“What type of bike do I need for a triathlon?”
The quick answer is that, practically speaking, you only need a bike that has two wheels and is safe to operate. We see all types of bikes in the transition area from athletes who grabbed their child’s mountain bike and helmet for the race, to the top-of-the-line, just pulled out of the latest triathlon magazine triathlon bikes. For many just entering the sport, the cost of an entry level triathlon bike (typically $700 and up) can be prohibitive to the family budget, especially in a state with numerous single income households and families where the number of children far exceeds the national average.
The good news is that since all of our TriUtah events use bike courses that are 100% on pavement, those mountain bikes from Wal-Mart and Target are just fine to use. Granted they won’t help you to be the fastest triathlete out on the course, but you will be able to experience the thrill and excitement of racing, right alongside those with high end triathlon bikes.
My first triathlon was probably much like your’s. I showed up at a local race with my just-purchased mountain bike from Pederson’s Ski & Sport, knobby tires and all. Once I was out on the bike course, countless people passed me on bikes with skinny tires, fancy water bottle holders, and shoes that matched their frame color. Since it was my first race, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I finished my first triathlon and I was hooked. I slowly upgraded my mountain bike so I could go faster: slick tires and toe clips. After a few more races, I KNEW triathlon was a lifelong pursuit. I found a used $400 road bike and upgraded it as my budget allowed. First a set of aerobars, then an angled seatpost. Finally after a few years came my first triathlon bike. I didn’t go crazy; it was a modest purchase of a step above entry level. In fact, after 6 years, I’m still using that same bike and don’t feel the need (at least right now) to upgrade any farther. The bike matches my ability, and I epitomize the phrase, “It’s the engine, not the bike.” Now, if I want to go faster, I know that it’s my personal fitness that’s keeping me off the podium, and not the bike.
For those of you who just blew the dust off that mountain bike in the corner of the garage, remember that we’ve all been there. We know what it’s like to come to your first race a little intimidated by all the triathlon equipment bling. Just remember that those of us who have been racing awhile are willing to help you every step of the way as you progress in the sport, and we don’t care if you need to use that mountain bike a little longer than you originally planned.