It can be daunting to buy your first entry-level triathlon bike. My first entry-level triathlon bike was a dream come true. However, it was a daunting task.
No one investment in triathlon is as significant as the cost of your tricycle. Although each race will have its share of $3,000 to $4,000 and more expensive top-end bikes, a bike that is right for beginners doesn’t need to be too costly, even though entry-level triathlon bike pricing has risen dramatically in recent years. It is possible to spend anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000 on a good starter triathlon bike, and still have a great ride. These are some things you should look out for in an entry-level tricycle, as well as some recommendations.
Tri Bike, Road Bike, or Tri Bike?
A time trial (TT), bike places riders in an aero position and power is transferred to the stroke with full extension.
The most frequent question new triathletes ask is whether they should buy a triathlon bicycle or just a regular road bike. We also did a deep dive into road bikes. You can find our complete guide on road bikes.
Although it seems obvious, the answer is not. It all depends on what type of riding you do. Triathlon is not something you do every few years. However, if you are familiar with the roads in your area and have experience riding on them, you may consider a roadbike. Road bike recommendations are available all over the internet, so we won’t get into them.
A triathlon bike is a good investment if you are thinking of doing a triathlon every summer or training for an Ironman. Triathlon bikes have specific geometrywhich allows for more power transfer to the cranks and leaves you with more fuel for the run. Tri bikes are most noticeable when you pedal hard down straightaways. It can be quite exhilarating to feel the power transfer to your cranks.
Instead of spending the money on two sub-par bikes, we recommend that you invest in either a triathlon or nice road bike. You will become a better cyclist if you have a reliable bike you can get to, that you are comfortable with, and then gradually improve the components. Even better, we like to put that bike on an indoor trainer in winter so you can get some practice on the bike you will be racing. You will get a great feeling for your bike by riding it year round. It will also make the bike more responsive over time.
It is possible to own a tricycle and a road bike, but it will cost you.
What to look for in a Triathlon Bike
No matter your budget, there are some things that I recommend you look out for when buying a triathlon bike. Triathlon bikes are available in many sizes and price points. Here are some things to focus on at the entry level in order to get the best value for your money.
A good bike advisor will tell ya that the best way to enjoy your bike is by getting the perfect fit. It should feel comfortable and allow you to transmit maximum power to your pedals. For example, a high-end bike that is too big for you will not perform as well as one that is more comfortable. Different brands have different angles and build styles, so a 56cm bike from one brand may not be the same as one in another.
Bottom line: Don’t compromise on your fitness.
The frame materials are a major determinant of the price of a triathlon bike. It’s not as simple as saying “this is the best”, as it all dependson your riding style.
Carbon Fibre is more expensive than Aluminum, which is more expensive than Steel. There won’t be many steel bikes anymore. When looking at the various frame options, carbon will be the most lightweight and provides the best ride. Carbon can be responsive on accelerations and hills, making it the most popular frame today. It can easily be damaged and not always visible, which can lead to safety concerns.
Aluminum is not going away. Aluminum is durable and less expensive than other metals. A manufacturer may make a bike with an aluminium frame to show that they have more money for better components and still meet their MSRP. You get more bike for your money in some ways. However, it will likely be bumpier riding down rough roads. You won’t see manysteel-framedbikes on the triathlon market, save for some very old used models.
Titanium is also an increasingly popular type of frame. However, it’s not the most affordable. You can always upgrade components over time. Why? Why? Aluminum frames do not have to be inferior. Some manufacturers will do their best in aluminum for a bike costing $2,000, but they have to reduce costs on carbon frames. They can’t afford carbon unless the price goes up.
Recently, carbon frames like this Orca M30 have been a common feature in the tricycle market.
What is a component? Components are basically all the parts that enable you to pedal and shift your bike. While it is nice to have the best components, the entry-level components will likely be midrange. It’s okay to do this, as components can be easily upgraded if you have the budget and/or need. You can swap out your bike saddles for whatever frame you choose.
Although Shimano has a good lock on many components you will also see good ones like SRAM, Campagnalo and Bontrager. The Shimano hierarchy as of 2017 is Dura-Ace and Ultegra. Tri bikes that are new will typically use 105 or higher. You don’t have to worry about pedals right now. You can always purchase them later. Make sure you get the bicycle shoe– pedal system you like, regardless of what bike you choose. Most cyclists will tell you that the moving parts — anything which spins — are the best. Your money should be spent on the cranks, wheels, chainrings, and other components.
It is possible to upgrade the braking or shifting system later. This is easy. The only exception is disc brakes. You can’t add disc brakes on a bike with caliper brakes. You can make modifications to any parts of the bike that come into contact with you, such as the pedals and bars. It is a smart thing to do later, so that you can customize the bike as you wish.
