Buying a triathlon bike is one of the most significant investments you’ll make in the sport. But as a beginner, you’re probably feeling apprehensive about spending upwards to $4,000 on a bike.
Luckily, there are excellent entry-level bikes available that are easier to fit into even a tight budget. Before we get into the best triathlon bikes for beginners, I put together a comprehensive guide to help you find the right bike.
Without any further introduction, let’s get right to it.
The 4 best triathlon bikes for beginners:
Tri Bike vs. Road Bike
One of the biggest concerns for new triathletes is the type of bike they should buy. The obvious choice would be to buy a triathlon bike (tri bike); however, it’s not always the right choice.
Tri bikes are trickier to handle and not ideal for riding in groups. Furthermore, tri bikes are designed to ride fast in a straight line and become even more challenging to handle on curving roads.
On the other hand, road bikes are incredibly versatile, easy to ride and suited for any challenge. Plus, they’re more comfortable to ride as they allow you to be positioned slightly more upright.
So, which type should you go for? It depends on how you plan to ride. If you’re a casual triathlete and will only do a race once every few years, a road bike might be in your best interest.
With a road bike, you can use it for casual rides, exercising or practice—you’ll get much use out of it.
However, if you’re a committed triathlete and need a bike to help you gain great speed, a tri bike is the ideal choice.
You might be interested in doing Half or Ironman races as well—in this case, a tri bike will be the most beneficial to you.
Finding the Best Triathlon Bike: Things to Consider
If you’re committed to the sport and want a great bicycle, following the guidelines below will help you find the right bike.
1. Getting the Right Fit
One of the biggest mistakes new triathletes make is getting a bike that simply doesn’t fit them. If the bike doesn’t fit you properly, it will be uncomfortable to ride, you might injure yourself, tire yourself out and have one bad experience after the other.
There are online fit calculators available that give you a recommended size according to your height, weight and more. However, the accuracy can vary, so you should use the results as a guide only.
Another thing you can do is go to a fitter—your local bike shop or maybe even a sports shop is sure to help you out. A fitter will use a dynamic bike to find the perfect fit for you.
Once you have your fit, it will make it much easier to buy a bike, especially if you’re shopping online.
2. Frame and Material
How the bike rides and feels depends significantly on the frame and material. Triathlon bikes are generally made of one of the following materials:
- Aluminum: Durable and affordable; however, not as smooth and forgiving on bumpy roads as carbon.
- Carbon fiber: The lightest option at entry-level. Carbon frames are highly responsive, making them excellent at acceleration and hills. It’s a very common material but also one of the best; however, pricier than aluminum.
- Titanium: This material is durable and lightweight (best of both worlds?), but it’s usually not seen on entry-level bikes. Tri bikes with a titanium frame will be significantly pricier than even the best aluminum frame.
Your budget is the deciding factor on which material you should go for. Aluminum is affordable but shouldn’t be mistaken for “cheap.” The affordability of aluminum allows manufacturers to invest more in adding top-quality components—giving the bike strength and power.
I recommend investing in the best frame you can afford—you can always upgrade components as you advance.
The components of a bike are the smaller parts that enable you to pedal and shift. Entry-level bikes are generally fitted with midrange components, which may not sound enticing, but it will keep the price down.
Luckily, components are simple to switch out and upgrade as you advance, enabling you to create a more customized rig.
Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo and Bontrager offer some of the best components in the industry at competitive prices. The bike should ideally feature components from a well-known brand, such as the ones mentioned here. Mix and match components tend to have more weak points, and you often have to replace them.
The brakes are one of the most crucial parts of a bike, especially a tri bike as you’re hitting the roads at incredible speeds.
There are typically two kinds of brakes used on triathlon bikes: Rim and disc brakes. Disc brakes have become extremely popular, and rightfully so. They provide better control no matter the conditions and are more reliable than rim brakes.
Disc brakes can also easily be swapped between wheelsets if you upgrade to a new set of race wheels. Additionally, they cost just about the same as rim brakes, so there’s really no reason not to opt for disc.
The Best Triathlon Bikes for Beginners—Top 4 Recommendations
Once you know what type of bike would suit you most and you’ve found the right size, it’s time to find the bike. I have searched high and low for the best triathlon bikes for beginners—these are well-built yet budget-friendly for those just starting.
Material: Carbon fiber
Weight: 20.7 pounds
Felt is a bicycle company based in California. The IA10 is based on the 2015 IA model—one of the leading tri bikes at the time. It’s top-quality and top-priced; therefore, Felt Bicycles created a slightly downgraded version for a lower price tag.
The best thing is that you get the same frame material and construction, but with standard components instead of the integrated cockpit. But don’t let that put you off—if you’re looking to enter beginner-level triathlon races, this bike can help you make it across the finish line.
The IA10 2019 model is an updated version from the 2018 model, coming in with higher-performance and various aerodynamic benefits. It features the same top-level IA carbon frame that isn’t the most attractive to look at, but it’s incredibly aerodynamic and ultra-light.
