Welcoming a Tri Bike into the family

By Sam


So. It finally happened. I bought a tri bike. Now, there are probably three different classes of reactions to this statement depending on the type of person reading:

1.The blissfully unaware. “Wait, so what is a tri bike? You’ve completed a triathlon in the past on a bicycle…how is that not a tri bike?”
2.The cynical runners. “Lame. What a sellout.”
3.The bike/tri enthusiasts. “Atta boy!” [fist bump]

I will address each audience in turn.

The blissfully unaware
Hi. First of all, don’t feel bad that trike means nothing to you. It meant nothing to me before I started participating in triathlons. However, there is definitely a difference between a road bike and a triathlon-specific bike. I feel like the difference can be best seen in pictures. Below are two pictures, one road bike and one tri bike.

Tri bike

Road Bike

Very simply, there are two major differences between these two bikes:

Number 1 – The tribike has a more forward position. Look at the rider on the tri bike…if you drew a straight line up from the center of his front wheel, this line would hit this guy’s chin. He is much further forward on the bike.

Number 2 – The tribike allows for a more aerodynamic position. Look at the angle of the backs of each guy. The guy on the tri bike’s back is almost straight.

So, what does this all mean. Well, in general – tri bike = more aerodynamic, less power. Whereas road bike = more power, less aerodynamic. And when you think about it, this makes sense. During road races, you are riding with a group of 100 or more other cyclists (the peleton), so there is less of a need for a really aerodynamic bike. When you get to the end and need to sprint, however, you need all the power you can get.

In triathlons, you ride by yourself. In fact, in most triathlons, drafting (riding in large groups or riding very close behind another rider) is illegal. As such, aerodynamics are critical and in order to obtain great aerodynamics you have to give up some power.

The cynical runners
I hear you. Prior to starting into the world of triathlons last year, I was all on-board the tri bike bashing bandwagon. “Why do you need that expensive bike when you could just, oh I don’t know, TRAIN HARDER.” Or..”You realize you are buying that just to race in triathlons? It is only good for one thing.” Now. For me, half of this was bike lust (I wanted an awesome tri bike) and half of it was the running mindset (there is no such thing as “free” speed).

You want to run a faster half marathon? So does everybody else. Two words for you – speed. work. Lots of it.
You think new shoes will get you a PR? The only thing a pair of new shoes will give you is a blister. Try upping your mileage or intensity.

In running, there are no shortcuts, you get out what you put in. In the cycling world, however, you can walk into a store buy yourself a better finishing time. Coming from a running background this is SO frustrating. SO FRUSTRATING. As I mentioned in my Ironman Wisconsin race report, and when I say mention I actually mean ‘ranted about’, there were several folks that finished before me that I did not believe were more ‘fit’ than me. If you gave us the same equipment, I believe I would have finished in front of them. Now, let me say that this only applies to a small minority of the folks that finished in front of me. Nearly everyone in front of me worked their tails off and deserved what they got. But the fact that I even contemplated this was new to me. I’ve never finished a running race and thought that I was more fit than someone in front of me. Instead I thought, “Man, I wonder what their training was like. What pace did they do their tempo runs at? What about their long runs?” and on and on. Never something like, “Yeah, but if I had their shoes….

Coming from that background there was, and still is, a part of me that wants to prove that you don’t have to have a tri bike in order to do well. But I’m also not dumb. If I want to compete without quitting my day job, I need to even the playing field as much as possible. Therefore, I bought a tribike. And if it makes a difference to you cynical runners, I only bought an entry level tri bike. So can we still be friends?

The bike/tri enthusiasts
[return fist bump] Thanks. I’m really pumped! Maybe we can ride together someday. Please note, however, there is about a .004% I’ll let you ride my new bike, so don’t get your hopes up. You can touch it, but maybe bring some gloves.

How I made the decision
If you’ve read any of my previous Ironman Boulder training posts (one or two), you know that I’ve been thinking about and researching tri bikes for quite some time. When you are new to the tri bike world, as I am, the amount of information out there can be overwhelming. Plus, being a millennial, I tend to want to research everything in great detail before I buy. ESPECIALLY anything as expensive as a new bike. I’m embarrassed to think about how many times I googled “best tri bike 2015” or some iteration of that statement. Either way, after 3+ months of “research” I was no closer to deciding on a bike than I was when I started.

In the end, I threw all of my research out the window and went to the bike shop close to our house and bought a bike from them. They are a Trek dealer. Trek has a solid reputation. Most importantly, they are really close to my house, so tune ups will be a breeze! In a nutshell – after 3+ months of research, the deciding factor in my purchase was…proximity. And I’m OK with that.

Finally, some details

Pictures

There she be

There she be

The Cockpit

The cockpit

View from the front - no cables!

View from the front – no cables!

The Bike

Speed Concept 7.5. I was also considering the 7.0, but decided to go with the 7.5 because of its better components and the upgraded cockpit. I was going to upgrade the cockpit of the 7.0 if I bought it, but decided the hassle wasn’t worth the savings.

Accessories

  • Wheels – This is the one remaining area of untapped “free” speed. My plan is to rent wheels for my races this year. Or I might buy some off craigslist. Definitely not buying new ones. Too expensive.
  • Power Meter – In my previous Boulder training posts I mentioned I was considering buying a power meter when I bought my new bike. I didn’t end up doing this. Not because I don’t think it would be beneficial, but mostly because I just don’t want to deal with it. I spend enough time training and thinking about training as it is.

More!

  • Planet Money podcast on the economics of trash vs recycling. Really interesting.
  • Had my first experience swimming in a 50 meter pool. Gosh, it is a long way.
  • Compost! Now that we live in Denver proper we are eligible to participate in their compost program. Super cool!
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One comment

  1. […] Power In the beginning of my training, I mentioned I was planning on buying a power meter. Then I changed my mind and decided I didn’t need a power meter. Then I bought a power meter (I didn’t write about this […]

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