People do their first triathlon on all kinds of bikes from hybrid and mountain bikes, through to old racing bikes dragged out of a shed or borrowed from a friend. If you just want to give triathlon a go you don’t have to spend thousands of pounds on a specialist machine, especially if you are doing a sprint event. However, if you can afford to buy a new bike you will have a more comfortable time, will likely be faster, and may even discover a love for cycling more generally.
The Great 2021 Bike Shortage
With the pandemic one of the few things we have all been able to do is get out and exercise. That has led to massive increase in demand for bikes and a massive shortage of bikes. The bikes we discuss below are ones that are likely to have reasonable stock through the year.
What kind of bike do I need?
You will often see serious triathletes using specialist aerodynamic time trail bikes. If you are just starting out you do not want one of these bikes. Time trial bikes are tricky to handle, often uncomfortable and are banned from use in many social and club rides. Even pro triathletes don’t use one for most of their training. So unless you want to buy two bikes and spend a lot of time perfecting your ride position they are not the ideal choice for newbies.
Most people doing their first triathlon (and lots of triathlons after that) will use a standard road bike and maybe add some clip on handlebar extensions to get more aerodynamic. For the purposes of this guide we are looking at bikes between £500 and £1000 as that’s a typical budget for first time triathletes. All of the bikes in this price range will have an aluminium frame and a carbon fibre fork and will use Shimano gears. As you go up in price the bikes get lighter, come with more gears and better brakes so they are faster, safer and more fun to ride.
Available in either blue or black the Domane Al 2 is one of the best value road bikes on the market. This bike is a simple as it gets and is firmly aimed at people new to road cycling. It is designed to be pretty fast but also to be stable and easy to handle. It has a 16 speed Shimano gearing system, carbon fibre forks to soak up bumps and vibrations from the road and decent handle-bars and other contact points so you can get into an aerodynamic position.
The Specialized Allez has been the go-to beginner’s road bike for donkeys years. We know loads of people who have had them and they are brilliant bikes. You can’t go wrong with an Allez, they are fast, easy to ride and last ages. However, the 2021 model uses exactly the same gearing as the Trek Domane Al 2. Some of the other bits on the Allez are a bit nicer and a bit lighter but it is over £100 more. A great bike, but perhaps not the best value for money.
Orbea are something of the new boys on the block in the UK bike market. Which is odd for a company that has been making road bikes, and winning races, since the 1920s. Orbea are based in Spain and make great value bikes. This Avant H50 is their entry level road bikes and comes with 18 speed Shimano Sora gears which are the next level up in quality from the Claris equipment found on the Allez or the Domane Al 2. With a couple of extra gears the Orbea will make it easier to get up hills and will be faster overall. The gears are also likely to last longer before they need to be replaced.
Disc brakes are the new in thing in road bikes and are still a bit controversial with some riders. They do give noticeably better braking, especially in wet weather, making the bikes easier and safer. They also allow wider tyres to be fitted and this bike comes with 28c tyres which are huge by traditional road bike standards but are quickly becoming the norm. The Domane Al 2 Disc is designed as a bike you can commute on, ride rough country lanes, do group rides or even a bit of light touring. It is still reasonably quick but probably not as fast as the other bikes. It is super versatile though, so if you want a bike to do all kinds of riding on, including triathlon, it is a great choice.