The pre-summer triathlon season is upon us and for all those who are thinking of entering a race and are worried about using your bike because it’s not a racing bike. Let me start out by saying that if you have a bike you don’t need to do anything to use it in a triathlon. So go ahead and sign up. The only thing your bike must do is meets the safety criteria. This doesn’t matter if it’s a mountain bike, road bike or a beach cruiser. They will all work and get you to the finish line. If this is your first race then that’s most likely your goal. You improve after that.
The safety item most often violated is the use of plugs in the bar ends. I’ve seen people get very upset with officials when this is pointed out but it’s for a good reason because if you crash it could save your life. If you do find yourself missing one or two there is usually a bike shop with a mechanic and tent on site or one of the racers may have some in their bag. I carry some just in case.
I did my first couple of races with my road bike in its original road configuration before I made any changes. The changes I made were specific to helping me gain speed and improve my ability to run after the bike leg.
One thing to remember about triathlon racing compared to road racing. Road racing concentrates on light weight for a fast response to hills and draft requirements etc… in triathlon weight is not the key metric but aero dynamics. The engine (you) is the best place to lose weight because your bike will have hydration systems, nutrition, sensors, computer etc… strapped to it adding weight. Consider this before you go and drop a chunk of money on carbon bottle cages that weigh just a few grams less than the plastic counter parts. Triathlon is expensive enough so get the most out of what you spend.
With that in mind, taking a road bike and making it try specific for longer races Olympic distance and up. You want to look at the transition to being more aerodynamic. Do do this the use of aero bars will lower your overall drag profile once they are fitted properly.
You can try and set them up yourself using a friend with a camera, a mirror or you can visit a bike shop and pay a small fee to be refitted to your bike. I tried all three. The advantage of the shop fitting is that they will look at your comfort and the total setup of your bike. Your seat will likely move forward and up. Your head unit may move down. It all depends on the rider. In the end, you need to be comfortable with that position for the duration of your longest race. That’s right all you future Ironman finishers. You need to be comfortable working hard in that position for 6 or more hours.
To keep costs down you can try looking for used aero bars online or on a Facebook tri sales group. Many people who started this way and moved to new bikes would consider selling them for a reasonable price. The shop fitting would most likely range from $50 – $250 depending on whether you made your aero bar purchase from the shop or not. Call and check before you shop online to make the best decision for you.
Once you’re in the aero position the next item is your helmet. I attended a tri clinic at one of the fit shops in Houston and it was pointed out that the helmet is the single biggest gain you can make for the cost. There are many great brands and you can often find big discounts in their newsletters, tri magazines or by supporting their brand ambassadors who in many cases have discount codes on social media such as Instagram or blogs.
Once you have your road bike fitted to make you more aerodynamic and possibly a helmet your set. The rest of the gear you can outfit your bike with will be based on your race distance and training methods.
This is my road bike that I raced on for my first two years doing triathlons.