Buying a New Bike for Triathlons

author : steve
comments : 0

Steve Martinsky:

Well I said that I was not going to do it this   season, but I cracked.  I broke down and bought a new bike.  I went out and bought a shiny new Cannondale road bike.  I am quite proud of my little purchase.  Here's how I got to buying my new bike:

I decided that after my two thousandth visit to the local bike store and becoming close personal friends with the local bike mechanic, I figured that it was time for a new bike.

I needed to get a bike that I could race triathlons, as <formulas />well as race road bike races.  I also wanted a bike with at least Shimano 105 components. These are third down on the scale of bike components made by Shimano; the best being Dura Ace (which is what Lance, and rich guys with nothing else to spend
their money on have on their bikes), next is Ultegra (this is what was on my bike that I sold for my wife's engagement ring), then there is 105, after that Sora and Tiagra.  The main difference in most of these components is weight and durability. Obviously if you are going to be logging in a ton of miles, you do not want something that is going to break down every 200 miles, and conversely you don't need to be spending a ton of money if your only riding on the weekends to the doughnut shop.

When I started to shop around for a suitable bike, the first thing that I did was to go to a shop and test ride the most expensive bike that they sold.  There was no way that I could afford the bike, nor did I have any intention of even trying to buy it.  I just wanted to see what it was like to ride down the street on a four thousand dollar bike.  It was quite an experience, I do recommend it.  (Note: if you are going to do this at the same shop that you plan on actually buying a bike, come back on a different day, preferably when the guy that let you take out that four thousand dollar bike is not working.)   

I finally narrowed my bike selection down to three bikes:  The Giant OCR 1, the Specialized Allez, and the Cannondale 700 multisport.  The Giant and the Specialized were very similar, they both had Shimano 105, 27 speed components Mavic CXP 22 wheels, and Aluminum frames.  The Cannondale was equipped with 105 18 speed with an aerodynamic composite frame and also came equipped with Profile Aerolite aerobars, Mavic CXP 21 wheels, and an aero fork.  The prices were similar, both the Giant and the Specialized were about one thousand dollars, the Cannondale was about two hundred dollars more.  Was the Cannondale worth the extra money?  Yes I thought, so I decided to go with the Cannondale. I liked the frame better, the ride was more comfortable , it looked cooler than the other bikes and I could not bring myself to purchase a road bike with a triple chain ring while living out here in Indiana.  Now for the accessories:

bikeI did not need to purchase aerobars since the bike came with them, as well as the fact that I bought a pair in the beginning of the season.  I think that aerobars are essential for competing in triathlons, they reduce wind resistance on the bike and increase speed.  I have gotten so used to them that when I take my old bike out without the aerobars attached, it feels weird.  

Clipless pedals are another essential if you are going to be doing some serious miles on a bike.  They increase power and make climbing a lot easier.  I did not need to purchase a new pair of pedals, since I already owned a pair of Look pedals that I had from my racing days.  I did purchase a new pair of
bicycling shoes, they are Specialized.  I do not know  the exact model, but they are a middle of the line pair.  I also purchased bottle cages that mount on the rear of the saddle,  this is to be aerodynamic while riding, or to make your butt wet if you move too far back in the saddle.

The coolest thing that I bought is a CO2 tire pump.  It is great, it works off a CO2 cartridge that can be purchased at Walmart or Kmart and inflates a tire in about 3 seconds.  It was great to use during a race, or even on the side of the road.  The unit is compact and fits underneath my bike saddle.

I think that the best thing to do before going out to buy a bike, is: 1) know what your price range is, 2) know what type of components your are looking for, and 3) find a bike that is comfortable as well as looks cool. 

 


Steve Willison:

When I was about 12 or 13 years old, my father took me to buy a bike. I was so excited I couldn't wait to get to the store. My two best friends, Steve and Ben, both had BMX bikes and my hopes were that I would be coming home with one as well. So my father and I hopped into the light blue Ford Fairmont station wagon and headed to the store. 

