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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've searched and read a few threads to shed light on this question but am interested in fresh input, so here goes on what seems a perennial favorite. The short answers will be eat less, train more, and check out slowtwitch.com, but anyone who can humor me with more would be much appreciated.

This is my second season of triathlons and I'm considering adding a tri bike, for sprint tris over the summer and one Olympic in the fall. I've always been a cyclist and runner, so my focus is swim training this year; as my swimming improves, what I notice is I'm just more relaxed and energetic coming out of the water, not necessarily faster. I'm resigned to any speed gain coming on the bike or the ground, using the extra juice saved by not flailing in the water.

From my splits it seems clear cycling is my strongest leg; relative to my age group I do better in cycling than running, and I'd rather not talk about the swimming. In most races I'll finish in the top 15 - 20% of age group (I'm 47) but once there was a really thin field and I placed 2d. I know that training more and losing weight would help, and I'm trying. But there are real limits in terms of time (job family etc.) and body type (more of a bulldog than a greyhound).

My road bike is reasonably light no-name alu frame / carbon fork, with aero wheels (Neuvation R28 aero) and Profile design clip-on aero bars. The fit seems perfect - I used the Competitive Cyclist and Wrench Science fit calculators to pick out a frame, and then tweaked the stem length and final setup at a very good LBS. I've thought about dropping more dollars to lighten it up (carbon fiber handlebars, compact crank etc.) but ...

Would I be better off putting new money into a tri bike? Realistically, how much speed could I expect to gain on the biking leg with a real tri bike? (FWIW, yesterday's bike leg clocked at 19.8 mph, and in my age group were @ 22 mph.) Or is the gain going to be similar to making my swim more efficient, i.e., to have fresher legs for the run? And am I right in thinking with a tri bike I should renounce my cheapskate internet tendencies and purchase from a local shop, since I've always ridden road bikes and haven't a clue how to set up a tri bike?

Thanks for any feedback.
 

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So the questions are is a tri bike worth it (vs improving your road bike), how would it help you and where should you buy it?

Yes a tri bike is worth it. In a TT, the part that will help you most is body position. A couple of grams off your rd bike might buy you a couple seconds in a standard TT. Depending on your position, fitness, etc, a good tri bike should give you another mph in your average (maybe more) and make you fresher for the run.

As for where to buy, it depends on your knowledge base. If you know what you're doing, starting out on your own would be fine. It seems like you don't know exactly how to set up position on your own, so you'll need a LBS for help. If you live in a large enough city, be sure to go to a shop that has regular experience with tri stuff. A good fit is worth going out of your way to find. If you're looking to save money, I'd suggest a Cervelo P2 ultegra, which is a great deal on an entry level tri bike.
 

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A tri-bike will help significantly. I'm a bike-guy only, who's recently become more interested in Time trialing. I've ridden tts on road bikes with aero bars until recently. Finally bought an inexpensive tri/TT frame and it's "the right tool for the job" The one I got off Ebay is a little heavy and not state of the art, but it puts me into the right body position and is more aero than a road frame.

Using components I already have, I got this Jamis up and running for < $500 and I can go faster on it. How much faster? Hard to say, but I've improved times over known courses and being in the proper body position seems more natural during my few (so far) outings on the new ride.

Don Hanson
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
kbiker3111 said:
... If you live in a large enough city, be sure to go to a shop that has regular experience with tri stuff. A good fit is worth going out of your way to find. If you're looking to save money, I'd suggest a Cervelo P2 ultegra, which is a great deal on an entry level tri bike.
Thanks. Yup a tri-focussed shop near my office (SBR, in NY) had that very bike around $1600, which is what got me thinking.

On the where-to-buy question - I was perfectly comfortable online with my last road bike purchase b/c I could use the fit calculators at wrench science and comp cyclist to get close enough and then tweak at the LBS. But with a tri bike, (a) I couldn't find any comparable fit calculators for triathlon-specific setup -- are there any? and (b) seems like fit and aerodynamic setup are the whole reason to get the bike in the first place so is it penny-wise and pound foolish to try to do it myself? (Fact that I'm even asking probably answers the question.)
 

