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Make the Most of Your Bike

Thinking of tackling your first triathlon or upgrading your bike? Coach Jason takes on your questions about proper bike fitting and how to navigate all the equipment options available! All questions are provided by Ironman's Strava Club. Do you have a question? Comment below and we will answer!

Where to start?

jerseytriguy- What is the best tri bike on a budget?

Determine how much you want to spend. Consider drivetrain, wheel set, frame material and most importantly—the size. Even the most experienced athletes don’t have the absolute highest end components. Put an emphasis on investing in a very aerodynamic frame, good drivetrain and excellent equipment like tires and aero helmet.

The best triathlon bike on a budget may even be pre-owned. In fact, there is a tremendous amount of value to be had in buying pre-owned. Consult with you local triathlon club or online triathlon community’s classifieds to see what’s out there.

wayneb848 - Good bike for tall guys?

Most major triathlon bike manufactures make XL (58cm) or even XXL (60cm) frames to accommodate tall riders. Your leg length, torso length and flexibility will help a bike fit professional determine which size is most appropriate for you. Consult with your local triathlon club or bike shop to find a trusted fitter in your area.

mbburnette - Looking to upgrade from my starter bike, but there are so many options! Where do I start? Looking for a road bike that can be used for triathlons, but also for countryside overnight trips. Help please!

I recommend a carbon road bike that has a bit more tire/frame clearance to accommodate a wider tire (32-38mm) for when you want to do some adventure riding/camping. Consider disc brakes as you will have the option to race on the pavement at a very high level and when you want to ride gravel or go camping, you have the option to throw on different wheels or tires.

dlozanod - Is there a recommendation for ONE bike that works well for road training and doing triathlon? Rather spend more money into one good bike than buying two separate bikes. The tri bike gets generally used little. Thanks

If you’re looking for one bike to use in road training/racing and triathlon, consider looking into an “aero” road bike. They share many of the same aerodynamic benefits of a triathlon bike, but have traditional drop bars. As you prepare for your Ironman event, install aerobars and adapt to the new position. On raceday, you will be just about as aero as any other triathlon bike on-course.

Proper bike fit

wnix94 - Great topic. Is getting a professional to fit me to my bike worth it? And should I do that early on or later in my training?

A professional bike fit is absolutely a worthy investment. The fundamentals of a good bike fit are aerodynamics, power and comfort. Do you want to sacrifice any of these fundamentals? I didn’t think so!

Since bike fit is usually a multi-appointment/adaptation process, I suggest starting early and revisiting the position several times throughout your season. Small position tweaks should leave you feeling relaxed and more comfortable. However, larger changes may take multiple phases to adapt.

gomezsimmons - How far forward is too far forward when it comes to seat position?

When your crank arms are level (3/9 position) drop a plumb line from the front of the patella (knee cap). We want the plumb line to fall 4cm ahead of the crank arm. Keep in mind that this is just a starting point. From there we can determine the rider’s optimal hip angle. By maintaining the rider’s appropriate hip angles we can make sure that the rider can deliver power efficiently in the aero position and set them up for their best run off the bike.

trimendel - How bent should you be to gain the most aerodynamics?

In my opinion, head position is more important than the amount of drop you have or any specific fit coordinates. Put an emphasis on keeping your head low and eyes up. It takes time to adapt to a proper triathlon position. Visualize trying to hide your head behind your hands and relax the upper body. Gently rest your fingertips on your shifters and allow your skeletal structure to support your upper body. Relax!

hampushellermark - Being on a time trial bike for the first time. How should your upper body be positioned?

The upper body is going to be a bit more forward than you’re used to, so you need to be sure that your weight is being supported by your skeletal structure. As long as your elbows are placed properly on the aerobar pads, you should not feel much strain in your neck, shoulders or back. If you do, take a more conservative approach to fit. Remember, that TT/triathlon bike fit requires an adaptation process and bike fit is not always “one and done.” It takes time to adapt to a new position. The best position is the one that allows you to stay static and comfortable. Not the one that looks the fastest.

castatop - After finding a good bike fitting for performance and comfort (back pain is passed) with a specialist now I want to change my saddle (Adamo Attack) for a "no nose" one because of inner tight issue. How can I change saddle without changing my fitting?

For a noseless saddle, proper setup is key and you should consult with a trusted bike fit technician to take an objective look at your new position.

Fore/Aft : Because you have a noseless saddle, it needs to sit a bit further back than a traditional saddle. There should be about 1-3 inches of saddle showing behind your body when riding a noseless saddle.

Height: Due to the noseless design, you need to setup saddle heights slightly lower than a traditional seat to maintain the same body height. A good starting point is 5 millimeters lower.

Angle: You should not need to tilt the angle of the saddle down more than 1-2 degrees.

keto.hunter.01 - If I only have access to using a mountain bike with street tires how can I set it up to be the most efficient?

To make your mountain bike more road-friendly, install some more efficient tires that don’t have “knobbies”. Go with a slicker, more road-like tire that will roll faster on pavement. Additionally, make sure the fork is as “rigid” or if the bike has a lock-out, make sure it is engaged so that you don’t bounce and you can ride as efficiently as possible on the road.

Brian R. - Can I fit my bike myself? I’ve tried and I think I got it fairly comfy but what do I need to look out for? I don’t feel like I get much out the upstroke currently.

You can fit yourself and get a fairly good triathlon position through trial and error. You can even post a video of your position on your favorite triathlon forum, but you may get more opinions than you’re interested in. I think it’s much more productive to work with a trusted, experienced fitter who can take an objective, but collaborative approach (give real-time postural cues) to helping you dial in your TT position. Remember that the TT position is not natural and takes time to adapt. Be patient!

jeppson57 - What are most important adjustments I can make if I can't afford a proper bike fitting? dibbled89 5 quick tips to complete your own DIY bike fitting at home?

