New bike considerations

Hi all,

I have my first full distance triathlon in Copenhagen in August 2020, having completed 2x half distance races to date. The bike I used was a <£1k Giant Contend SL. Frustratingly the bike has a weird disc brake feature on the handlebars that meant a lot of tri-bars were unsuitable, so I rode my 70.3s without tri-bars, finishing the bike splits in the 2:50 - 2:55 range (Staffordshire)

I’m now looking for a new bike, with a budget of approx. £2,000, and find myself changing my mind between aero road bikes (with tri-bars), and tri-bikes.
Once my IM is out the way I think it is likely that I will drop down to varying distances between sprint - 70.3, and will continue to ride with friends on weekends and compete in events such as Ride London. The focus would remain on triathlon though.
I will keep my Giant road bike, regardless of which new bike I buy.

I have relatively poor bike knowledge so was hoping you could help answer a few questions for me, to help me make the decision;

  1. In IM distance events, where do people typically store food if they are on an aero road bike? I understand that tri bikes have integrated storage but road bikes do not.

  2. If I bought an aero road bike, would I need two bike fits? (One for TT/aero position, and one for general weekend/hill riding)

  3. How rare is it that a long distance triathlon course would be considered more suitable for an aero road than a tri bike?

  4. If aero road bikes are UCI legal and are faster, why aren’t all bikes ‘aero’? What are the drawbacks when compared with normal road bikes?

  5. Do cycling / tri clubs allow you to ride in weekend group rides with tri bars? How about on non UCI-legal tri bikes? What are the typical rules regarding this?

  6. What about a tri bike stops it being UCI legal? Is it the seat post angle?

  7. How beneficial is a tri bike for saving legs for a run? Does this apply for the majority?

  8. There is a GIANT store local to me, and I am able to get a small discount. As such, I am looking at the Propel Advanced aero range, and the Trinity tri range. Both seem good! Do you have any thoughts on these bikes?

  9. There are other ranges I have looked at online but I don’t fully understand how and where I could try these out? Where are tri bikes actually sold? I haven’t done much digging but on first glance it doesnt look like many tri bikes are sold in bike stores? How do you guys buy your bikes?

  10. If a bike spec says it is tubeless tyres, can I change for clincher?

  11. Any other comments that may help my decision?

Thank you in advance!

  1. You can get bento bags with straps to go round the top tube.
  2. I would imagine the fitter would get you in n appropriate fit for both positions. Otherwise you’ll be swapping parts between usage. Although a tri specific saddle and road saddle could be swapped easily.
  3. Unless its massively hilly and/or technical descents then a tri bike is going to be faster. As long as you are comfortable on it.
  4. Cost mainly. Making tubes aero is easing when using carbon to form a shape. Metal generally comes in tubes and adding shapes would involve lots of welding (heavy and expensive). Making a normal bike involves less R&D. Aero needs a lower position which a lot of people dont find comfortable.
  5. Unless you are going to park yourself on the front of the pack for the whole ride I can’t imagine anyone will be that happy that you have tri bars on. Even the stubby ones, they still mean you can’t stop quickly.
  6. Pass
  7. Guess its down to the individual. Its a hard thing to measure as its about feel.
  8. Never looked at either
  9. I bought mine unless but after having had a pre fit done I knew the geometery was the best for me.
  10. I know you can shove a tube in a tubeless tyre if it punctures. Guess you could do that all time. Everyone raves about tubeless though so just keep them.
  11. If you are keeping the other roadie then defo by a TT bike. Other wise you have a reasonable road bike and slightly better road bike. I have a shite road bike that I use for commutes and winter training and when I fancy riding it, and then a decent TT bike.

did you not complete everything in your last races?


Behave eJC… :slight_smile:

Please be aware that IM distance is addictive, as is spending money on bikes. For what you are describing it does sound like a TT bike would be the way to go though.

Personally I wouldn’t buy new for the first one, but some will disagree since you might/likely would get a bike fit if you buy new. But there’s some stonking deals around right now on 2nd hand TT bikes since it’s end of season - £2k will give you a lot of bike (generally they go for 1/3-1/2 of new price).

As for 5), short answer is “no”. Tri clubs might accept it but cycling clubs, sportives and such will likely specifically say no aero extensions allowed. Expect to use your Contend for those.

Aero road bikes tend to be a bit heavier than “normal” road bikes and the bigger tubes often make them stiffer and harsher to ride. This can affect the handling.

Things are converging though - the new Specialized Tarmac is as aero as the original Venge and the newest Venge is nearly as light as the Tarmac and rides nearly as well. The manufacturers still want to keep the product differentiation though, so you’ll never get to the “perfect” bike that does everything.

If you go the aero road route you might have to compromise on your tri bar position. A lot of the standard drop handlebars on aero road bikes are the flat aero type that you can’t attach normal aero bars to. The proprietary aero bars that the manufacturers sell to fit on them are usually the short ITU-legal type and can be expensive. Replacing the bars with something with a round profile that’ll take standard clip-on tri bars is a major faff, especially with hydraulic disc brakes.

You definitely won’t be allowed to use a TT bike for RideLondon and you won’t be popular if you turn up for most group rides on a TT bike. Even if they did let you ride with the group, riding on the base bar for any length of time is not comfortable.

