ORR Beginner Triathlon Guide, Part 4 - The Bike!

OutRival Racing’s Beginner Triathlon Blog Series, Part 4: “It’s Not All About The Bike. (Well it kind of is!)

For most triathlete’s, the bike portion is the favorite part! Biking is fun, social and we get to envy each other’s bikes!

For someone just entering into the sport, this will be where the most money is dropped. Not just on the bike itself, but everything you need to go along with it. First let’s list the equipment you will need and then discuss it in a bit more detail.

  • Bike
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Shoes
  • Pedals/Cleats
  • Aerobars (eventually)
  • Saddle
  • Hydration System
  • Computer
  • A Good Bike Fit

For beginners, the biggest question is what kind of bike do I purchase and should I buy new or used.  A lot of this happens to be dependent on your budget. Until you know you are going to love the sport and stick with it, you don’t want to drop a fortune on a bike, but you also want to get the best you can for what you do spend. If you do decide to purchase a used bike, you want to make sure it is less than 5 years old, in really good shape and if it is a carbon frame, be sure there are no cracks in the frame. The other option is to shop around at your local shops for an entry level bike or one that is on sale.  Before purchasing any bike, you will want to know what “size” frame fits you specifically. Bike shops can help you determine this. After knowing what size of frame you need, you also want to be sure whatever you are considering purchasing is a comfortable ride for you.

After purchasing your bike, you absolutely must at all times wear a helmet. There are many types of helmets on the market. You want to be sure it is comfortable to you, has good venting and it meets the safety standards of ANSI Z-90.4, SNELL Memorial Foundation or ASTMF-1446 or 1447. During a triathlon, you will not be allowed to race without one. You will not even be allowed to leave transition until your helmet is on and fastened!

Once you have your bike and helmet, you will want to look at cycling shoes, pedals and cleats. Again, there are many shoes and pedals on the market. Once you have chosen your shoes and pedals, you will need to get used to being attached to your bike.  Practice this well in advance to race day. I always recommend athletes find a grassy area to practice clipping in and out, that way if you tip over you will be on a soft surface. Rest assured, getting used to using clips will pay off in your riding. Clips provide more power because it allows you to push down and pull up while pedaling, holds your feet in place and provides more comfort than standard “flat” pedals.

Aerobars are one thing that sets “triathletes” apart from “roadies.” Aerobars allow athletes to lean over onto their bike handlebars. Aerobars can be “attached” to tri bikes or “clipped on” to road bikes. These allow you to have a more aerodynamic riding position for racing, as well as provide a level of comfort for longer rides. Again, as with all other equipment, there are many different sizes, shapes and price ranges. Once you decide on aerobars, take your bike to the shop and “try some out!” They can put your bike on a trainer and explain the different options while you try them out. Once you have your aerobars installed, you may want to practice with them before riding with others. Practice in an area void of traffic and pedestrians and become comfortable with them. You should never ever ride in your aerobars while in a pace line or riding with others. Riding aero in a group slows down reaction time for things in the road or reacting to the other riders. Aerobars are only for riding solo or racing!

Your bike saddle or seat should feel comfortable to you. Some are specific to females, some have gel inside of the saddle, some have center cut outs and some are very hard and narrow. If you find the saddle that came with your bike is uncomfortable to you, an upgrade may be in store! Most shops offer “demo” saddles. They will install them on your bike for you to try out for a few days before you make your decision. It is usually hard to tell in just a few minutes time, whether it is comfortable or not.

Once you have your bike all set up, you are going to need a way to carry your fluid bottles. For some, grabbing a drink bottle while riding can be a bit scary. It is a good idea, once you have your bottle cages attached, to go into an empty parking lot and practice riding and grabbing your bottle. You should not have to stop riding to grab your bottle to take a drink. Bottle cages can be mounted on the frame, behind the saddle or in between the aerobars. Most athletes, for racing, really like to have a front hydration system between the aerobars.  This allows you to drink while in aero position and can actually save you time on a race, especially longer ones.

Bike computers are nice to have and can vary greatly in what types of data they give you. A very affordable and basic bike computer can mount on your handlebars and will give you metrics such as speed, distance and cadence. The more expensive options, such as Garmin watches or mounted computers measure a wider variety of metrics, such as heart rate, power, temperature, etc.

Finally, we get to something that is just as important as your bike purchase which is the bike fit! Once you have purchased your bike, you should find a certified bike fitter in your area, to “fit you” to your bike. Having a proper fit is important for injury prevention as well as being more efficient, faster and stronger on your bike.

Once you have invested in your bike equipment, you are most certainly going to be excited to get training! Check back for our next blog post on different types of bike workouts to maximize your training time!

Until then, Happy Riding! 

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