If you regularly compete in marathons, but are ready to conquer other endurance challenges, a triathlon just might be the choice for you. If you have never cycled competitively or even regularly, however, finding your first competition bike will pose its own set of unique challenges. Here are some tips to get you over the learning curve so that you can start your triathlon training regimen.
What is a Triathlon?
If you are dancing with the idea of training for a triathlon, know what you are getting into before you prematurely sign up for a race. A triathlon has three legs: swimming, biking, and running. Triathlons come in several distances. The shortest, called the sprint, demands a half mile swim, 12.4 mile bike, and 3.1 mile run. At the other end of the spectrum, a full triathlon demands a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, and full marathon--all 26.2 miles--to round it out.
Lucky for you, people who have tried and conquered at least one marathon have an advantage over competitors who do not have that kind of running foundation or endurance power. Starting a marathon while in the throes of swimming and biking exhaustion is a daunting challenge, but at least you know that you have what it takes to finish one.
Don't get cocky just yet, though. At first blush, biking may sound like the easiest segment of a triathlon--after all, who hasn't enjoyed childhood on a bike?--but there is more to it than you might expect.
How to Buy Your First Bike
A state-of-the-art competition bike will cost you upwards of $2,000, but this kind of purchase is, in most cases, unnecessary. The best bike for you is the bike that you feel confident and comfortable riding, especially during long treks. If anything, hold off on this kind of financial commitment until you are sure that you want to embark on a triathlon training odyssey.
That being said, there are a few basic things that you should strive to find in a bike. The bicycle segment of a triathlon is typically routed on the road, so opt for a road bike instead of a mountain bike. Consider if you want flat pedals or clip pedals; if you opt for clip pedals, you will also need to buy a special cycling shoe.
Unless you are training with a hydration backpack, you will also need a bike that either comes with a water bottle holder or can accommodate one. This can significantly impact your training and your level of enjoyment.
Bicycles come in male and female models. If you have a bike designed for the other gender, this mismatch is not likely to make or break your performance, especially if you are just starting out, but there are structural differences between the two styles.
Perhaps the best nugget of advice to follow when finding and purchasing a bike is to find an ally at your preferred pro shop. The people who work in bicycle pro shops usually do so because they love cycling and know what they are doing. Find a good friend that can mentor you not only during your purchase, but also during your training. You will face a great many "first times," like first flat tire changing, first slipped gear, and first chain tear.