Can you use a tri bike for road biking? Triathlon bikes and road bikes are fairly similar, but you may still run into problems.
However, a tri bike and a road bike are not the same, so you may run into some problems if you stay on a tri bike for too long. Your body position is different on a tri bike. If you are not a competitive athlete, and only want a bike you can ride all day, a road bike is more comfortable.
Triathlon bikes are made for races, where drag has to be minimized to give riders a good chance. On a triathlon bike, you sit lower and closer to the handlebars, minimizing drag. If you are going for a long ride and not racing, a road bike is more comfortable than a tri bike.
Road bikes also perform better in poor weather. A strong wind will make a tri bike hard to control, which usually won't happen with a road bike. Road bikes are multi-purpose bikes; tri bikes are specifically for triathlon races.
In my experience, tri bikes work well enough as regular road bikes that you don't necessarily need to get a road bike as well as a tri bike. If you want to cycle very long distances, a more comfortable road bike might be necessary, but otherwise, you can use a tri bike as a road bike.
What is a Triathlon?
A triathlon is an athletic event that is only partly a bike race. Competitors have to be good at all three of running, swimming, and cycling to succeed. Since the races are long, it is an endurance sport.
The races can be more than 100 or more than 200 kilometers long, though most are shorter. Olympic races start with 1.5 kilometers of swimming, then 40 km of bicycling, and then 10 km of running. This is, of course, exhausting and only for trained athletes that are used to endurance sports.
In a competitive bike race, including a bike race that depends more on endurance than sheer speed, little things can make the difference between winning and losing. One of these things is aerodynamics, so you cannot realistically win a competitive triathlon race without the right bike and the right riding posture.
Triathlon Bikes are More Expensive
Road bikes are more for beginners; triathlon bikes are more for competitive athletes. This is partly because of the amount of skill required to make the most of a tri bike and partly because tri bikes are more expensive.
Triathlon bikes are more expensive because they are of higher quality, not because the design of the bikes makes them more expensive. Triathlon bikes are made of premium materials.
The market for triathlon bikes is different - road bikes are for everyday users as well as racers; tri bikes are for triathlon competitors who take the sport seriously.
Triathlon Bikes are Faster than Road Bikes
In my experience, a triathlon bike works perfectly well as a road bike. You don't usually need to get a second bike. You can use a triathlon bike as a general-purpose bike and not only for triathlon racing.
At best, you will find a triathlon bike to work just as well as a road bike, except faster if you want to go fast. A triathlon bike is aerodynamic. You will cut through the air wonderfully if you use a triathlon bike.
Again, triathlon bikes can be used as multi-purpose bikes. You can use your triathlon bike for riding around the city, exercising, or doing non-triathlon races. The main reason why these are not marketed as multi-purpose bikes is that the high price limits the market to athletes.
Road Bikes are Also Reasonably Fast and Aerodynamic
Just because triathlon bikes are faster and more aerodynamic doesn't mean that road bikes are slow. Road bikes are reasonably fast - just not as fast as triathlon bikes are. You can use road bikes for racing, not only for getting around town or going on long biking trips.
Road Bikes are Easy to Modify
If you want to modify a road bike, you won't find this hard to do. Changing the wheels on a road bike is generally easy. If you want aero bars, they are easy to add.
Road Bikes are Better for All-Day Rides
If you want to ride a bike around all day but don't need to be as efficient and aerodynamic as possible, a road bike is better. It is more comfortable than a tri bike if you only want to ride for a long time and don't need to cut through the air quickly.
What is the Aero Position?
The aero position is a racing position where you lean forward to minimize wind resistance. If you are more upright, the air will push against your body and slow you down. You can minimize the surface area that pushes against the wind to minimize the wind resistance.
The importance of the aero position wasn't fully understood until the 1989 Tour De France. In this race, Greg Lemond (using the aero position, aero handlebars, and a streamlined helmet) was competing for first place against Laurent Fignon (ordinary riding position, ordinary handlebars, and no helmet).
While Laurent Fignon was ahead for a long time, Lemond caught up to and overtook him towards the end of the race, winning by only eight seconds. The outcome of that race, plus research about the aerodynamics of the body around that time, convinced everyone that the aero position is necessary for competitive racers.
Are Road Bikes Better on Some Challenging Courses?
Possibly, road bikes are a better choice if the course you are racing is challenging. If you have to go up and down hills, plus make sharp turns, a road bike might be better. It could be easier to control a road bike on such a challenging course.
However, this probably isn't true. A triathlon bike is a better racing bike, usually even for non-triathlon races. A very skilled rider will do better with a triathlon bike, even if the course is difficult. It is not known for sure, but probably only less skilled riders will find a course harder on a tri bike.
Skills that you use in triathlon, such as rounding corners properly and going up hills quickly, are useful in non-triathlon races, and so are the features of triathlon bikes. Again, the only real advantage of a road bike is if you are doing a very long ride where a road bike won't strain your body as much.
Should You Get A Road Bike if you Already Have a Triathlon Bike?
In my experience, no. If you use a BMX bike for mountain biking, you will run into problems (too hard to pedal up hills with only one gear, inadequate brakes), but you can use a triathlon bike as a road bike.
In many ways, riding a triathlon bike is just like riding a high-quality road bike. If you buy a cheaper road bike, you might find that it performs worse for traveling around town than your tri bike does.
The exception to this is if you find the position to be too uncomfortable when you do an all-day ride. In that case, a regular road bike might be better. Road bikes are sometimes better for endurance rides, but you can use a triathlon bike for everyday trips around town.
Should You Get a Triathlon Bike if You Already Have a Road Bike?
Yes, if you can afford a triathlon bike and want to attempt a triathlon (or a bicycle race that uses similar skills), you should get a triathlon bike. A modified road bike with aero bars is also good, but not as good as a true triathlon bike. You can reduce your time by buying a better bike.
About THE AUTHOR
Mountain biking is more than just a hobby for me - it's a way of life. I love the challenge and excitement that comes with it, and I'm always pushing myself to go faster and ride harder. Some people might think that mountain biking is dangerous, but I see it as the only way to live.Read More About Danny Lawson