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raleighcomp1 said:
Thanks. Yup a tri-focussed shop near my office (SBR, in NY) had that very bike around $1600, which is what got me thinking.

On the where-to-buy question - I was perfectly comfortable online with my last road bike purchase b/c I could use the fit calculators at wrench science and comp cyclist to get close enough and then tweak at the LBS. But with a tri bike, (a) I couldn't find any comparable fit calculators for triathlon-specific setup -- are there any? and (b) seems like fit and aerodynamic setup are the whole reason to get the bike in the first place so is it penny-wise and pound foolish to try to do it myself? (Fact that I'm even asking probably answers the question.)
Really you could go either way. The knowledge base exists for fitting yourself and with a lot of patience and a friend's set of eyes you could probably get pretty close.

Like you said, the fact that you're asking probably answers the question. For a couple hundred bucks (assuming what you'd save by buying online) you can get it done right the first time.

In general, I'm not a big fan of the online fit calculators, though they're better than nothing.
 

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"A friend's eyes" , if your friend knows what to look for.

It's difficult to see your own position on the bike.

Sometimes, a shop-fitting isn't much good. Depends on the fitter. If you have any knowledgeable acquaintences, get them to help you fine tune after you have your frame..A couple of cm's can make a difference in your body's aero drag..

Your body will tell you if you're totally "twisted" with the fit.
Don hanson
 

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Competitive Cyclist does have a triathlon fit calculator.

We did our homework and bought a tri bike for my wife (Scott Plasma) on eBay and it worked out well enough. Personally, I would always go to a good shop that knows how to fit those kinds of bikes.

The results are noticeable. My wife had the fastest bike leg among the females and improved her overall Olympic time by 25 minutes over last year. This was the first time I have ever heard her say she was hoping for a strong headwind!
 

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Consider the courses you race. The higher the average speed, the more a tri bike makes sense. In general, the guidance I've heard is that if the average speed of the course is <16, forget a tri bike. If 16-18, it's probably a wash. Over 18, a tri bike makes sense. Over 20 and you are at a definite disadvantage without a tri bike.
 

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Great question! One that a lot of triathletes that come from road biking probably ask themselves (I know I did).

I ended up going all in and selling my road bike and getting a Cervelo last October after my 1st triathlon -- sound impetuous?

No regrets. In my case, I realized that most of my cycling is solo and I like to go faster for shorter distances (usually bike workouts are less than an hour for me) - so a tri/TT bike makes sense.

As far as performance gains, I would estimate a 1-2 mph advantage over my previous road bike with clip on bars. I am enjoying working on getting faster and I think that riding this bike full time is helping me. I found that it takes a while to adapt to the TT position and at first you may actually lose some speed as you develop a new position. With steady training, the gains start happening.

I would recommend the P2C - tremendous bike for the money and you would not feel a need to "upgrade" any time in the near future.

I ended up getting lucky on the fit, I did an online order after much deliberation. Fortunately, with most tri bikes (such as the Cervelo), there is a lot of "play" to fine tune the fit such as adjusting the stem, seat position (two mounting holes for Cervelo P2C), etc. (while some may disagree) as long as you get a frame size in the right neighborhood you should be able to dial it in.

Good luck!
 

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Tri and TT frames have a much steeper seat tube angle than normal road bikes. The steep seat tube angle almost puts you right on top of the crank center. This translates to a possible +5 watts depending on your positioning. I would not depend on any online fitting for a tt frame at all. You have to go to your local bike store and ride one either on the road or on a trainer. I highly suggest a couple hrs on a trainer first so you can get used to the positioning of being forward on the bike.
If this is the first time for you on a TT bike then this is not like anything youve ever ridden before i guarantee it.
You will also notice a lot less strain on your lower back on a TT bike as youre not as crunched (because of the steeper seat tube)
I also agree that the Cervelo P2C is a great buy for a first time TT bike. Dont worry too much about the weight as TT bike are generally heavier than all round road bikes. TT bikes gotta be stiff. Extremely stiff. And with TriBars weighing in the 600gram range youre never gonna get a TT bike in the 15lb range with good stiffness. Being aero is key for tri's.

