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Tri Bikes, What do You Need ? – Tri Bike vs Road Bike ?

Tri Bikes

Tri Bikes :

There are a plethora of bikes styles and models based on what you want to do: commute to work, climb mountains, conquer woodland trails, race over hills, or anything else.

Some bikes are very specialized based on the task. Such is the case with triathlon bikes. While very similar to road bikes, there are some key differences, and good reasons these differences are worth investing in.


First, tri-bikes (also known as Time Trial, or TT bikes) specialized bikes such as these are made for one thing: speed. Given that the main source of resistance on a bike is typically the wind, tri bikes have what are called, “bullhorn” handlebars rather than the drop bars typical on road bikes. They are designed to accommodate ‘aero bars’ allowing the rider to get into a more aerodynamic upper body position. They are comprised of elbow pads for resting the arms and straight extensions for the hands to grip and control the bike, including gear shifters on the ends.

Because of this more aggressive body position, tri bikes have a more upright seat post for a more forward seat placement. Typically a road bike will have a seat post with a 72-75 degree angle, which helps to keep most of the body weight over the saddle and ease pressure on the arms.

Tri bikes move the seat forward for two main reasons: create more efficient breathing position between the upper and lower body, and, to utilize more of the quad muscles in the pedal stroke versus the hamstrings, saving them for the run portion of a triathlon race. Some ‘multi-sport’ bikes even have reversible seat posts suitable for both road bike training and tri bike racing.

The main specifications on a tri bike are not much different than a road bike. There are aluminum frames, aluminum frames with carbon fiber forks, full carbon bikes, titanium frames, and various combinations of materials. The handlebars can be aluminum or carbon depending on how much the bike weighs. Additional tri-specific accessories may include a saddle designed for comfort in the aero position and hydration bottles and systems integrated into the handlebars, frame, or additional holders.

Your First Triathlon ?  A Road Bike Is All You Need

One easy solution to discover the best tri bike for you is to experiment with a good road bike (typically less expensive than a tri bike). There are clamp-on aero bars that attach directly to the drop- or flat bars of a road or hybrid bike. While that doesn’t change the seat post angle, it does give you the feel of riding in the aero position. Most riders used to a more upright position on a road bike are surprised by the amount of reduced wind resistance aero bars provide.

The material, shape, and accessories will all help to determine how fast and how expensive your tri bike will be. Almost all top road bike manufacturers also produce tri bikes, and there are a few companies that specialize in tri bikes and have pushed the art of design and performance to the limit.


Give a tri bike a try and see if it puts you at the head of the pack.

About the Author Ian

Ian is the Chief editor here at OnlineBikesShop, a reformed Cycle Traveler… now a dedicated stay-at-home dad of a very active 3 yr old, a keen mountain biker with a passion for all types of bikes, the outdoors, and keeping fit…

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