I am not quite sure how the rest of the story unfolded; however, I ended up going home the owner of a brand new 10 speed (make and model I don't recall). I believe his reasoning for changing my mind, which seemed logical to me at the time, was that because I was a little taller than other kids my age; I would be getting much taller when my growth spurt started. The economic reasons for this transaction were never shared with me; however, I am sure they were also a factor. 

Needless to type, I am still waiting for the growth spurt he predicted. In addition, I lived in a town where everyone rode their bikes to baseball practice and through yards, etc… so my 10 speed couldn't go in the places where others were riding. Lastly, my friends would soon be starting to drive and that left me with no interest in riding a bike around town anyway. All of these factors contributed to the bike remaining unridden and taking up space, rotting under my parents back porch.
 

It is with the above anecdote, that I can share the two most important questions to ask yourself when going to buy a bike. They are: what activities do you envision yourself using the bike for? And, what are you looking to spend? 

bikeWhat activities do you envision yourself using the bike for?
Before even going to the bike shop, take some time and jot down what uses you have in mind for this bike. Envision yourself owning your new bike. Do you see yourself tooling around the trails? Do you see yourself as the next Lance Armstrong? Or, perhaps you see yourself as a little bit of both or are unsure. 

If you see yourself as tooling around the trails, the answer is obviously mountain bike. 

If you see yourself as the next Lance, the answer is road bike. 

If you see yourself as a little bit of both or are unsure, than you have two choices, starter road bike or a starter mountain bike. Another option is the hybrid bikes, but most bikers don't consider that a real option. 

Should you decide on the road bike, go cheap. You will ease the strain on your pocketbook but limit yourself in use to road activities. Sure you can ride through a field, if you had to, but do you want to? If so, you may need a different bike. 

If you decide on the mountain bike, you can tool around the town, trails, campus, etc… you can even do a little bit of racing should the mood hit. If you decide you are going to use the mountain bike for racing, buy yourself some slick tires so you can use them in place of the mountain bike tires. This will allow you to go a little faster than you could on the regular tires. NOTE: not to discourage you, but keep in mind that people who are actual bikers will consider you a "FRED" (dork) for using such an archaic method rather than the state of the art equipment that is available to the public. Should anyone voice their opinion, your retort is, "kiss my ***." 

In all cases, the most important thing is to be a participant and complete your goal. I don't care if you do it on a Trek 5900 or an old model Schwinn. As long as you are a participant you are already completing a task that many others don't have the fortitude to attempt. If anyone thinks less of you because of your equipment, they are materialistic and not worthy of evolving societal norms. 

In addition, if during your race you find that you absolutely love the competition and want to upgrade to a road bike. You are wiser and have a backup bike for tooling around the trails. However, if you find that you completed your goal and don't want to compete again; you just saved yourself some dough. 

What are you looking to spend? 
If you have narrowed down your bike search to mountain or road, the next choice is economics. If you are the type of person who likes to drop cash on a whim, than this is an easy question for you, just pick a bike, pick a color and start riding. 

However, if you are like most people, you need to remind yourself of budgetary requirements and allotted spending. For example, when I bought my bike, my wife and I were closing on a home, and we were expecting our first child. These factors required me to put some cash aside little at a time and buy my bike at the end of my personal layaway method. It was a great plan for me and didn't tick my wife off too much. 

Whether you've decided on a mountain or a road bike, I would still consider getting a lower to middle end bike. No matter how much a bike shop may push the upper end equipment, the bottom line is that what you envision may not come true, and you don't want to have broken the bank on your new purchase. In addition, all bikes have such great components you really can't go wrong. As you move up in price you are talking lighter and sturdier. But this can also be achieved to an extent with periodic upgrades should you decide to stick with the sport. 

Also, my experience has been that used bikes don't have a great resale value. So if you find out that you don't enjoy riding your soft tail XR9800, that you spent $2,000 on, you won't be worrying all that much.

Hope this helps!
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date: September 10, 2004

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steve