Are Bikes Provided In Triathlon Races? What Are Your Options !


Triathlon race organizers do not usually provide bikes for triathletes. It is the triathlete’s responsibility to bring his/her bike to the race day in a proper working condition that matches the rules set forward by the organizer.

One of the most expensive pieces of gear you’ll need for a triathlon is the bike, but it shouldn’t be a barrier. Here are some of your options,

  • If you’re unable to buy a road or triathlon bike, or you’re simply not ready to commit, you may have the option to rent or borrow one.

It will be important to consider the cost of a rental compared to the cost of an entry-level bike, but this can be a great way to try it before you buy.

We’ll go over how you can rent a bike for a triathlon, what to expect if you do, and what kind of bike you’ll want to use.

Can You Rent a Bike for A Triathlon? What Are Your Options!

Some race organizers partner with local stores to offer bike rental options, which comes in very handy for athletes traveling from overseas. Another option is to contact the local stores yourself and reserve either a road bike or a triathlon bike if available.

A third option is to rent a bike from other people. You can browse Spinlister marketplace for options (Source). This can be a great option specifically if you’re looking to try a triathlon bike for the first time but aren’t ready to spend thousands of dollars to see if you’ll like it.

In addition, if you’re unable to rent a bike (or if the cost is too prohibitive), it’s always worthwhile to reach out to friends and your community to see if someone has an unused bike they’d be happy to let you borrow.

Renting a bike works very well for people traveling to a race who do want to save on the cost (and hassle) of bringing their own bike.

If you’re not looking to race on a triathlon bike, you’ll have even more options.

A lot of universities with outdoor recreation programs will have gear rentals available to community members, and this can often include bikes. They may not be perfectly set up for a triathlon race, but they can be a solid choice if you just want to see if you’ll like triathlon at all. This can also work well if you need to rent a bike for training purposes.

The Downside of Renting a Bike for A Race

When renting a bike for a race, the athlete has very little time to get used to it and make the small bike fit tweaks which could reflect on the performance and comfort level of the ride. Another factor is the assumption that the bike leasear has performed the proper maintenance to the bike inorder to avoid mechanical failure during the event. The most important item to inspect is the tires.

The most common bike failure during a triathlon is flat tires which could result from old and worn-out tires. For more on this, you can check out our post “How Common Are Flat Tires In Triathlons? Causes And How To Avoid Them

Do You Have to Provide Your Own Bike for An Ironman?

Just like any triathlon, you will need to provide your own bike for an Ironman race. This can be in the form of a bike rental (which often have convenient locations near large Ironman races), or your own personal bike. The race itself will not provide bikes, nor will it provide supplies for the swim or run portion.

In addition to providing your own bike, you’ll want to make sure you have the following gear for the cycling portion of any triathlon race:

  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Cycling shoes (whether for clipless or flat pedals)
  • Socks
  • Water bottle and nutrition (depending on length of the race)

It can be very helpful to try all of your gear before you arrive at the starting line. This will help you feel more comfortable and confident on the ride. You’ll also want to make sure a mechanic goes over your bike prior to the race to make sure it’s in good working condition.


Do Triathletes Need a Road Bike?

No, triathletes don’t need road bikes. Technically, you can race a triathlon with any kind of bike – from fixies to enduro mountain bikes, though they likely won’t be the easiest to race with. It’s usually easiest to race with what you have for your first triathlon rather than stressing yourself out over a big purchase you may not even want.

If you fall in love with the sport of triathlon, you can decide to commit to a better bike for the next one.

Generally speaking, though, most triathletes will prefer to use some sort of road bike for their race.

At the more competitive levels, this will look like a very light and aerodynamic setup or a triathlon bike. Triathlon bikes are made specifically for the sport, utilizing different geometry to make for a comfortable and fast ride during the race.

How Much Faster Is a Tri Bike vs Road Bike?

A triathlon bike can allow you to go an average of 9 seconds per km faster than a road bike.. While that may not seem like much at first glance, it can make a difference of 6 minutes in a 40km race. This is because it can require less effort to maintain the same level of watts as you would on a road bike, thus going faster for the same output. If you’re looking for a competitive edge, a triathlon bike can really make a difference.(Source)

However, a road bike can still be a very fast option for a triathlon. If you’re not as competitive, you’ll still get plenty out of your road bike. This is also a great choice if you don’t want to have multiple bikes, as you’re unlikely to use the triathlon bike for anything but racing (and using on an indoor trainer).

You can also try a tri bike before committing to one. Here is a post we wrote about “Can You Rent a Triathlon Bike? How To And Should You Do It!

For more on this, check out our post Is a TT Tri Bike Faster than a Road Bike?

What Is Special About a Triathlon Bike?

There are a lot of components that make a triathlon bike unique. One thing you’ll likely notice right away is the different seat position. Triathlon bikes have a much steeper seat tube angle than road bikes do. This forces the rider to sit with their hips more forward, which creates less tension on the quadriceps and hamstrings. (Source)

This can be a game-changer for long distances and your legs are able to do more work with less strain. In addition to the different seat tube, here are some other things that make a triathlon bike special:

Aerodynamics

The name of the game in any cycling race is aerodynamics. Because drafting isn’t legal in many triathlons, having a super aerodynamic bike is extra important. This helps the rider maintain high efforts without the assistance of a peloton. The components can include deep rims, which cause less wind resistance, and aerodynamic bars, which allow the rider to be in a tucked aerodynamic position.

Storage

You’ll need plenty of fuel for the demanding cycling portion of a race, so triathlon bikes have gotten clever with their storage. Because bags can create wind drag, many triathlon bikes will have storage built into the frame for storing nutrition. These spaces can also be used for fluid and small bike tools or tubes.

If you have the funds and desire to buy a triathlon bike, it can be incredibly satisfying to have the right tool for the job.

Do Triathlon Bikes Have Gears?

Yes, triathlon bikes will have gears. A standard triathlon bike will have 10 gears attached to the rear wheel (called the cassette). This, combined with two chainrings in the front, makes for a total of 20 different gearing combinations. However, this doesn’t necessarily equate to 20 different gears, as you may have a bit of overlap depending on what chainring and cog you’re on – this is called the gear ratio.

We won’t get too in the weeds with that for now, but it can be helpful to understand it as you progress in your training and racing journey. (Source)

In general, it can really come down to personal preference for which crankset you’ll want to ride. Stronger triathletes may opt for a 52/36 setup. (Source)

This means the largest chainring in the front has 52 teeth while the largest cog in the bag has 36 teeth. This can give incredible power and speed on flat terrain while still being small enough to climb (though newer triathletes may struggle with this set up).

Learning how to properly utilize your gears during a ride can make you a stronger, faster, and more efficient cyclist overall.

Things to keep in mind

If you’re new to triathlon, there’s no need to break the bank. Find a bike that you can use to train with and complete a shorter-distance triathlon to see if you’d like to continue with the sport.

As you get more serious, you may consider upgrading to an aerodynamic road bike or even a triathlon bike. If you’re still not ready to make the purchase, you can consider renting a triathlon bike from a specialty shop.

Aprill Emig

Based out of Duluth, MN Aprill loves to write about the outdoors, education, and all forms of adventure. You can find her mountain biking, running, or playing roller derby.

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