A Practical Guide to Buying Your First Triathlon Bike

While any given race will see its share of £2,500, £3,000, and higher-priced top-end cycles, the right bike for a beginner triathlete doesn’t have to be that expensive even though the triathlon bike entry-level pricing has gone up dramatically in recent years.  

Here are a few things to look for in your entry-level tri bike, along with a few recommendations.

A Practical Guide to Buying Your First Triathlon Bike

The £2,500 Inflection Point

Beginner cyclists should start with their budget when buying their first road and triathlon bike. There is a rough inflexion point in the bike industry where bikes become exceedingly valuable for the money. That number is £2,500. 

Avoid buying a new sub-£2,500 bike from a local bike shop as your first bike. 

An entry-level road bike or entry-level triathlon bike costing less than £2,500 will depreciate significantly more than a new bike costing more than £2,500. 

Resale Value 

One of the biggest reasons we recommend beginners buy a triathlon bike that is more than £2,500 is the exceptional resale value. Cheaper bikes (sub-£2,500) will depreciate quickly, and there is already a massive market for them on sites like Gumtree and eBay.

In contrast, a new £2,500 bike can be resold at nearly the same value, given minimal wear and tear. That’s because £2,500 bikes have mid-level components and higher quality materials than sub £2,500 bikes. 

Buying a New £2,500 Bike 

A new bike from a local bike shop, with a value of at least £2,500 is a good deal. These bikes will have much better resale value because of the higher quality materials, components, and design. 

Buying a bike at a local shop is a great way to multitask your bike-buying journey – you can ask questions about sizing, components and maintenance from a professional bike mechanic. 

A local bike shop will also have any accessories you need with the purchase of a new bike. 

Components and groupsets are one of the main differentiators between sub-£2,500 and £2,500, especially for the bike’s resale value. ( The groupset refers to the moving parts of a bike and its drivetrain, including the derailleurs, brakes, bottom bracket, and shift levers.)

What if My Budget is Less Than £2,500? 

If your budget is less than £2,500: buy a used bike instead of a new bike. 

When you buy a used bike, you will save money on the depreciation that has already occurred. That way, you get a better bike for your dollar. 

Quick Guide to Buying a Triathlon Bike

Step 1: Research Online for Bikes That Fit Your Budget

Remember our advice from the beginning of this post: as a beginner, you should buy a new £2,500 bike with good resale value or a used sub-£2,500 bike. 

To help narrow down your options, make sure you have one or two different bike sizes that you are looking for. This could be a 54cm or 56cm frame or a Medium or Large. 

Most bike manufacturers have a height-to-bike-size chart that you can use as a starting point. However, every rider has unique physiological dimensions that could affect their ideal bike size.

Do some browsing and pick out a few of your favourite bikes from your research. Next, look up local bike shops to see what bikes they carry and what they might have available. If you have a match or two, you are ready to look at a potential new road bike!

If you are buying a used bike, do as much research as possible on the options you find. Take a close look at the pictures and details of the bike to ensure it is in good working order. 

Specifically, look at the chain, cassette, and groupset for wear and tear. For example, if the chain is black, that is a good sign that the previous owner has not taken good care of the bike. Thus, the components are likely to be worn out; even if they’re in working condition now, they’ll probably need to be replaced soon. 

Step 2: Look at Bikes In-Person and Go for a Test Ride

With a bike or two (or three) in mind, head to a local bike shop and see your options in person. As much as you can read about something online, it is always best to check it out in reality before making the final purchase. 

If the shop has your size available, ask to take the bike for a test ride. A bike mechanic will ensure that the bike is ready to ride, and you should be able to take it around the parking lot or maybe even down the road. 

You should have an immediate feeling if the bike is a good fit or not. If it feels smooth, natural, and comfortable, this bike could be for you. 

If possible, test ride a different size or a different bike for comparison’s sake. Try to notice any differences and if you’re happier with the first bike or the second. It won’t be long before you’re ready to make your purchase. 

For those purchasing a used bike, you can follow most of the same protocol when seeing the bike in person. Any good salesperson will let you test out the product, so you should be able to spin around the parking lot on the used bike. Ask the seller as many questions as possible to be confident in your final purchase. 

Step 3: Dial In Your Bike Fit

Once you’ve picked out your new (or used) road bike, it’s crucial to dial in your bike fit. That means adjusting the handlebars and saddle to fit your body’s dimensions. 

Don’t worry if you’re not a bike fitting expert. A local shop may have a professional bike fitter who can set you up with a comfortable riding position. You can also make some adjustments on your own, as most parts on a bike can be moved around by loosening an Allen key (just don’t forget to retighten it).  

What to Look for in a Triathlon Bike

Fit

The fit should feel comfortable, but also allows you to transfer max power to the pedals. Note that different brands have different angles and build, so a 56cm bike in one brand is not always identical to the same size in another brand.

