We get a lot of questions from beginners about whether they can use their commuter or mountain bikes in triathlon. Yes, absolutely! This is especially true if you’re doing a sprint or even an Olympic distance.
It is tempting to buy all the cool gear that professionals use when you are just starting out in a new sport. It is hard to imagine how serious you would be if your equipment was not up-to-standard. It can be costly to make large purchases for something that you might not use as a serious hobby. You should seriously consider buying an entry-level road bike if you have the funds. The road bike will be used for more than just the triathlon. You don’t need to have that much money – which most people don’t – but it is worth waiting until you’ve done at least one triathlon and discovered if you are passionate about the sport.
It is a smart decision to use a bike that you already own rather than buying a new one for your first triathlon. It doesn’t matter if you have the “right” bike. These races are open to all types of bikes, since most people race for fun and exercise. It is unlikely that you will be the only rider on an average bike, unless you are Ironman or Half Iron level. There will always be other types of bikes: cruisers, roadbikes, and every other type. Many of us have a mountainbike in our garage that we can use.
The Straight Scoop: Road, Tri, Mountain, and Commuter Bikes
Here’s the scoop on what you’ll see at most triathlons. The majority of participants will be riding either a triathlon or road bike. Both bikes are lightweight and designed for speed and acceleration. They also have narrow tires and high gearing. Tri bikes have aerobars in the front so the rider can be in an aggressive position ( ). The only difference between them is the slightly different frame geometry.
Depending on race, some riders — 10% to 25% for small races, and as high as 25% for larger ones — will use whatever bike they have in their garage, whether it be a commuter, comfort, hybrid or mountain bike. These bikes are not as fast as road or tricycles due to their weight and gearing. However, there are steps you can take to increase the speed if you feel that it is important.
Possible modifications to your bike for triathlon use
You are good to go if you have a tri-style or road bike. There are no modifications required. You may need to make some modifications if you’re riding a hybrid, crossover, comfort commuter, mountain bike, or commuter from your garage. These modifications are not necessary, but they could save you time and make you more efficient on your ride.
Street Tires and “Slicks”
Vittoria Street Runner Slick
Mountain bikes can handle rough terrain and provide stability in areas where there is no solid footing. The rubber is in contact with the ground more than on pavement. It is a smart idea to replace the rubber knobby tires in a tricycle with something more road-ready. These tires are also known as “slicks” because they offer the best combination of speed and resistance. For anyone who is interested in a triathlon, street tires are the best option. They cost less than $50. You can either wait or skip all the upgrades in this article by buying a tri-bike when your desire is to go higher.
Recommendation: The Vittoria Street Runner (pictured) is a great all around slick that won’t break the bank.
Although high-end pedals may not be necessary, they can make a difference in how fast you race and compete. You probably already have clipped or clipless pedals. While basic pedals can be fine for casual riding, an upgrade will improve your time. Clipless pedals offer more control and power, allowing you to take advantage of the full 360° rotation of each pedal stroke. These pedals are paired with shoes that attach quickly to the pedal and lock your feet in place. These shoes connect the rider and the bike. This allows for faster turns, more control, and consistent pedaling. Once you start to become a serious competitor, clipless pedals will be a great investment. These pedals can be easily mounted on any bicycle at home or at the bike shop in a matter of minutes.
Saddle / Seat Replacement
The seatis a part of your bike that you can customize to your liking. It is a way to reduce weight and position yourself for speed and mobility. This is why many mountain bikes are factory-built. Your back needs will determine which saddle you choose. As everyone has different needs, go with what you like. This is the only recommendation for mountain bikes in triathlons. This will allow for better positioning and speed.
Clip-on aero bars can be added to your MTB handlebars by some racers, but we do not recommend this. Triathlon bikes have aero bars that allow for optimal body positioning relative to the tricycle frame. Mountain bikes have fundamentally different frames angles and you won’t be able to change this. Bull-horns or aero bars are said to reduce drag. If you’re going to travel this far on your bike, we suggest that you consider an entry-level road or tricycle.
It is possible to adjust the suspension of your mountain bike for free. If your bike can handle it, tighten the springs or put them in stiff. Although the springs are flexible, they can cause problems in areas where there is not much traffic. However, it can reduce speed and control when street riding. Triathlon racing doesn’t require any suspension. Triathlons are all about smooth riding. The stiffer the bike is, the better it will be for speed and getting your legs to convert to energy and wattage to the pedals.
It is important to remember that the gearing for a mountain bike is fundamentally different from that of a tricycle or road bike. Mountain bike gears aren’t meant to cruise at high speeds on the roads, but they can be used in technical conditions. Even the best-fitted mountain bike can go a few miles per hour slower than a tricycle or road bike.
However, a bike that is too small or too large will make your ride more painful. It is better to have a bike that fits than one that doesn’t.
It can be exciting to enter a triathlon for your first time. It is important to remember that not everyone is trying to win. Most racers only care about having fun, racing against their best times or completing their first race so that they can check it off their bucket lists. Don’t worry about gear and having the right equipment early on. Have fun! While you have the option to purchase professional equipment in the future, it is best to just enjoy the moment and let your mind wander.