It features some of the best components at an affordable price point—such as the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 Tri 11-speed shifter and Shimano Ultegra R8050 Di2 front and rear derailleurs. These provide you with precise and smooth shifting, helping you to gain speed quickly while remaining in control.
The bike features front and rear brakes, with a Vision TriMax Aero caliper in the front and the Shimano BR5810 direct mount caliper in the back. This further improves your control over the bike, whether you’re going downhill or around curvy roads.
Some triathletes found the rear brake challenging to service—others replaced it with a Shimano Ultegra direct mount brake instead.
- Aerodynamic design.
- Smooth and precise gear shifting.
- Lightweight frame.
- Minor issues with the rear brake.
Material: Carbon fiber
Weight: 19.9 pounds
The Kestrel 5000 SL is made using high modulus carbon fiber, giving it its light weight. Additionally, it features EPS internal molds to make it compact yet durable while reducing the weight.
The bike features the Shimano Ultegra drivetrain along with Oval 950F tires, giving you reliable performance and excellent durability. The Oval wheels are great training tires and will do for entry-level triathlons.
As you advance as a triathlete, you might want to replace the wheels with higher quality to help you go further.
You can adjust the saddle slightly to suit your height, but it comes without pedals, so you have to be ready to purchase those on the side.
- Good wheels.
- Good-quality components.
- The saddle can be adjusted slightly.
- Pedals aren’t included.
Material: Carbon fiber
Weight: 21.6 pounds
If you’re just starting out as a triathlete and need a fast, lightweight bike, this Savadeck is an excellent option. With its light carbon fiber frame, this bike weighs in at a little over 21 pounds, almost as light as the Felt.
Despite it being a beginner’s bike, it still comes equipped with some of the best components in this price range. This includes the Shimano Sora 2×9-speed drivetrain, giving you 18 speeds in total, providing you with smooth shifting and quick acceleration.
The bike was designed in a wind tunnel, making all components such as the seat post and tube aerodynamically contoured. Good aerodynamics are essential for any racing bike to lower resistance, enabling you to go faster.
In addition to the seat post and tube, the bike also features an entirely internal cable routing that further improves its aerodynamic design.
The bike features improved handling and steering as well, with a tapered head tube that strengthens the rigidity of the torsion.
You couldn’t go anywhere without wheels, and this bike is fitted with some of the best tires at this price point. It’s equipped with Continental Ultra Sport II tires with a lower rolling resistance, making it easier for you to gain speed.
However, this also means they have a lower puncture resistance (Continental had to skimp somewhere for us to save money). They might not last as long, especially if you’re frequently riding. In saying that, tires are easily replaceable, and you can always upgrade them when needed.
- Good quality for a beginner’s bike.
- Aerodynamic design.
- Improved handling.
- The tires may not last long.
Weight: 23.6 pounds
Finding the money to purchase a tri or road bike when you first start as a triathlete isn’t always easy. Therefore, having a good budget-friendly option is helpful.
Unlike the bikes above, this one is made with an aluminum frame. This keeps the weight and the price tag down without compromising durability.
It’s fitted with all Shimano gears, in particular, the Shimano Claris R2000. The Claris isn’t as light as the pricier Shimano drivetrains; however, it’s durable and an excellent addition for this budget-friendly bike.
Although this is a beginner’s price range, the Imola isn’t limited to entry-level only—it’s a bike that will grow with you as you advance from beginner to intermediate before you buy your first pro bike.
The cables are fitted under the bar, giving the bike a cleaner and more aerodynamic design. Furthermore, it features integrated brake levers and shifters for improved performance.
The handlebar has a slight drop to it, making it slightly more comfortable for you to be in the right position when racing.
The bike is backed by a lifetime warranty, and the Shimano components are covered by Shimano’s two-year warranty.
Now, because this is a budget bike, I expect there to be some weak points; luckily, these are easily replaceable. For starters, the tires aren’t as high-quality as you get on other bikes, and they may not last for long. Additionally, bikers found the saddle to be very uncomfortable and replaced it immediately.
- Very affordable road bike.
- All Shimano components.
- Excellent warranty.
- Smooth-shifting and easy acceleration.
- Tires may need replacement.
- Uncomfortable saddle.
As a triathlete, you’re faced with challenges throughout the race—whether it’s a minor cramp when swimming, a cruel uphill run or bumpy roads, you learn to adapt and conquer it all. With a good bike, you can gain some serious speed and distance when competing.
After looking through the best triathlon bikes for beginners, I found the Felt IA10 Carbon Triathlon Bike to be the best overall. It combines a light frame with excellent components, giving you a boost of confidence when you’re just starting.
If you’re on a budget or want a more versatile bike, I recommend the Savadeck Carbon Road Bike. It’s almost as light as tri bikes but more comfortable and affordable.