As far a TT/Tri frames goes... mortage the house and get one of these



https://img127.imageshack.us/img127/8793/pinaft3asa9.jpg
 

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raleighcomp1 said:
...yesterday's bike leg clocked at 19.8 mph, and in my age group were @ 22 mph...
First - yeah get the bike.
Second - I'm surprised at how low those speeds are. Was the course hilly? Lots and lots of guys I know are faster than that with regular road bikes - do you do any speed work?

Okay I'll layoff the training rant. A new fast bike will encourage you to go faster. Do it.
 

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All very good advises here.
Yes, you should definately get a tri bike.
If you don't it for your bike leg, do it for your run section.
An experienced triathlete once told me that racing with a bike with a steep angle saves your hamstrings (or is it the thighs?) for the run section......
 

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triathlons are all about efficiency. the energy you save in each leg can be used
in the next to knock-off your age-group nemesis.

the full-on tri position opens up the angle formed by your abdomen and your
femur to nearly a 90degree angle which stresses your hams less and evens
out the muscle usage. imagine your best position on a normal road bike and
then rotate your body forward around the BB. voila! you have to move the
saddle up and forward(steeper STA, like 78 or higher) and the bars down(potentially a lot).

for shorter distances(sprint), that's not as critical(keeping a 74-76deg STA), but for
70.3 and full ironman distances, it is key to saving energy for the run portion.
you no longer stress the hams and lower back, breathing is easier(now you can
'belly breathe', like greg lemond says), you're resting your body on your elbows,
so less effort in the abs and arms to support your trunk.

to really see improvements in your run, make sure you are pedalling at 95rpms
or better for the last 20-30 minutes of the bike leg. good leg turnover is crucial
for a good transition into the run.

As usual, Creaky is correct, there's no substitute for solid, rational training;
coaching for improved swim mechanics(catch, glide, pull, etc.)
hill repeats, intervals, ladder drills, block sprints, ILD(Isolated Leg Drills),
LSD(which stands for Long STEADY Distance, not "slow"), fartleks, etc.

as for good buys:

$1500: entry-level: QRoo Kilo
$1650: Cervelo p2sl cervelo ultegra kit($1850 for D/A, such a deal)
$2500: Cervelo p2c, cervelo ultegra kit
$2700: Felt b12(w/ raceable 40mm deep stock wheels)

and these are not heavy bikes, by any means, so don't think you have to
settle for a heavy TT bike, just don't expect a 14.5lb tri bike for $3k.
after $3k, i'd spend my money on a power meter and coaching.

actually, if i was really serious, i'd get the p2sl, a powertap rear wheel and
coaching.

edited to correct p2sl price(looked at sbrshop.com)
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
Responding to Creakyknees ... Speed work ...? Other than buying things too fast, no not this year, I'm swimming as much as possible b/c I suck so bad at that, and my biking is just long group rides on the weekends. Top bike speed overall on this course was 24.4mph by some guy in the 30 - 34 age group; top speed in my age group was around 22 mph and I was just a little more than 2.2 mph off that so a speed gain of 10% would mean a lot to my pathetic aging ego. Of course I should train more ... and will ... but it's a balance. And really where I suck on the bike is uphill - I typically get passed by a few lighter riders going up, then pass them back again going down. (I'm 5'9", 170 lbs.)

Sounds like a P2SL from the shop is in my future, and I should hold off on any eBay bargains until I get a real good sense of what fits me.

Thanks everyone for the feedback.

Finally, to highjack my own thread - any good entry bikes come w/o wheels? I just bought a reasonably light and aero pair of wheels - Neuvation R28 aero - that I could use on a tri bike and keep the older wheels on my road bike.
 
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