How To Turn Your Road Bike Into A Triathlon Bike

Want to use your road bike in triathlon? Find out from Will Clarke what modifications you need to make in order to use your roadie for your first few triathlons.

An image of How To Turn Your Road Bike Into A Triathlon Bike

When you rack your bike in transition at a race you’ll probably notice a 50/50 split of road bikes vs Time Trial (TT) machines. It can get confusing to someone who’s just starting out which bike they should be buying.

Road bike versus TT bike

A road bike is perfect for a beginner finding their feet in training and getting around well in their first races. It offers a more comfortable and more social ride and it’s great for getting the miles in and learning to ride. However a TT bike is undeniably faster over any course you’re likely to come across and is something you should have your eyes on as you get more and more involved in the sport and you want to get faster.

A TT bike is undeniably faster over any course you’re likely to come across...

The geometry on a TT bike allows you to move everything forward, so you’re rotating your pelvis forward, sitting over the crank, bringing your arms closer together and forcing you into a lower and more streamlined position which actually uses a slightly different muscle set and of course takes a fair bit of getting used to!

Modifying position on a road bike for a time trial

You can’t really completely replicate this position on a road bike because the geometry is quite different which limits what you can do and how comfortable you can get yourself. However you may have noticed on some of the hilly Tour de France time trials that many of the riders modified their usual road bike with clip on aerobars and a change in seat position.

However the rider who won the time trial (and the later Le Tour) Chris Froome didn’t, he opted for a full time trial set up in these TT sections. This proves you can make inroads with a modified road bike, and it’s better to do that then do nothing, but it’s never going to be as effective as a real TT bike.

Modifying your road bike

The first point of call is to change your handle bars. Get yourself either some clip on Aero Bars that will fit onto your road bike handlebars or a full time trial base bar plus aero bar. This will allow you to close up the front of your body bringing your arms and shoulders together and pushing your head lower achieving a more aerodynamic front end.

There is no point in changing anything on your bike unless it’s comfortable for you.

However there is no point in changing anything on your bike unless it’s comfortable for you, so that usually brings you to the seat position. Most will feel most comfortable slamming their saddle forward as this accommodates the new forward position you’ve achieved with the new aerobars. Generally if you’re feeling stretched out then you lose power so that’s not good.

You may now find that because you’ve had to rotate your pelvis forward you are no longer comfortable on the saddle you have, and if that’s the case I’d suggest you get a cut out saddle which is a bit kinder on your sensitive areas. I use a Fizik Tritone, I’d never be able to ride a normal saddle on a time trial bike!

Getting more speed out out of your road bike for a TT

Those are the main changes you can make to get yourself in the right position however I’d also suggest you also make these following changes to get a bit more speed out of your bike.

  • Wheels are very important, this is what is in contract with the ground so rolling resistance needs to be reduced, a good quality pair of deep section wheels with fast tyres will serve you well in most races.  
  • I’d also suggest a drinks bottle that you can put between your arms as this allows you to keep hydrated without moving from the TT position.  
  • Most important is being able to ride in the TT position, you need to be able to find the right balance between pushing your best power but also remaining aerodynamic. Every time you come out of the position you lose a little bit of time, so practice in training staying in the bars for an extended period of time. Your body will take a while to get accustomed with it.