Road Bike vs TT bike

Hello everyone,

I recently embarked on my journey into Triathlons and made the decision to purchase a brand new road bike back in March. Initially, I had limited knowledge about which bike to choose for training purposes. However, as I dove deeper into my training and started watching live triathlon events, I noticed that the majority of participants were using TT bikes.

This realization has left me somewhat frustrated, as I wonder whether I made the right choice and if owning a TT bike is crucial for triathlons events.

I’d like to know if aerodynamics is the sole differentiating factor between road and TT bikes, and whether I can still compete in mid-distance and possibly full-distance triathlons with my current road bike.

Do you guys recommend selling the road and buying a TT?

Hi,

Nothing stops you from using your road bike in a triathlon. Triathlons come in different variants - draft-legal and non-drafting events. Some short distance and junior races can draft-legal. In draft-legal events a TT bike is not allowed due to rider safety when riding in a group.

However, most triathlons over any distance for age groupers and long course athletes will be non-drafting. In this case the relation between power produced and resulting speed is mostly determined by CdA, e.g. aerodynamic drag (oversimplification!). And rider position on a TT bike is typically more aerodynamic than on a road bike. That is likely the reason many triathletes are riding TT bikes.

In the last couple of years bike manufacturers introduced dedicated triathlon bikes, often coming with integrated hydration systems. These are often not UCI legal, so not allowed in UCI sanctioned time trial events. But they can be used in triathlons (where the UCI has no jurisdiction).

Riding a TT or triathlon bike is different from riding a road bike due to the different rider position and e.g. position of brakes vs aero extensions.

So, if you want to maximise your speed for triathlon, think about a triathlon bike. But with a triathlon bike you won’t be welcome in some (most) group rides - due to safety concerns for the group. You will need to find the best compromise for your interests here.

HTH
Magnus

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Hello @Magnus_Kreth,

Primarily, I train alone or occasionally with one training partner, which means group rides are not currently a part of my routine. Your input has been incredibly informative, and it seems that in my situation, investing in a TT bike would be a logical choice. Now, the real dilemma lies in whether I should hold onto my road bike as well. :thinking:

I guess I might just inform my wife that I stumbled upon a discarded TT bike in the trash. :sweat_smile:

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As you’re asking here - you can Zwift both on a road bike or a TT bike. You can still choose your bike within Zwift freely, e.g. ride on a TT bike but have the lightest climbing rig in game. There is no TT police :laughing:

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N+1 is the only correct answer

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you certainly can

i recommend having a road bike even if you do buy a TT or triathlon frame because it’s not always practical to train outdoors on a TT setup. If you do any kind of group riding for example

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My suggestion would be to maybe hold off on investing in a new bike, just for triathlon, until you’ve got one or two under your belt. I’ve known people who did one, and while they loved the experience, decided one was enough. I’ve known others who thought they’d only do it once, and now can’t get enough of them. If you’re just getting into it, my recommendation would be to focus on some of the less commitment heavy things that will make it a great first time tri. If you come out of it and love it, and especially if you want to start getting into Half or Full IM distances (as opposed to Sprint or Intl / Oly distances), or if you’re goal is to podium in your age group, then maybe make the move to a tri bike.

Personally, I’m a Sprint or Intl / Oly distance person. I’d love to do a Half IM someday (and was going to do Steelhead in MI next summer, until they discontinued that event), even though my knees would prefer I not. I’ve used my road bike for the ones I’ve done. I’m not out there to win, I’m out there to push myself, so I don’t need the best bike. For my first, I rode in bike shorts and bike jersey, and had a pretty basic wetsuit. Once I knew I was doing it again, I got a trisuit instead of a bike jersey, and a running belt instead of safety pins. I’m registered for Chicago again next summer (first time back in a few years), and I’ll likely upgrade my wetsuit this time around. But I’m still not committing to a bike just for tri. I may agree with Ronald in the N+1 idea, but my wife likes to remind me that the rule can also be written as S-1.

