Is a TT Tri Bike Faster than a Road Bike?


Getting serious with triathlon gives rise to questions like is a TT Tri Bike Faster than a road bike?

Getting a faster bike sure sounds promising when you are paddling your strength into it.

So, is a TT Tri Bike faster than a road bike? TT Triathlon Bikes are faster than the typical road bikes as they provide enhanced aerodynamics that is functioned to reduce air resistance, which allows the rider to advance faster. However, they are widely considered less comfortable and less stable than road bikes.

However, do not dismiss the idea of a Road bike for a triathlon. with some upgrades and in certain courses one can be pretty competitive on a road bike against the TT bike.

On a side note, do not waste your money on useless gear purchases and check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

It cannot be decided based on a single factor, there are many other aspects to put into respective when comparing Triathlon vs Road Bikes. I have put together a list of facts and queries that can help you in making your decision.

But even before getting into speed, should you even consider buying a Triathlon bike. For more on this, check out our article on Are Triathlon Bikes Comfortable & When Should You Get One!

Road Vs Tri Bike
Road Vs Tri Bike

So Why Doesn’t Everyone Use A Triathlon Bike?

One main barrier for people to acquire a triathlon bike is cost. Triathlon bikes tend to be more expensive than road bikes. Furthermore, Triathlon bikes can only be used in Triathlons however, it is not allowed to use them in road bike Draft legal races, thus, deem them exclusive for the sport of triathlon, which is not usually perceived as a feasible purchase by many.

Make sure to check out Road & Mountain Bikes Essential Upgrades For Triathlons: A Beginners Guide

Also, triathlon bikes are prohibited in cycling races because of the unfair advantage it provides and the safety hazard resulted from the reduced stability.

TT Triathlon Bike vs Road Bike

Here’s a list of features on which the speed of the bike depends.

  • The power you can put and generate.
  • The wind Resistance (Aerodynamics)
  • Your posture while riding.
  • Clothing
  • Equipment (Helmet)

There are many reasons to believe that a Tri Bike is faster than a road bike, considering it was made solely for a triathlon race.

Every aspect of the time trial bike is designed to reduce its resistance through the air.

Let’s take a look at how this is achieved

Geometry.

Using Bike Fast Fit
TT bike geometry

A time trial bike features a more vigilant and aggressive geometry than a standard road bike.

  • Steeper Seat Tubes: They have steeper seat tubes (76 to 78 Degrees) to place the rider as far above the pedals as possible to have enhanced power transfer. That’s not the case with a road bike which feature 72 degrees
  • Shorter Head Tubes: The shorter head tubes allow the rider to get as low as possible on the bike to be in a more aerodynamic shape.

Aerobars (Tri Bars).

Bike Arobars
Bike Aerobars

They are the long forward-facing extensions at the very front of the bike.

It lets the rider adopt a highly aerodynamic type of position.

It is considered quite advantageous if you are looking to increase the rider speed during the race to adopt a tuck overriding upright.

The results have shown up to 122 seconds saved over a 42-kilometer time trial compared to that of a standard road bike which does not allow a much aero position due to the less steep tubes.

Check out How Much do Bike TT Aero HandleBar Weight and Cost? What matters the most!

Aerodynamic Tubing.

The frames of this bike utilize deeper tubing and airfoil-inspired shaping for enhanced and improved aerodynamics. And this alone can save the rider up to 20 seconds over a 40-kilometer time trial.

Deep Section Wheels.

A bike that has carbon wheels with deep rims is better at deflecting air around the wheels for improved aerodynamics. A deep section front wheel can allow the rider to save up to 42 seconds over a course of 40 kilometers.

The Cyclists Is What Matters the most.

It’s important to bear in mind that bike only accounts for around 20% of the total aerodynamic drag. That leaves the cyclist with the rest of the 80 percent to handle.

It’s all about the drag coefficient, if we can reduce it, we can reduce the overall drag and increase the speed.

If a cyclist is not dialing in the optimum body position, then it does not matter how fast the bike is made to be.

Equipment

TT vs road Cycling Helmet
TT vs road Cycling Helmet

When it comes to the speed of the bike, the equipment has a big say in it. The triathlete wears a helmet that is highly aerodynamic. It allows the rider to have a smooth airflow and reduced drag.

The narrow TT helmet can save the rider up to 67 seconds compared to a standard road helmet on a course of 40 kilometers.

Even though, helmet on a triathlon looks funny but it sure has a great impact on increasing the speed and favoring the race in favor of the rider.

Whereas the standard road biker helmet does not feature more aero form. It can show a big difference when you are running pedals against the wind.

Check out How Much Do Road, Aero, And TT- Triathlon Helmets Cost And Weight? Which One To Use

Clothing.

The skin suits in this regard use special fabrics to manipulate and make the airflow over the body to increase the speed and reduce drag.

If a cyclist lacks such properties, he or she will definitely feel the pressure against the wind. The jersey that usually standard road bikers have are not better than the ones that come with a triathlete.

What Do The Professionals Have To Say?

Most professionals triathlete recommends road bikes to newbies.

This is for the reason that road bikes feature much more comfort and control compared to a TT Tri Bike.

Now we can assume that most of the time, TT Bikes tend to be faster than a road bikes. Some coaches even consider this case to be closed and declared Tri Bike faster.

The difference in the geometry puts the tri bike on top for most cases, but if you are cycling your way on a hilly road, things start to go out of hand.

That is why it is most important that you know which one is the right one at a time. Let’s take a look at what should be your choice.

What Should Be Your Choice?

Considering the aforementioned facts, many would be willing to buy both of these two bikes for a triathlon race. But there are some scenarios in which you ought to consider otherwise if you are anything less than a professional.

Attempting First Triathlon.

If triathlon is a new thing to you then you should consider buying a road and not a triathlon Bike

This is because, at the very first attempt, you are unfamiliar with the toughness and suffering. And few people do end up hating the sport, considering the cold lakes, cycling up in hills, and the heat of the run.

But if you still decide otherwise, you are still left with the bike that you can enjoy recreationally. Tri Bikes are usually useless outside of a triathlon track and time trials.

Looking to be more competitive.

Now that you are just looking to be more competitive instead of thinking of finishing the race with the first position. You can still work on your road bike at a much cheaper upgrade. Instead of spending $2000 on getting a new tri bike, you should consider installing clip-on aero bars which feature almost the same functionality. Remember, it’s not always wise to spend all your money in a single go.

Appearing in Local Races.

Now that you are starting to get serious about participating in races, it is a good time to invest some money for your hard work and talent and get yourself a Tri Bike.

This way you can enjoy and prepare yourself for the top leagues that await you.

Road Bike Brings Control and Efficiency.

When you buy a TT Tri bike, you are improving and enhancing one thing but you will be losing some other elements.

You can have a lower drag, but it’ll be very expensive, not a very stable nor a comfortable ride when compared to riding road bikes. Check out Are Triathlon Bikes Comfortable & When Should You Get One!

sherifjallad

An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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