Choosing a bike is a lot like choosing which shoe to wear.
In both scenarios, depending on your experience, objective and budget, certain options are a bad idea.
In the triathlon community, many swimmers or runners are completely new to cycling which can make bike shops daunting. I love a great bike technician that offers suggestions based on the customer’s needs instead of inventory. Would you walk into a shoe store, go up to a sales person and say, “I am going to a gala, and I want your BEST PRETTIEST HIGHEST QUALITY shoe”? No, you wouldn’t. Why not? Because those are perspectives, and thee shoe has to match yours not the salespersons’. With that in mind, before going to a store, already have an idea of your budget, what you need, and why you are shopping for one.
I’ve sold shoes and started from scratch with cycling, so this illustration is dead on. This post is clearing the myths between different types of bikes and how riding changes depending on the bike.
MYTH 1a: You need a Time Trial/triathlon bike to participate in any triathlon.
MYTH 1b: Using a TT/triathlon bike will make you faster in any triathlon.
VERDICT: False. The only requirement to participate in a triathlon is having a bicycle helmet that clips onto your head throughout the ride and transition areas. Use whatever bike you have to get started. There are bicycle style laws for ITU racing which is for experienced athletes going for a specific result. The speed you’re able to go on a bike is based on the fit positioning to your body to power output ratio. You can be “fast” on any bike if your body is free to produce the most power. Buying a new bike won’t necessarily help if you aren’t getting it fitted to your body & bike frame for your unique body angles. Using a bike that you’re not confident in, or are unfamiliar with is dangerous for yourself and others on the course. Look for a design and position that you will WANT to ride, and keep you steady.
Look at it as wearing heels or flats to a special event. Which shoe will you have the most fun in & feel most confident? No I don’t mean an event that you can just bring multiple flip flops to change into. It is more important to wear the shoe that is most comfortable for the hours of the event, than to be wobbling around in unstable heels that you end up having to go barefoot afterwards. Smiling in flats is a lot more flattering than the alternative.
MYTH 2: The only difference between Road and TT are the handlebars.
VERDICT: False. The only similarity between the two bikes are both use round wheels & it’s powered by your legs. The entire position of your body and hands on the bike changes! Notice in the photo (Myth 2) the body position design moves the seat post angle of your hips because the elbows need to rest parallel to your chin on the aero pads.
The road bike is agile, has multiple riding positions which allow the rider the fastest response time when road riding. Although added the “clip-on” aero bars to a road bike is a hack, there are limitations. Take a look at how further diagonally angled the road bike seat post is from the handlebars. Is there a hack between a heel and a flat? Yes, the wedge! The hack, is basically sitting on the road bike seat while stretching over your road bike handlebars into the aerobars, it’s clear to see that the road bike post is not designed for optimal position like that and it’ll need alterations in order to get you in the ideal power position. If all your rides are shorter distance rides (30 miles & under) then you may not notice the back strain, but be careful not to get injured as mileage increases.
The TT bike has to be ridden differently because it’s for a different purpose. Road bikes are flexible like TOMS flats, TT bikes are made to be like a stiletto. Just like you have to walk differently with different shoe shapes, and along that note, you expect different things from each shoe.
If you will ride the TT bike holding the horns/brakes the whole time, especially against the wind, it is unstable and dangerous. If you’re moving very quickly, on stairs, or on your feet constantly, then the stiletto is a dangerous shoe option. The ideal position for power and stability on a TT bike is on aero position, on the bars whether you’re on flats or downhills. If you hold the brakes on your road bike on a fast downhill, you aren’t utilizing the TT bike properly and will be safer on a Road bike.