightweight advanced-grade composite frame and Shimano Ultegra components will be appreciated when you’re on a major climb, but can be quickly adapted to a triathlon race with the addition of some aero bars.
From $6,000/US$4,899; Frame $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 t 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.
Factor Hanzo SRAM Force eTap
With UCI racing in mind, Factor designed the Hanzo to provide some of cycling’s fastest riders the ultimate time trial machine. That technology all works when it comes to triathlon racing, too. The super-narrow tubes slice through the air, which is enhanced by the mono riser for the aero extensions. Add SRAM’s Force eTap gruppo and Black Inc. aero wheels and you’ll be at your best in your next tri or time trial.