The short answer (if you got some spare money) is, GET BOTH. That way, you have the best of both worlds
- The TT BIKE – Faster bike overall when it comes to time trialing solo – the longer you go (90km-180km) the better/faster/more comfortably you ride
- The ROAD BIKE – ideal for the cycle events that are used as training sessions/ideal for draft legal triathlon racing which is becoming more prevalent these days
For the Layman – Newbie: What are the differences?
- The biggest visual difference that one can see is the difference in the changing of the gears set-up. TT bikes have shifters or buttons (if you lucky enough to won electronic gearing) on the tips of the TT bars while road bike generally use the standard STI levers (this is what all road bikes come with)
- Some TT bikes are made with steeper angles on the seat tube – don’t worry too much about this – just means you sit more “over” the crank-set than one would do on a road bike
- Back in the day, TT bikes were made with “fatter” tubing while road bikes stuck to the thinner tubing. These days however, road bikes come built with bulky tubing as well so not so easy to spot the difference anymore
- TT bikes are made a lot “stiffer” and the forks are almost always a straight design – this means the bike is made to go fast in a straight line and is less comfortable and a little more skill is needed to ride it than say a road bike which has a curve to the fork with angles that are more relaxed for a more comfortable ride
- TT bikes are often heavier than the road bikes but make up for that weight by being more aero. They perform better on flatter courses while a road bike performs better on really hilly steep courses
What can a newbie expect from buying a TT BIKE?
- There is a learning curve time period coupled to the use of a new TT bike, especially for the nervous/newbie cyclist
- The change of gearing is the most common issue – when you have been used to changing gears with the STI levers and having your hands near the brakes as well, you tend to become a little more nervous when the gear change is at the end of the TT bars with your hands nowhere near the brakes – may we suggest the first couple of rides be done on a stationary trainer indoors – so much easier to get used to the TT bike doing this than risk falling off the TT Bike out on the roads because you have not mastered the confidence to change gears while in the aero position
- TT bikes are much more responsive than road bikes – a slight twitch will send you sideways – the nervous rider will need to adjust to this before they are comfortable riding at high speeds
- TT Bike = Not so easy to pack into a bike-box because of the TT bar-set up –especially if you buy an integrated headset with TT Bars
PRO’s of USING A ROAD BIKE
- In general, they are more comfortable to ride
- They are multi-tasked – clip some TT bars on and use in a triathlon or just use as is in your local cycle races (TT Bikes are not allowed FYI)
- They are easier to maintain (whether you do it yourself or the shop mechanic down at the bike shop)
- If you live in a hilly area – then the road bike is a lot easier to handle/climb the hills and safer in terms braking power
PRO’s of USING A TT BIKE
- Hands down – on a solo TT, they are definitely faster – especially on the flatter routes – undulating is also fast
- They give your upper body a chance to relax/rest whilst lying on the TT bars which save a little bit of energy needed for the run leg
- Gear changing in the aero position is also quicker and more effective (especially if you have the luxury of electronic gears on-board the steed)
- They look faster and feel faster which gives you the psychological advantage of going faster
WHICH ONE SHOULD I BUY?
- If you have the cash – get both – most might already have one (more than likely a road bike if you are a newbie to triathlon). You can upgrade the road bike over time but try and keep it for road cycle racing and or other events if you can.
- If you don’t own a bike as yet and are thinking about getting into triathlon as a complete beginner – then buy a road bike first and buy a set of TT bar clip-ons second – that way you get to ride on a much more comfortable bike that is more versatile in terms of where you can use it. If you want to feel like a triathlete on a road bike – add the TT clip-ons
- If you don’t have wads of cash to spend on the initial purchase – buy the entry level road or TT bikes and then upgrade in future with say a set of lighter race wheels (Aluminium can sometimes also be the same weight as carbon at a 1/3 of the price so shop, wise)
Still Unsure? Ask your local bike shop and see what they say – friends and training buddies who already own TT bikes/Road bikes and are experienced might also be able to add some added input that might just help sway your decision