Choosing the right bike for you

Your guide to picking a triathlon bike

With so much choice on the market, it can be really tricky to choose the right bike. A lot depends on what kind of rider you are and what you’re looking to achieve in the sport. So I thought it might help if I told you the kind of things I think about when I’m choosing a bike, to help guide you through that problem.

Written by Will Clarke

Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion.  He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.

Road bike or time trial bike?

The question I get asked most often is whether to buy a road bike or a time trial bike. This obviously depends on many things but I guess most importantly, it really depends what your goals are. It's always nice to have both if possible but I think most of my readers will be triathletes and in that case I think you're better off getting a good quality time trial bike.

They are MUCH faster than a road bike, in fact they are round 4kph quicker, so if you’re aiming to do anything other than 'just get round' in races, I reckon it's your obvious choice. However, they are not always pleasant to train with and most people take a long time to get used to them. If you're more interested in training and group rides and not in so much of a rush in a triathlon then maybe you're better off going for a roadie. I just think it's more versatile for every day riding and if you really wanted to, you could always add clip on aero bars.

How much should I spend on a bike?

To be honest it’s entirely up to you because you really can spend whatever you like on a bike. My first Tri bike cost £300 (it was a Dawes Giro 300) but now I reckon my BMC TM01 could be touching £10,000 with everything on it! I know, I’m a lucky boy. When you spend a lot of money on a bike, this is really the icing on the cake. If you're a fit rider then you'll go fast on anything, maybe even on the Dawes. My advice then is that if you are on a budget, it might be best to spend less on the group set because this is just functionality and as long as it's well looked after, the difference is marginal.

Do try to get the best frame you can get for your money, either carbon or aluminium, and then upgrade the wheels. Why? Because rolling resistance and weight here is what makes the biggest difference of all.

Fit is probably the biggest factor to consider when you buy a bike, so you really must not get this wrong! If you buy a bike that is too big for you then it will stretch you out, and you just won’t be able to put the power down effectively. It could also potentially create injury problems. In an ideal world you need to find a bike fitter or a friend that knows what they're talking about and buy a bike based on their advice.

Adjustability is also very important but as long as you have the right frame size, you can usually make the bike work for you. Remember you can always play with various different sizes or seat posts, stems, cranks and so on. My last TT bike didn't give me much scope for movement (I couldn't move the seat far forward enough) so it was very difficult to make it work for me, so bear that in mind when you’re looking.

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