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4 Reasons Triathletes Need a Road Bike

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

I'm of the belief that you can never have too many bikes. A quick look around our garage is evidence of that. If you are familiar with The Rules, then you know the correct number of bikes one should own is always n+1. If we had more room, I think there's a good chance we'd have more bikes.

When I started in multi-sport back in 2003, I bought a $500 used road bike. It didn't quite fit me but it did the trick. After a few races, I knew I wanted a triathlon bike (aka a TT bike). Especially since I was planning on doing Ironman. So after my first season of racing, I sold my $500 road bike and bought myself my first triathlon bike. Ironically I didn't end up using that bike for my first Ironman, I ended up using a road bike with aerobars because I was totally freaked out about not having enough power to climb on my TT bike (I did Ironman Lake Placid). Yup, after I bought that fancy new TT bike, I ended up buying ANOTHER road bike about 6 months later. Do you see a pattern here? I kept that road bike until 2015 when I sold it. I put a LOT of kms on that bike. I looked forward to riding it at the end of every triathlon season. It signified riding for the sake of enjoyment vs. having to ride with a specific purpose. I purchased another road bike just before I sold that one. It may surprise you to know that I do about 70% of all my riding on that bike. Yup, 70%. I'm chalking that up to riding with a cycling club, although I've done a fair bit of indoor riding on it as well. So, why do I think you need to hang on to that road bike? 1. Position. The geometry on a road bike is much more upright than a TT bike. Spending all that time in aero (forward flexion) isn't always the best if you have any sort of lower back or neck issues. 2. Bike handling skills. Yes, TT bikes are meant to go fast in a straight line but that doesn't mean you should neglect learning how to ride a bike. In my experience, better bike handling skills generally equals more confidence on the bike. This can translate to faster bike times simply because you're not afraid to descend, or you don't need to unclip to turn around a pylon in a race. Road bike geometry allows for much better handling across the board from cornering to climbing. 3. Develop better all around leg strength. TT bikes put you in a more aggressive, forward position. So you are situated on the nose of your saddle vs. sitting ON your saddle. This changes the angle of your hips into a more quad dominant position. That's not to say that you're not using your hamstrings BUT, one of the important things on a TT bike (aside from aerodynamics) is to help save your legs for the run. By utilizing your quads more, you "save" your hamstrings for the work they're going to have to do on the run. On a road bike, because you're in a more seated position and your hip angle isn't as closed in, you will effectively use more of your leg muscles while riding. 4. Safer to ride in groups. See #2. Because road bikes handle better and lack aerobars, they are much better suited to group riding. And when I say group riding, I mean riding in a pack. I know most triathletes don't ride in a pack but we do ride in groups, especially in the off season. Have you ever tried drafting off someone in a group ride on a TT bike? I did once and it was terrifying. On my road bike, I can ride beside someone comfortably and not feel like I'm going to swerve into them if I take my hands off my handlebars. There is a reason most cycling clubs don't allow TT bikes on club rides.

So all of you folks that are thinking about getting rid of your road bike when you upgrade to a TT bike, you may want to think twice. Your trusty road bike deserves just as much love as your shiny new TT bike. ~ Coach PK

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