Interesting. I was in the Specialized Concept Store last week, and they had the S-Works Shiv TT Disc there, for a princely £10,995. This led to a conversation with a guy working there. I asked when they were going to introduce a more affordable TT bike; he said that the ‘module’ was ‘only’ £5.5k, but that this bike would likely only be ridden by elites/Kona types. So I asked what those of use who weren’t dentists would ride, and he reckons we’ll all just be (or should be) riding the Venge. I’m sceptical, as that wouldn’t be my choice for non-draft triathlon races; but I couldn’t be bothered to challenge his/specialized’s view at the time.


I agree with most of what has been written up above. I think the key thing for me is is that you’re planning on keeping the original bike. If you only wanted, or had space, for one then it might be a different answer, but if you’ve already got a road bike you’re happy with* and can use for all the other stuff, then I’d say having a road bike and TT combo gives you more options than a road bike and an aero road bike.

As others have said, I’d see what you can get second hand. I got a Scott Plasma 3 Premium, with di2, upgrades like a tririg from brake, and wheels (including a powertap rear hub that I didnt need) for only a little over your budget.

The newer top end TT bikes come with all the integrated storage, but you can easily get various top tube add-ons and behind the saddle / between the arms bottle and storage solutions.

As others have said, most clubs won’t let you use any kind of aero extensions on a club ride. My club now even force road bike mud guards on anything but a perfectly dry day :roll_eyes:

UCI legality is irrelevant, unless you want to do the Tour of Cambridge TT, or do some form of stage racing that involves a TT stage that you’d want to use it for. Neither CTT, nor any triathlon format, cares about the UCI spec in terms of geometry etc. The only caveat to that I’m aware of are the non-standard beam bikes that, from memory, @fatbuddha has previously said need to be formally certified as “safe” for ITU/BTF based races, and not all that are available have (Ironman don’t care though).

Finally, for a course like IM Copenhagen, you’re going to benefit significantly from a comfortably aero position on a TT. You can largely spend an hour+ at a time locked into the position on that course, and so a position you have trained and are comfortable in will make a big difference.

*“happy with” is obviously relative. I want a new road bike, but given how infrequently I ride mine, I can’t justify the expense just for the sake of a new toy

I get the impression that the TT/tri space is pretty peripheral to Specialized’s business model. They obviously have to make a TT bike for their pro teams, but the volumes are going to be pretty low compared to their road frames.

An interesting fact about the Venge is that unlike their other road frames, they don’t manufacture different levels of frame. It’s the same frame for the S-Works as it is for the lower spec models. They designed the S-Works frame and it was too complicated to re-design it to use lower grade carbon for a lower model while retaining the characteristics that they wanted it to have.

I guess you’re right; as a result there won’t be many people doing Triathlons on Specialized bikes as time goes on…at least HIM/IM distance.

With the Venge, they changed the brakes and forks to integrated brake systems with a ‘Vias’ module which streamlines the whole thing. Makes it look a lot sexier as well as its not spoiled by the disc brakes messing airflow up.

Og=f course, you cannot get the original aero rim brake variation as someone bought the last one :slight_smile:

Thanks all for the really useful feedback. I’m going to ramp up the search for tri bikes now. Do most people buy online or in person?

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Definitely try before you buy. Not always the case (Cannon etc…)

Lots of alternatives, strap on Bento Box is one. I used to pour all my gels into an aero bottle on the frame, and dilute with 10% water, no wrappers to worry about, now switched to fluid only nutrition on the bike, it works for me, however, other people prefer some solid food

Normally when you get a bike fit, they add a second at reduced cost. Clearly better if you get both bikes fitted, but if you already have a bike fitted, you can use that as starting point and make adjustments to suit different type of bike (and we are “experts” here who will be happy to critique your position)

I struggle to think of an LD triathlons will not be faster on a TT bike, however, some flat courses will be much faster, while hilly / technical course the gap will be less. In Nice 70.3, the gap was pretty small.

Its all about trade offs, especially weight and stiffness; compare a Canyon Aeroroad and Canyon Ultimate, the Ultimate is a better climbing bike, but looses a bit of aero performance. Both bikes are raced competitively by pro teams, and are pretty evenly matched overall

Others have answered comprehensively. In my own experience, club is happy for people to ride on a tri bike so long as do not ride in aero position in groups

Normally tube thickness and non triangular frame. Being non UCI legal is irrelevant for 99% of triathletes

Makes a big difference for some people, however, I seem to be able to run off a road bike almost as well as off a tri bike. Typically it is the first 2km where you see the difference. When is started I could not run off the bike, but with practice, it feels slightly different, but does not impact my pace

I think that there are very few bad bikes. Canyon are cheaper because of their direct sales model, but if you get a discount from Giant

As TT bikes are all shifting to disc brakes, loads of used bikes coming onto the market as people are making the switch. Currently a non disc brake TT bike with Tubular tyres on a brilliant set of wheels would be an absolute bargain for someone on a limited budget.

Tubeless yes (but tyres can be tight to fit
Tubular no not interchangeable

One bike - aero road, however, if you keep your current bike, then a good used TT bike

Just picked up this Giant for your budget cost.

I can’t really answer most of your questions as I don’t have the experience. But ill be putting a set of aero bars on it and racing sprint Tri’s next year.

But there’s nowhere to store your guns on it.

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Frowned upon apparently

Move to Tennessee

Kentucky most likely…