Your most important – and not coincidentally, most expensive – triathlon purchase is the bike. Biking will be the most time-consuming discipline in both your training and in the race, so it’s essential to make sure the bike you purchase is a good fit for your body type. As the most important component of racing bikes is speed – and not comfort – no racing bike is going to be super comfortable. The key is finding a bike that is comfortable enough for you.
Much like an automobile purchase, different “features” are available on nearly every model of bike. What you see in the bike shop is not necessarily what you’ll be taking home, as nearly all bike components are upgradeable. Talk to the pros at your local bike shop about what your expectations are with your bike. They’ll be able to help you find the bike and components best suited for you individual needs.
You’ll also need to pick up a bike helmet, as they are mandatory in all races, and highly recommended for any ride. Helmets today are very comfortable to wear, as they fit snugly on the riders head, are very lightweight, and well-ventilated. You’ll probably forget it’s there once you get a few minutes into your ride.
If you decide against a tri-suit, you’ll most likely want to look into a biking jersey and bike shorts as well. Today’s bike jerseys are made of lightweight moisture wicking material that will help keep you cool on your long rides, particularly with a zippable front. Like the shorts of tri-suits, bike shorts come equipped with padding to make your long haul on your bike saddle a little more comfortable.
A bike computer is a great tool for measuring many of your key statistics on a ride, such as current speed, average speed, distance traveled this trip, top speed reached, and current temperature. It will also keep track of your total distance traveled, allowing to gauge when it’s time for a tuneup.
As you’ll be spending a lot of time on your bike, you’ll want to be sure to have some form of hydration. You’ll want to choose the one that best suits you. Many riders opt for mounting a water bottle cage on their bike, either on the frame or behind the seat. Others wear bike jerseys with pockets in the back designed to hold small bottles and energy foods such as gels. Still others opt to wear a fluid bladder on their back and drink from a long tube. In addition to the large amounts of fluid stored in the bladder, this method allows you to drink hands-free, which may be more comfortable to those new to cycling.
With all the miles you’ll be putting on your bike with training and races, you’ll also need to pick up some simple maintenance tools to make sure your bike stays in prime operating condition. Like any machine, a bike needs cleaning and adjustments. Things such as chain lubricant, a hex wrench, and cleaning solvent go a long way in maintaining your bike’s performance. You’ll also need a saddle-pack, spare tire tubes, a portable air-pump, and the know-how to change a bike tire in case one pops on a ride.
Once you’re comfortable on your bike, you may want to look into a clip-on aerobar. Riding in the full aero position virtually eliminates drag, resulting in faster speeds with less energy expended fighting the wind. You’ll also want to look at bike racks for you vehicle.