The gearing is an important aspect to consider. Your bike’s performance will depend on how many teeth your front chainrings (usually two) have. There is no one right answer. It is all personal preference. You will likely need different gears depending on whether you ride fast on long flats or if your train is located in a hilly, mountainous area.
This is not an important point if your bike is brand new. However, it is very important for those who are purchasing a used bike. Frame issues are the most important thing to look out for in a bike. Don’t buy anything with a bent, cracked, or corroded frame. Make sure all components, including brakes, shifters and cables, are in working order.
It can be difficult to spot a crack in a frame so take some time to examine it. It’s a great way to check for cracks. I love to run my finger through the frame to feel for them. Then, I use a flashlight to examine it closer for cracks. Although it may seem excessive, a cracked frame can be a serious problem.
You can replace your tires and seats easily. This is especially true if you’re getting a great deal on the bike.
The best entry level triathlon bikes
There are many great triathlon bikes available on the market. It is difficult to choose just a few. One person may love a bike, while another person might not. There is no substitute for riding the bike, making sure it feels great. Here are three entry-level triathlon bicycles that we have used personally and would recommend.
Felt B Performance
Felt B Series
We love the Felt B series. Complete Tri’s writers have probably raced 30 times on the Felt B-series. These bikes are great value for money. We would recommend this as the top-choice if we were to ask.
Felt used once to have a whole line of triathlon bikes that were under $1500. The B Performance is now the entry-level show start. It replaces the B Series, B2, B16 and other bikes that have been a major part of Felt’s lineup for many years. The B Performance covers the entire price range, putting you slightly above $2,000 We hesitate to recommend a bike for entry-level that costs more than $2K. But inflation is a fact of life.
The B may be the most affordable carbon fiber bike available. The B is a combination of a UHC carbon fiber frame with all internal cabling and an Ultegra drivetrain. It also features Devox rims and stems. This creates a look that reminds us more of the old capable tri bikes than the modern space-age look. We have found that this bike is not a need for any major upgrades. However, you can choose to upgrade it and you won’t have to spend too much time on it. The Felts are a favorite of ours and the Felt tricycle has been reliable for us. Our writers have ridden thousands on Felts, and they are a reliable choice.
>Get the B Performance here.
Cervelo P Series
A list of the “best triathlon bikes” cannot be complete without a Cervelo. Since the brand’s inception, Cervelo has been making fast bikes for many decades. We have always associated Cervelo as being speedy. Although we are hesitant to include a bike that costs more than $2,000 on the entry level list, that is the reality of the bike market. Although it might seem expensive, you can ride your bike dozens of times a year.
There is a common theme: Tri bike manufacturers have made entry-level prices on Tri bikes quite expensive. This is the bike that you will race, train, and wear in the winter.
The P series is a highly advanced bike that you’ll find yourself riding throughout your triathlon career, even as you get better. Cervelo’s designs are complemented by a stiff carbon frame and 105 components. All new models have disc brakes as you would expect from a bike this price.
>The prices for the P-Series bikes from Competitive Cyclist are great right now.
Giant Trinity Advanced
Giant is a bike manufacturer on a large scale, which is different from the smaller productions of Felt and Orbea. This is often equated with mass-produced, generic bikes. However, we have not found this to be true with Giants. We have been using their products for over 30 years. Although their bikes are high-quality, they are not designed for gear-junkies. We love their Trinity Advanced model. The full-fledged tricycle comes with a composite frame, fork, Shimano components and great tires and rims. This is a great option if you are looking for something between $1,900 and $2,000 in price.
The Trinity Advanced’s newest lineup is priced at over $3,000, with all the bells&whistles and high-end components. There are still more entry-level models available. Visit the Pro’s Closet
to view their inventory
of late-model Trinity bikes. If a Trinity has been in our possession for 3-4 years, we would not hesitate jumping over it. If it is well maintained, you will be able to get a great bike.
Orbea Ordu M-Series
Orbea, a Spanish bike manufacturer who is well-known for making bikes since the 1930s, is a legend. They joined the rest of the wave to enter the triathlon bike market and have been making great bikes ever since. Orcas have been used by many world champions over the past decade. The M30 triathlon frame is well-built with many carbon fiber components. It also features a full carbon frame and 105 components such as the Felts. Aero forks and a wider bottom bracket give the M30 the look of a high-end bicycle. It costs $2,300 and is more expensive than we’d like, but these are getting harder to find. The M30 was included in our list of triathletes’ bikes to consider. You can save some money by purchasing the Orbea M30, a high-quality road bike that costs
less than $2,000. You should also check the used stockas these Orbeas are very common.