1. Saddles - Because a proper position requires anterior pelvic rotation, the saddle is the most important aspect of the triathlon bike position. This pelvic rotation pivots us forward on the saddle causing pressure on sensitive soft tissue. If you’re not sitting on a saddle that allows you to take pressure off that soft tissue and place it onto your pubic rami/ischium, you need to find a new saddle. However, don’t let someone tell you what saddle to ride. Try several types by utilizing your local bike shop’s saddle demo program. Remember that we are not used to bearing weight in this area and some discomfort is normal.

2. Shoulders – Proper placement of your elbow on the aerobar arm pad (fore/aft) should allow your to support your body weight skeletally and reduce shoulder pain. That being said, the forward rotation of your position will place more stress on your shoulders than you’re probably used to. This is all part of the adaptation phase.

3. Neck – Keep your head down and your chin up! Do not lift your entire head. Fit expert, Mat Steinmetz refers to this as “periscope head”. Keep your spine in aneutral position and try to hide behind your hands.

4. Cleats – Do not “slam” your cleats in the forward position toward your toes. This will most likely cause you to point your toes and promote bad pedal stroke mechanics.

5. Patience - It can take up to 3 weeks (depending on ride frequency/volume) to adapt to your TT position and saddle. Remember that the triathlon position is not organic and some initial discomfort should be expected. With persistence and time your discomfort should fade. If you’re still having issues after a few weeks, don’t be afraid to work with with a trusted fitter.

Bike accessories

elvirbe - I just got my first tri bike, I have basic bottle cages on the frame right now. Are there benefits to relocating them to the seat post behind the rider?

Keeping your frame “clean” is definitely going to be faster than having cages installed as it’s proven to be more aerodynamic. However, if you need to sit up and leave your aero position to reach behind your saddle every time you need to drink, you may be negating those saved watts. Try to mount a bottle between your aerobars and one behind your saddle. Practice eating and drinking while staying aero and reap the benefits on race day.

call_me__deep - Is mounting aero bar on a road bike a good option?

As long as you’re confident in the aerobars, mounting aerobars to your road bike is a great option to improve aerodynamics and speed. However, I do think you will see a significant improvement in performance over an Ironman or Ironman 70.3 bike course aboard a triathlon-specific bike.

papa_kirks - Helmets...short tail or long tail, smooth surface or dimpled?

Unfortunately, I can’t give you a definitive answer as to which shape or surface is truly the fastest. Keep in mind that a helmet may be fast on one rider, but not as fast on another. That being said, for long course triathlon, I wouldn’t recommend a very long tailed TT helmet as it’s nearly impossible to stay static and the elongated tail may cause turbulence/drag.

Head position, bike fit and a few other variables make helmet selection subjective unless you have access to a wind tunnel or complete your own field test using the Chung Method. The good news is that if you have power meter on your bike, you already own a mobile and accurate wind tunnel!

rdawson57 - What are must have accessories and what are nice to haves, as it relates to carriers for nutrition, bike repair, etc.

In training, use your bike jersey pockets to carry a flat kit, nutrition, credit card etc. However, on race day we don’t always have the luxury of a jersey with 3 large pockets to carry our essentials. Install a saddlebag under your saddle containing a c02 inflator, tube (with appropriate length valve), tire lever and boot. For raceday, you may want to install a bento box on your top tube so you can have easy access to gels, bars, salt pills, etc.

cwgrow - I am transitioning to my first distance tri. Are carbon wheels truly that important for an age grouper? If so, what are good budget friendly options?

A 40mm deep carbon wheel is faster than a standard aluminum box rim wheel, period. If getting to the finish line faster is important to you, then consider upgrading to a pair of carbon wheels. I recommend a depth of about 30-60mm for the front wheel and 60-80mm for the rear. Invest in a pair of carbon clinchers so that you can ride them daily and gain confidence in all weather conditions. Remember that the depth of your front wheel, not rear, dictates handling. Check the pre-owned market for a pair of used carbon clinchers with low miles.

trimendel - Are aerobars a necessity for a 70.3?

Riding in an aerodynamic position for 56 miles is undoubtedly faster than riding upright or on the hoods of a road bike. So yes, I would say that aerobars are necessity for a 70.3. However, take time to adapt to your aerobars and consult with a bike fitter to adjust your road bike to accommodate the new position.

Shaunak Kar - If I was to make my first investment, should I put my money on cleats+clipless or some magnetic trainers?

I would purchase your clipless shoes and pedals first, but riding the trainer is the best way to teach yourself how to clip in and unclip effectively. You’ll see a huge improvement in pedaling efficiency and overall speed (especially climbing) by making the transition to clipless pedals.

Igor Voltaic - Hello! Is it worth changing 10s shimano 105 cassette to 11s?

Unless you plan to upgrade your entire drivetrain to 11 speed, I would keep your 10 speed cassette and drivetrain.

Andrew Lea Davies - Tubular or clincher wheels, which do you recommended? This is my second IRONMAN so not much experience.

I recommend that all my athletes train and race on clinchers—ideally carbon clinchers. A high quality tire with a latex tube on a clincher is arguably just as fast as any tubular out there and much easier to maintain, in my opinion. Just remember to train on butyl tubes and save the latex for race day. Also, never use latex tubes in your flat kit as you're much more likely to damage the tube during a rushed road-side install. Lastly, the C02 canister you use to inflate your tube will escape latex tubes much faster than their butyl counterparts.

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