And I agree with S A Cestria on this. A road bike can be used in a lot more situations than a tri bike would necessarily be practical. So if it’s one or the other, I think a road bike makes more sense.

Whatever you decide to do, welcome to the club! Triathlon’s a great experience, hard work, and a ton of fun. Besides (at least in my experience); anyone can be bad at one sport. It takes someone special to be bad at three sports at the same time.

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Thank you all for your insights. I’ve been involved in triathlon training for a few months now, and it’s incredible how supportive and helpful this community is. It’s nice to see everyone always ready to help.

Initially, I was considering keeping only one bike, either the road bike or selling it to purchase a TT bike. However, after your input, it seems sensible to hang onto the road bike for now, especially with winter approaching, and the majority of my training happening indoors.

@Andrew_of_Uptown, I have two Olympic events lined up for next year, and I plan to use the road bike for both, while I will not fight for podium, I like to keep time goals so I remind myself to push harder during the training. As for the half Ironman, it’s on my radar for 2025, and if all goes according to plan, a full Ironman in three years (yet to be confirmed).

And I can definitely relate to the S-1 rule :rofl:

@R_onald totally agree. Funny thing is that, before I started to get serious into cycling, I bought a 150 euros bike only for commuting, which I tought it was to expensive in that time… and here I am now, 3 bikes later and thinking in buying another one.

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Nearly every rider who focuses on TT training also has a regular road bike and spends quite a bit of time on it. Personally I would put some aero bars on the road bike, maybe get a set of race wheels, and if the events bring joy then add a TT bike to the stable later.

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I miss one important serious suggestion.

Get clip-ons for your road bike AND a bike fit.

Both combined will almost certain be more aero then a new (undailed) tt bike. You can change your sadle position to mimic a tt bike.

I did a tt last weekend on my road bike with clipons. Although I missed the power to compete for the podium I was high mid-pack. While I was one of the few with a road bike with non disc wheels.

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Good call out here! I totally forgot about the clip-on aero bars that I had on my old road bike. They’re still there, but now they’re only used to hold my iPad for Zwifting. Yes, a set of clip-on aero bars will also make a difference to your race. And it’s a much cheaper way to find out how comfortable you are in that position, and how you feel about taking corners with your elbows / hands that close together. It does take a little getting used to.

@Vinicius_Zarpelao Glad to know you’re enjoying it so far. It’s a great community, and people are always there to add in their support.

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Some people even converted road bikes to be semi TT machines.

Remember Team Garmin-Sharp did this with the Cervelo S5 fitting TT cockpit to that bike instead of its usual road bike bars. I believe this was slightly lighter than the dedicated Cervelo P5 (which was about 8.5kg).

Another thing to consider is that some of the modern aero road bikes are very very fast themselves and might be an overall easier solution. Almost as fast and save money. Also you may not end up liking the TT bikes, personally I don’t, luckily I got mine cheaply from the Garmin team when they were offloading Cervelo bikes.

I know bikes now are frighteningly expensive.

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Yeah, that’s the problem.
It hurts to expend that much money in a bike just to use it eventually. I will follow the advices I got in the thread and will adapt a clip-on, I guess I can keep my bike for the next years.
If one day I actually register for a full distance, then I think of buying a TT or triathlon bike.

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N+1 and D-1 where D is a divorce ie 1 less bike than what will miff off the partner

Adding, a bit late.
Go for aero bars on a road bike.
Also, it amazes me how often I see riders on expensive bikes, carbon aero bars yet riding 90% of the time on the hoods or bar ends.
The rider is the least aero component of the system and the aero position that is COMFORTABLE AND SUSTAINABLE is the correct position for that rider.
If you’re not in the drops 90% of the time then your bike fit is wrong.
Bars are probably too wide and too low.

Sometimes a road bike with aerobar setup can be lighter as well. But totally agree with above.

Having the drops still there gives another option.