Although this is a discontinued bike we decided to include it because bikes can float around on the market for 2 to 3 years after production. It would be possible to find it at a discounted price, as it is likely that it has been used. We wanted to make this article accessible to beginners so we included at least one bike that could be found on Craiglist or Facebook.
The Felt triathlon bikes are a favorite of ours, and the B2 is a great option for those looking for a lighter and more responsive bike. We sometimes feature bikes that are difficult to find. Unfortunately, the B2 is no exception. The bike is carbon-framed and features carbon fiber components, such as the fork blades. Felt has Shimano 105 components in the bike. This is a significant upgrade to the Ultegra components you find on entry-level bikes. Although the bike’s list price has increased to $1,399 in recent years, it is still available for purchase at local bike shops or online at our partner’s . The Felt B2 is our favorite time-trial bike.
You also have the option of a used tri bike
A road bike with an aggressive race position is another way to be ready for triathlon. These bikes are not the endurance bikes that are more upright but the flatter-geometry bikes with drop bars that place you at an angle similar to the tri bikes. While you’ll be closer to the aerodynamics and geometry of a tricycle, you won’t get the forward geometry that will help with your transition. We recommend the Cannondale CAAD13 Series, which offers a carbon frame with disc brakes, but is still around $2,000 in price. >Take a look here.
A good road bike can double as a race bike if you have limited funds.
Do you need to buy new or used?
For entry-level triathletes, the question of whether to buy new or used is an age-old one. A used bike can still be a great choice, even if it isn’t a brand new wetsuit. Ebay and Craigslist can help you find a bike that cost $1,200 for half the price. If the bike is in a better condition, we recommend that you consider buying a used bike. For example, $600 will get you a 3-year-old carbon fiber frame instead of new aluminum. A bike older than five years would not be recommended as you will be missing out on the latest technology and material advances. Take a close look at the bike and check for cracks on carbon fiber frames. Cracks in carbon fiber are very difficult to repair. Cracks most likely will occur around bolts or joints. This is because most cracks in carbon fiber are caused by
someone tightening the bolt too tightly.
It is okay to take a used bike to a shop before you sign the contract. While some wear to the components is normal, you want to make sure that you don’t get a damaged frame. You should always have the option to cancel an Ebay purchase if the bike is not what you expected. Ask the seller to disassemble the bike, pack it, and ship it (in a box). It is worth paying a bit more to have the bike professionally assembled once it has been received.
We also love the Pro’s Closet for used bikes, as we have mentioned a few times. This is a more complete service than buying from Ebay sellers. All inventory has been checked by bike mechanics. It’s like purchasing a pre-owned, certified car. They ship.
There are many benefits to buying a new bicycle. One of the greatest benefits of buying a new bike, especially if it is purchased from a local shop, lies in the ability to bring it back in for repairs a few times during the first few months. A new bike will have virtually no chance of a frame crack. This is something that can be very difficult to spot but could compromise the performance of an older bike. Another advantage to a new bike? It will have the most recent engineering and componentry. This should keep you happy for longer periods of time and make it less expensive to replace your bike. It might be your bike for many years.
You should not only think about getting the right bike for your race. We highly recommend these other items:
- Make sure you get a professional fitting within your first month of riding. A fitting can be done before you go on any rides. There will likely be a second visit. Fitting takes time, often up to an hour. Sometimes you will need to change some parts in order for everything to fit properly. This is time and money well invested, not only for optimizing your performance but also for your comfort.
- It is important to have the ability to improve your bike motor. So, invest in some training materials. To maximize your bike’s power, even in winter, invest in good training plans
- Indoor bike trainers have become a regular part of our training year. A spinner or bike trainer will allow you to ride indoors on the bike frame you intend to use. This will help you gain power and speed every week.
- A power meter is a great tool to help you get more precise in your training. The power meter attaches to your pedal, crank arm or chain ring and gives you detailed statistics about your power. If you have the funds, it can be a great training tool. We did a review of the market and created a buying guide for power meters.
- tires are also important. The best bike tires will provide the best balance between speed, weight and durability. We published a piece about our 3 favourite tri-bike tires and our guide on how to choose between a tubeular or clincher tire. These articles will teach you more about your road or tri bike.
- You don’t want your triathlon bike to be lugged around in a bag. Check out the best bicycle carriers. Particularly if you’re dealing with a carbon fibre bike, poor handling or transport can cause damage to the frame. After folding the seats, our favorite method of transporting a bicycle is to place it in the back seat of our car. If you don’t have this option, you might consider a hitch, roof or trunk-based carrier. We have profiles for all of them. We also give our opinions on the merits of each type of carrier.
If you enjoyed this article and are a beginner triathlete, please check out our beginner triathlon suits or our triathlon clothing guide.