The difference between triathlon bikes vs. road bikes is the same as the difference between an SUV and a coupe.
Although they both have two wheels, they are designed with different functions and goals in mind, resulting in triathlon bikes vs. road bikes having only the common denominator of “both riding on the road”.
We will start the triathlon bikes vs. road bikes with the usage scenario, riding environment, riding posture, functional requirements, and athlete needs.
Triathlon bikes vs. road bikes:usage scenario
First of all, according to the current competition rules, triathlon bikes vs. road bikes: road bikes can be used in triathlons, while triathlon bikes cannot be used in road bike races.
Based on the fact that the race was originally conceived by a group of drunk people in a bar, the triathlon has been “playful” in nature since its inception, and the only requirement is that individuals complete it independently, so the rules of the race revolve around “no external help”.
Road bikes are not only made for speed, but also for aerodynamics, handling, comfort, mountain, hilly and urban conditions.
The basic shape, geometric angle, weight and aspect ratio of the frame are then designed according to UCI rules, and then according to the different understanding of the road bike philosophy of different brands, resulting in similar and different road bikes of each brand.
Triathlon bikes vs. road bikes: Unlike road bikes, which are designed from the perspective of pursuing all-round performance under the rules and regulations, triathlons have a fixed race course, with distances divided into 40km/90km/180km according to the type of race, and most races are ridden on relatively flat or gentle hilly terrain.
Under the premise of speed, the design needs of triathlon bikes for aerodynamics (low wind resistance) exceed comfort and handling, and because of the purpose of the event not being able to use external forces, the design of triathlon bikes also needs to take into account the storage of energy and food supplies for athletes riding long distances, water replenishment.
Not only that, but also its convenience, the use of body muscles and recovery during cycling sports, and because triathlon triathlon bike design does not need to follow UCI’s bicycle design rules, because the event is not under UCI management , thus giving birth to a new type of racing bike that is completely different from road bicycles.
Triathlon bikes vs. road bikes:riding environment
An important difference between triathlon bikes vs. road bikes is the riding environment.
Cycling races often feature large groups of people riding together like a flock of geese, often at speeds of 40km/h or more.
The distance between cyclists is really described as “shoulder-to-shoulder”, and the slightest carelessness will lead to a crash, and will also bring the surrounding riders down together.
The engine of the crash. For the “ironclad” sport of cycling, a crash can cost a lot of time (and possibly the championship), or a broken bone and a season or even a career, so handling is very important for road cycling.
IRONMAN, for example, triathlon is unique in that its race rules do not allow following bikes (ITU’s ITU race can only use road bikes because they can follow bikes), so the handling requirements for bicycles are greatly reduced, so triathletes can use poor handling but more rest-oriented lying low posture riding, so the handlebars of triathlon bikes are also called “resting handlebars”.
In addition to entering and exiting the change zone and water stations, some race courses are so flat that even brakes are rarely used.
So athletes can “lie down” on their triathlon bikes to complete the ride, for which the triathlon bike geometry is designed with a long wheelbase, making the triathlon bike more stable to compensate for poor handling.
This makes the triathlon bike more stable to compensate for poor handling.
Triathlon bikes vs. road bikes:riding posture
An important difference between triathlon bikes vs. road bikes is the riding position.
The geometry of the road bike allows the rider to better control the bike and use more of their body at all times, so what appears to be a leg-only road bike ride actually uses core and upper body strength, allowing the rider to handle flat roads, hills, and up and down hilly terrain with ease.
In order to adapt to the rhythm of the race, the road bike riding position also uses more muscle groups to produce more power and deliver a fatal blow at a critical moment in the race.
Since the first triathlon event is swimming, which consumes more upper limb strength, so when entering the cycling stage, the athlete adopts a low posture to ride with a resting grip, which allows the upper limb muscles to recover.
And lowering the height of the upper body can also reduce the windward area and greatly reduce air resistance, and the main muscle groups of cycling can be staggered with the main muscle groups of running to achieve the purpose of saving physical energy .
This is also for the last run to make physical energy reserves.
Triathlon bikes vs. road bikes:functional requirements
The next important difference between triathlon bikes vs. road bikes is the functional requirements.
In the climbing phase, the bike needs to be light enough to reduce the athlete’s power output to reduce physical effort; in the final sprint phase, professional athletes will often output 1000w or more, so the frame needs to be rigid enough to convert the athlete’s power into speed.
Competition road bikes are also designed to meet UCI’s overall minimum weight of 6.8kg. This is why the stiffness/weight ratio is more important in the design of road bikes.
Because high power output increases muscle fatigue, triathletes try to avoid high power output.
A high-level triathlete with an FTP of 350w will spend more than 80% of the race in the aerobic range of 220-260w, with 400-500w output only on overtaking or climbing, so triathlon bikes do not need to be overly rigid to weight.
On the other hand, because there is no UCI frame tube design constraint, triathlon bike design can be said to be unrestrained, with the tube shape conforming to hydrodynamics as much as possible to reduce air resistance and become more robust. marginal benefits.
Triathlon bikes vs. road bikes:athlete needs
The final important difference we are talking about between triathlon bikes vs. road bikes is the athlete needs.
Triathlon bikes vs. road bikes: for professional races, road bikes usually have a logistics truck with mechanics on board to quickly fix mechanical problems such as flat tires and wheel changes.
So there are also riders who carry water to the logistics truck at the back of the group to get water during the race, so there are usually two water bottle holders on road bikes, which are only enough for athletes to drink for 1-2 hours.
At the end of the race, riders will throw away their water bottles to reduce air resistance and a little weight.
Due to race rules, triathletes can only get water and some energy from official race water stations and have to wait for official assistance in case of mechanical failure.
Therefore, most athletes need to carry their own energy gels or energy bars, suitable for their own sports drinks at the same time to meet in the rest put on drinking water.
Many brands have designed independent aerodynamic water systems to provide athletes with hydration, and there are also designed supply box compartments on the frame that allow athletes to carry energy supplies and some bike repair tools – something that is prohibited in the UCI rules.
The above, we hope, will help clear up any confusion about triathlon bikes vs. road bikes.