Dear Tech Support,
I am just getting started in triathlon and I am going to buy a road bike. I was looking at the Specialized Allez, but then I called a bike shop was recommended an Eddy Merckx Team SC. Another shop recommended the Kestrel Talon based on the fact that the geometry could be changed from road to tri based on the seat angle. Any ideas, help or opinions would be a great help. I don’t mind traveling. Thanks.
Your dilemma is a common one. It is easy to get confused because the more people and shops you speak with the more opinions you are going to get.
There are a lot of well made options available, including all of the ones you have mentioned. However, until you are fit by a qualified technician, I would try not to think much about what bike you are going to get. Why? Each bike you have mentioned is designed around a different geometry and ride characteristics. Until you have been professionally fit, you will not have the information you need to know which frame geometries are going to match your body best. Your body should not have to adapt to the bike, your bike should be chosen on how well it adapts to your body.
A professional face-to-face fit session can save you thousands of dollars in misfit frames and poorly matched parts – never mind just helping you to ride more comfortably and efficiently. Be sure to interview your prospective technician about their fitting methodology and knowledge of the aero position to make sure that they are qualified to help you. Your flexibility and biomechanical alignment are just two of the variables, beyond your body measurements, that they should take into account. Also, be aware that just because a technician is good at road fitting, they are not necessarily qualified to help you with aero fitting. For best results, find a technician or a specialty store known for fitting services and be inquisitive. A good resource for more information on how to buy a bike and how to find a qualified fitter is the Master Bike Fitters Association – a professional organization of qualified dealers.
There is no single frame or bike that I can universally recommend to all riders. With my clients, I use the geometry and personal information I gain in the fit session to make individual recommendations. Depending upon your flexibility, and other fit related considerations, one bike may or may not be able to do double duty well. Triathlon bike geometry is specific to the forward aero position and includes geometry changes, like shorter head tubes and chain stays, to accommodate the lower body position used in the aero position while helping to keep weight distribution even and the bike stable and handling properly. If you become a serious triathlete, you owe it to yourself to own a triathlon specific bike for races and a road bike that you can do much of your training on. This being said, some of the more adjustable and versatile bikes on the market are the Kestrel Talon, Cervelo Soloist and Softride’s beam models. In all cases, you will need to change the stem angle and reach on the bike between the road and aero positions, as well as the seat angle.
Get fit first, ride hard and don’t forget to have fun.
Originally published June 2002/Copyright © 2002