Ask the Expert: Using a road bike for triathlons

Jenn Brown

Jenn Brown

June 12, 2009

Q: Can I do a Tri on a Road Bike? - This caught my attention because my sis and I are signing up for our first 70.3 Ironman and we've only done Xterra tri's. I haven't bought a new bike since 2000 (my mountain bike is pretty dandy) so I'm stumped about the road/tri bike issue. I'd like to use the bike for commuting as well - what do you recommend? Commute is 14 miles one way. Need to keep the cost reasonable (single mom). Jill

Jenn: ABSOLUTELY!!!! My first tri bike was a road bike and I did sprints, Olympic and half-Ironmans on it. Especially if you are coming over to the sport from XTERRA, a road bike set up is going to feel much more natural than the aggressive aero-position of a tri bike. Not to mention, commuting on a tri-bike is a PAIN! There are lots of great road bikes that are not too expensive. For example, the Specialized Allez series is fantastic as well as Felt Bike; both offer great value with lots of options under $1000. If you're commuting AND racing, you also want to buy a bike from a shop where you can take it back for regular tune-ups, so stick with a more 'popular' brand rather than a niche bike.

Finally, you can always throw a set of clip-on aero bars on your road bike for those longer-distance races. I STRONGLY recommend getting a professional fit done if you decide to do this, though. The geometry of the road bike is designed to have you at a wider angle from the handlebars, in a more comfortable, cruising position, NOT an aerodynamic position. Trying to drop down and extend into aero bars without being fit may end up being very uncomfortable. A professional fitter will make some adjustments to your headset, saddle and seat post, in order to put you in a much more optimal position, based on your personal physiology.