Tri Bike vs Road Bike with Aero Bars – Which one is better?

If you are thinking to start your triathlon, as a beginner it is obvious for you to be bothered with this important question: “What kind of bike do I need for a triathlon –a road bike or a tri bike?” This old confusion on buying a tri bike vs road bike with aero bars prevails even today. Actually the answer depends on an infinite numbers of considerations such as – riders’ style, strength, fitness, experience level, bike handling skills, type of course and last but not the least one’s budget.

We should discuss the factors elaborately so that it is easier for you to take a decision that which bike you should choose for a triathlon. But before that you should know the difference between tri bike and road bike.

Tri Bike Vs Road Bike With Aero Bars – Difference

The main difference between triathlon bike and road bike is in the geometry of the frame of the bike. On a tri bike, the angle of the seat tube is larger than on a road bike. It is around 78 degree, whereas a road bike has around 73 degree.

geometry of bike frame

The angle of the triathlon bike being steeper places its rider further forward on the bike. This creates a more aerodynamic body position of the riders. Moreover a triathlon bike consists of aerobars instead of normal handlebars and deep sectioned rims on the wheels. These features reduce aerodynamic drag which results in increasing speed. This is the most important reason for buying a triathlon bike. But this speed will only benefit you if you keep certain things in mind.

1. Style, Strength And Fitness:

In a triathlon bike, sufficient strength and endurance is needed in order to hold an average speed of minimum 33km/h. If you are able to maintain this speed all the time, then it is worth to buy a triathlon bike. Or else, it is better to have a road bike instead. Moreover, the angle of the seat tube of a tri bike causes its rider to seat in a more aggressive position. This affects their hamstring muscles and creates a higher level of fatigue. Remember that a triathlon is not only about cycling but also about  swimming and running as well.

triathlon events

So you have to save enough energy and your leg as well for running as you get off from your bike. The more aerodynamic your position is, the more you make yourself super aggressive and smash your muscles and lose your strength for running afterwards. As a result you have to end up your triathlon paying a penalty during the time of run as your leg will not support due to fatigue.

This is the common mistake that many beginners do which is very sad. However, with the passage of time you will know how to lessen your fatigue as you involve with triathlon more. If only you have sufficient strength and develop a good conditioning to handle fatigue of that posture, then only you could think of buying a triathlon bike. In order to avoid this fatigue many people chooses a Road Bike with Aero Bars rather than a time trail bike. Road bike gives a flexible and comfortable posture to its riders creating lesser fatigue.

Moreover, the handle bars of a road bike are also more comfortable as due to their dropped racing handlebars, riders get opportunity to shift their hands and arms position during the race while maintaining the same proficiency. Food intake also becomes easier due to this. On the other hand, the steering of a triathlon bike is stiffer. This might create discomfort to the riders in the long run. The weight of the triathlon bikes are also more compared to road bikes. This is also a thing to consider.

2. Tri Bike Vs Road Bike Handling Skills:

Triathlon bike is much difficult to handle than a road bike. It is seen that while struggling to handle a tri bike, many rider’s sit in a more upright position which is not aerodynamic and decreases speed. Thus they neglect their actual benefit of a tri bike frame. On the other hand if you consider a road bike, it is easier to handle. You can also stay at a more efficient position for a long time. Moreover the brakes and shifters of road bikes can be both accessed from the drops or the tops. Which is definitely an advantage for the riders.

3. Different Types Of Race Course:

Choosing the right kind of bike for triathlon also depends on the type of course. It is very obvious that you might not have an idea of the type of course you will be riding before your triathlon race. You won’t know whether it is a flat, hilly or technical course. But you have to be prepared for every kind of surfaces. When we talk about courses, road bikes are more suitable for steeper and rougher surfaces. This is because they have better braking power, stability and are easier to control on any type of terrains. On the other hand, tri bikes are harder and tricky to control and are less efficient on rougher terrains. They are appropriate for flat riding surfaces where there are fewer corners to move around.

Triathlon bikes are very expensive bikes. Rider’s for whom triathlon is “once in every few years” type of thing but has paved trials in their area, should rather go for a road bike. This is because triathlon bikes are kind of worthless outside of time trailing and triathlon. They are not so safe, comfortable, easy to handle and versatile like a Road bike. With a road bike you will also be able to take part in Cycle Sportive events or race with cycling clubs at your area. On the other hand, tri bikes are not allowed in such events. So please think before you invest money on a highly expensive bike like time trial bikes.

One thing you should bear in mind that riders are the least aerodynamic part on a triathlon race. So whatever bike you ride make sure you wear tight clothes.

Road Bikes With Aero Bars:

road bike with aero bars

If you are thinking about buying a road bike but worried about triathlon bike vs road bike speed, then worry not. For a newbie , the best solution is to upgrade your road bike with clip-on aero bars. The clip-on aero bars gives your body a forward leaning position. It also creates an aerodynamic posture which in turn minimizes the wind resistance and thus increases speed. In addition the clip on aero bars will be more comfortable and give you lesser fatigue. Remember, lesser the fatigue on the cycle leg, the more increase of chance for your run leg to finish the triathlon in style.

You can have a look on some amazon’s best selling clip-on aero bars given below:

  1. Profile Designs T3+ Aero Bar
  2. Vision – Team Clip-On Aero Bars | 31.8 Clamp size | 230-270mm Adjustable Reach | J-Bend, Black
  3. RICYRLK Bike Aero Bars Full Carbon Bike Rest Handlebar Tri Bars for Mountain Bike and Road Bike, Grabber Style Bicycle Relaxation Handle for Triathlon and Time Trial Bikes
  4. Profile Designs Airstryke V2 Aluminum Clip-on Aerobars Ano Matte Black, Adjustable Stack and Reach
  5. Profile Designs Legacy II Clip-On Bar Aluminium Black

In addition to a clip on aero bar, you can also modify the seat post and wheels for a better performance . Modified seat post pushes the seat forward on the bike. This in turn allows the rider to get proper arm position and giving a more comfortable and better riding position. And this in turn helps to lessen fatigue and save your leg for the run. The modification of the wheels also makes huge improvement on reduction of aerodynamic drag.

The price of even an entry level triathlon specific bike can give many newbie tri-athletes a shock. But upgrading their existing road bikes with parts to increase the aerodynamic performance is a far better option. Upgraded road bikes saves both your money and your energy as well. In addition the road bikes can be used for commuting purpose as well. It will work like an all-rounder.

Road Bike Vs Tri Bike – So Which One Should You Choose?

Considering all the advantages and disadvantages of both road bikes and tri bikes we can say that a road bike wins the debate on buying a tri bike vs road bike with aero bars. You will get the full benefit of a tri bike only if you are a strong rider who have a good bike handling skill. This is because tri bikes are tougher to handle. However, if you ride a tri bike you might get in a better position due to reduce of aerodynamic drag, provided you are strong enough to handle the fatigue. In the long run it will only benefit you if you spent a handsome amount of time on that position so that your body is accustomed to take the load of the fatigue which does not adversely affect your following run. 

You should always keep one thing in mind, whichever bike you ride, whether it be a road bike or a triathlon, you should definitely practice enough on that bike. However the aerodynamics, stability, weight, versatility or any other characteristics of the bike be, it will not be so comfortable and fast for you unless you are accustomed to it. The more you practice with the bike, the more it will be under your control and work accordingly.

So before joining a triathlon, choose your bike wisely and spend more of your training times on it. Then see the result on the day of the triathlon. Wish you best of luck for your first triathlon. For more inquiries please feel free to comment on the comment section.

Leave a Comment