I was sitting at Starbucks working on a post, and on my third cup of coffee when my friend had called me saying, “I need bike and I have no idea where to start.” Yes! Since I love this kind of stuff, I jumped up and drove over to his place to help him pick out a bike for his first triathlon.
By the time I got to his house, I already had three of my favorite shops already planned into our itinerary.
But first I interrogated my friend with these probing questions:
- Are you buying a bike just for this triathlon race, or would you like to further get into cycling for fitness and enjoyment?
- After this race, are you planning on doing a longer distance triathlon?
- Do you already have an idea of what you’d like to spend?
- Have you considered a used bike?
If you’re like me, you don’t want to look like a (complete) idiot when show up at a bike shop, so I like to study up and have a general idea about what I’m looking for before I start my search. When looking for a bike for your first triathlon, your best bet is to get a road bike. However, you can totally use a mountain bike and then swap the chunky tires for thin road bike tires. Check out this awesome post for a breakdown of different bike options.
The search begins…
1. Start at a bike shop
My advice is to begin your search at an actual bike shop, rather than a general sporting goods store or a place like Wal-Mart. That way you can see the merchandise firsthand, and you’ll learn a lot by asking questions. Plus, the guys working there can make good recommendations will steer you in the right direction.
In addition, the bike store dudes are going to let you take it for a spin out in the parking lot, and this is where you’ll start to feel some of the differences of price ranges, makes and models.
2. Stick to your budget
If you don’t have a budget to start off with, then there’s a classic trap that you’ll be sure to fall into. It’s the old, “but if I pay a little more, then I’ll get this…”
The worst part about this is you can always “feel” the quality difference on the more expensive bikes, and so that’s what you’ll start comparing the other bikes to.
I would recommend looking at the best bike your budget will get you. And that’s for a couple good reasons. One, is you’ll be happier with what you end up with. The other is more subjective, but I’m sure it’s true: I know you’ll fall in love with the sport of triathlon and getting yourself a better bike will keep you from having to upgrade too soon thereafter!
3. Make sure the size fits
If you’ve been around the bike-world block for very long, you’ll have heard that “bike fit” is very important. That is true for several reasons: being comfortable, producing power, and even preventing repetitive-use injury. This will start with the frame size and then from there the seat and handle bars are adjustable.
The guys at the bike shop will know exactly what frame size you need. Or, click here for this handy online calculator.
What if I’m right in-between the sizes??? Going with a slightly smaller frame size will give a little more aggressive nimble feel. A larger frame size will be a bit more comfortable for you.
4. After that, go with your favorite color!
Your decesion may come down to a toss up between a of couple bikes that are in the same price range, have decent components, and have caught your eye for some reason of another. If one really has a better feel than the other, I’d go with that one and you’ll soon forget about the color.
If all of your options are equal, go with the bike that you has the coolest paint color and you think looks the best!
There are many other choices in finding a bike, and finding a used option is a great way to save some cash money. Read more about that here.
Call out: Should you care about the components?
The components refer to the gear shifters. Better bikes come with better components, however, in my opinion, cheaper options still get the job done just fine.
It all comes down to what best fits your personal intentions. Honestly, if you think you’ll only do one triathlon race and are not interested in riding a bike after that, just do the race with whatever you can get your hands on. i.e. a beach cruiser, and old school fixie, a garage sale unicycle, Grandpa’s three-wheeler trike, or whatever (maybe not ALL of those).