...me off one side or the other. Here is my dilemma: I have what I consider a road decent bike (05 Trek 2300 / Ultegra) and have now gotten into triathlons. I have a good lbs that can get me set up and offers helpful advice/good service. What I'm trying to figure out is how much of a difference adding the forward seat post, tri saddle, and longer aerobars will make. Doing the math, and by the time I get a fitting, those are not cheap additions. I'm thinking, modify the road bike, and then do tris on it for quite some time (2-3 years), or do nothing to it now (it already has shorty bars) and wait a year or so and get a true tri bike.
I would love to hear your opinions on this. How much difference would there be in the long run between my road bike set up with the aforementioned modifications, and a true tri bike? If it makes a difference, I hope a full IM is in the near future. Thanks.
My recommendation would be somewhere in the middle. Modify your road bike only with longer aerobars for now. Don't get the forward seat post - it's not really all that necessary. A fair number of professional triathletes don't ride steep. Budget about $100 or so for a stem, and when you get fitted, buy a stem that they recommend to dial in your fit. Only buy a tri-saddle if you feel it's absolutely necessary after you've been fitted.
I know quite a few very fast age-groupers that use fairly ordinary road bikes with clip-ons. I have a bunch of bikes, including a dedicated tri-bike. But I would never delude myself into believing that I really need it. They're just very expensive toys to keep a 42 year old kid happy.
When it came time to trade in my trusty Trek, I agonized between a Cervelo P2C and a Soloist. I decided that I wouldn't ride or have room for 2 bikes, and I really wasn't ready to make a $3K commitment to Triathlon, so I got the soloist, along with a full Tri cockpit (vision base/aerobars, bar-end shifters, brakes, cables + tri-saddle). I flip the seatpost forward to get a steeper angle and swap between the tri bars and road bars depending on the type of riding I'm doing. It takes about an hour to swap these out (with cables) and to re-tune the shifting and brakes, so I only plan to change a couple times a year.
It's not for everyone, but it has worked well for me. I get to take advantage of the bar-end shifting and forward seatpost (which a steeper angle did make a difference in my run times) and have a decent tri-bike. When I want to ride with the roadie clubs, I have a true road bike (which is a little easier on some crowded rallies, etc).
Buying the extra tri-cockpit (basebar, aerobars, shifters, brake levers, cables, saddle) was about $350-$400.
I've done a few tri's in the tri-configuration, and a few rallies in the road and I love the bike in both.
Okay, now you two have given me something to think about. I presented options A & B, and now I also have C & D! Seriously, I really do appreciate the insight.
Sprocket Man, I'm guessing the new stem is to pull the bar closer to me and help me get lower without altering my seat post angle? I had not thought about that. Will it hurt me on the run to keep the 73 degree setup? Is this what some call the "slam" position? I read an snipet from a slowtwitch article about that, but wasn't following it completely. So if I do IM Florida next year would it be safe to say I won't be the only guy out there without a true tri bike?
Whiterock, great looking setup! Closer to what I was thinking, but I do a lot of bouncing between rides, so the change back and forth might not work for me. However, a similar setup would be a new post and saddle, and new aero extensions. That way I could just switch out the post and saddle and I would be ready to go. I've never tried bar end shifting, so I don't know what I'm missing. What type of run time advantage over what distance are we talking with the more agressive seat position?
I find having one dedicated TT/Tri set up bike and one road bike for training ideal.
Current bike you have is fine for the time being. Use for a year or two and confirm you want to continue with the Triathlons, then if so purchase a more aggressive geometry bike with TT cockpit. And continue on the current bike for training and road racing.
You will be definitely NOT be the only person out there on road bikes racing triathlons! If you need confirmation, just check some of the photos from races you will be entering from years past to see what's out there...
I have raced till last season on a road geometry frame with a standard seat post, just with the seat pushed as far forward on the rails as it can go.
Biggest time gains in my opinion on the run isn't with a forward seat post, but from getting accustomed to running off the bike by training bricks.
I would agree with Dalai that I saw my biggest gains on the run with doing more brick workouts, but I have noticed that my run is a little slower (maybe a minute or two over 6 miles) now that I've converted back to my road setup for a few months. My legs also don't feel as strong.
I have a friend who has raced many triathlons on his road bike with aerobars, up to half-iron distances, and has done very well. He is now preparing for IM florida and has invested in a carbon tri-bike. He's done triathlon for 3 or 4 years and is comitted to the sport. I believe his other reasoning is that with the investment of this year of his life in the event, it was worth it to him to have the best comfort and performance while on the bike, and the best advantage possible coming off it. He has also mentioned feeling better on the run off the tri-bike vs. the road bike.
For me, I wanted to go a little beyond my road bike with aerobars, but wasn't willing to invest in a dedicated tri-bike yet. This has allowed me to get my feet wet with a more agressive position and to see if I like the bar-end shifters vs. my STI.
My conclusions are:
1. I like the bar end shifters...on rolling hills or changing conditions, I can stay in my aero position with my hands on the bars, and very quickly be in the right gear
2. With my seat post farther forward (farther than just the rails will alow because of the flippable seatpost head), I am more comfortable in the aero position because I am not as stretched out and my hips are not as compressed.
3. If I decide to stop doing tri's, I have a great pure roadbike and have only sunk around $400 into tri-hardware, that I can sell on Ebay.
It doesn't sound like what I've done would work for you if you're going to switch back and forth, but be careful of how far forward you go on your road bike so that you don't make it too unstable.
Personally, if I was going to do IM, I would invest in a true tri-bike....not necesarily the lightest carbon-rocket out there, but something that would allow me to be as comfortable as possible in the aero position for those 112 miles, and give me every advantage for the next 26.
Could you explain what you mean here by too far forward?
Road bikes usually have a weight balance of rider 60/40 rear and front. By moving weight forward over the frame, it changes that ratio which then can impact handling by having more weight over the front wheel. The forward seat post/steeper seat post helps keep the hip angle open and allows the upper torso to be closer to horizontal without closing the hip angle...
I am currently building up a NOS Cervelo Al P3 frame for my first Tri Geometry frame. But have raced IM twice, first on a steel frame road bike with aerobars and bar end shifters and the second on a carbon road frame I built up with Vision tech integrated bars. Both just with a standard seat post and the seat hard forward on the rails.
I still say if you want to update something. Use your current bike with aerobars and seat pushed forwards and buy some nice allround use racewheels. Something like a Zipp 404 rim depth which you can use for tri's and road races also...