The bottom line:  Do not compromise on fit.

Frame

  • Carbon Fiber costs more than Aluminum, which costs more than Steel. As you look at frame options, know that carbon is going to be the lightest of the entry-level price point frames, and it typically provides the best overall ride on the road.  
  • Aluminum is by not going away.  People like the durability of aluminium, and the fact that it is less expensive.  If a manufacturer makes a bike with an aluminium frame, it often means that they use the leftover money to put better components on it, all while staying within their target MSRP. 
  • Titanium is also a growing type of frame, but typically not at the entry-level price point.  In general, try to get the highest-end frame that you can afford because you can always update components over the years. 

Components

Spend your money on the moving components — anything that spins. That means that your money should go into the wheels, cranks, chainrings, etc.

An important component to pay attention to is gearing.  The number of teeth that your front chainrings (there are usually two) have, as well as your rear cassette, will be a major factor in how you perform on your bike. 

Condition

Do not buy anything that has a bent, corroded, or cracked frame.  After that, make sure that the components are in good working condition, such as the brakes, shifters, rims, and cables.

It can be really hard to detect a crack in the frame, so spend some time examining the frame. Know that you can easily replace tyres and seats, so if those are not in perfect shape, don’t sweat it, especially if it means you are getting a deal on the bike.

Should You Buy a New or Used Tri Bike?

Gumtree and eBay can be placed to get what was a £1,000 bike for half that or less. Consider a used bike if it gets you a better frame.

Buying a bike that is more than five years old means forgoing recent technological and material advances. 

Closely inspect a carbon fibre frame for cracks because they are very difficult to repair well. Most cracks will be around places where bolts and joints exist – because most carbon fibre cracks come from someone cranking a bolt on too tight.

Take the bike to a bike shop for a once-over before you close the deal.  Some wear on the components will be normal, but you just want to be sure you don’t end up with a defective frame.  

There are several advantages to buying a new bike. Perhaps one of the biggest benefits is that if you buy it from a local bike shop, you can bring it back in for adjustments a few times within the first few months of ownership.  

You also know that there is virtually zero chance of a hairline crack in the frame, something that is very hard to detect but can compromise the performance and longevity of a used bike.  

With a new bike, you are going to have the latest in engineering and componentry, and it should make you satisfied for a longer period before you feel the need to upgrade your bike.  

Quick Guide to Buying a Triathlon Bike

1. Research Online for Bikes That Fit Your Budget

As a beginner, you should buy a new £2,500 bike with good resale value or a used sub-£2,500 bike. Find your local Tri club, that’s where you will find good quality bikes which have been used and looked after by like-minded athletes.

To help narrow down your options, make sure you have one or two different bike sizes that you are looking for. This could be a 54cm or 56cm frame or a Medium or Large. 

Most bike manufacturers have a height-to-bike-size chart that you can use as a starting point. However, every rider has unique physiological dimensions that could affect their ideal bike size.

Do some browsing and pick out a few of your favourite bikes from your research. Next, look up local bike shops to see what bikes they carry and what they might have available. If you have a match or two, you are ready to look at a potential new road bike!

If you are buying a used bike,, look at the chain, cassette, and groupset for wear and tear. For example, if the chain is black, that is a good sign that the previous owner has not taken good care of the bike. Thus, the components are likely to be worn out; even if they’re in working condition now, they’ll probably need to be replaced soon. 

2. Look at Bikes In-Person and Go for a Test Ride

With a bike or two in mind, head to a local bike shop and see your options in person. It is always best to check it out before making the final purchase. 

If the shop has your size available, ask to take the bike for a test ride. A bike mechanic will ensure that the bike is ready to ride, and you should be able to take it around the parking lot or maybe even down the road. 

You should have an immediate feeling if the bike is a good fit or not. If it feels smooth, natural, and comfortable, this bike could be for you. 

If possible, test ride a different size or a different bike for comparison’s sake. Try to notice any differences and if you’re happier with the first bike or the second. It won’t be long before you’re ready to make your purchase. 

For those purchasing a used bike, you can follow most of the same protocol when seeing the bike in person. Any good salesperson will let you test out the product, so you should be able to spin around the parking lot on the used bike. Ask the seller as many questions as possible to be confident in your final purchase. 

3. Dial In Your Bike Fit

Once you’ve picked out your new (or used) road bike, it’s crucial to dial in your bike fit. That means adjusting the handlebars and saddle to fit your body’s dimensions. 

Don’t worry if you’re not a bike fitting expert. A local shop may have a professional bike fitter who can set you up with a comfortable riding position. You can also make some adjustments on your own with an Allen Key.  

With your bike fit dialled, you’re ready to ride!

 

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