Get the Right Bike – Road Bikes, Pt. 3
In the previous two installments of Get the Right Bike, we covered road, cyclocross and touring bikes. While most rider’s needs are met by those styles, the saying of “different strokes for different folks” couldn’t be more true in the next two categories. Even within these, there are a lot of variations depending on your individual riding style so by the time you’re ready to get one, you should have a decent understanding of what you need or want. For most riders, these will be second (or even third) bikes. Generally speaking, these are triathlon/TT and track/fixed-gear bikes.
In our post on getting ready for your first triathlon, we talked about what bike was right for first time triathletes, and noted that a lot of times the road bike is still the best option. However, if you train specifically for triathlons on a regular basis, or are looking to give the best performance in an event possible, then a triathlon or time-trial bike may be right for you.
While they look similar, Time Trial (TT) bikes and Triathlon (Tri) bikes differ in the rider position and the events they are optimized for. A TT bike, is designed with a road racing discipline in mind, and conform to specifications of Articles 1.3.011-1.3.018 by the UCI (International Cycling Union) as well as others pertaining to design and outfitting. The purpose of this is to closely follow traditional road bike’s geometry and to not foster riders who excel in the TT discipline exclusively. A good example of this is the Shiv from Specialized seen below.
Surface: Paved surfaces, closed courses or training purposes
Riding Style: Training and racing, specifically against the clock.
Ride distance: Varies based on level and race distance one trains for. Proper fit is critical to performance and comfort.
Extras: The model above is shown as a module that can be built as needed by the rider. TT bikes will also have more traditional frame/tube shapes without added pieces such as nose cones or similar fairing devices.
Fit Notes: As noted above, geometry is close to that of traditional bike, but proper set up and weight distribution is a must. For this reason, getting a Fit is very important.
Examples: Specialized SHIV TT
On the other side, a triathlon bike takes into consideration the unique needs of a triathlete by relaxing the head tube angle and bringing the seat tube angle forward. One benefit of this is to open the hip angle of the rider and protect the muscles from becoming too tight prior to the run portion of the event. Consider in this case, that after biking 112 miles, they need to run a full marathon still (26.2 miles). Included in this category is the Specialized Transition, though the Shiv can be used as well. Some bike can do both disciplines just fine – but not all will be legal to race with depending on the governing body and level of competition. Unless you are competing at the top of your age level and discipline, however, you should worry more about finding the right bike than following rules by the various governing bodies.
Surface: Paved surfaces, closed courses or training purposes. Far off places like the lava fields of Kona, Hawaii and Couer D’alene, Idaho as well as Madison, Wisconsin
Riding Style: Training and racing, specifically against the clock.
Ride distance: Sprint (usually 12 mile bike) all the way to Iron Distance (112 miles) and more.
Extras: Recent years has seen a great deal of technological development in Tri bikes including in-frame water bottles, radical frame shapes and more.
Fit Notes: More relaxed in position compared to TT bikes, less flexible riders will feel more comfortable on these than on TT bikes.
Examples: Specialized Shiv and Transition, Wilier Twin Foil and Blade
Fixed Gear / Track bikes
The most simple kind of road bike there is, also includes enough models and styles to be the most confusing for people. These bikes share in common that they have one speed (no shifting) and are generally of a “fixed gear.” A fixed gear means that as long as the bike is in motion and the wheels turning, so are the pedals. Where you can stop pedaling on a bike with multiple gears, fixed gear bikes or “fixies” do not allow this. While some bikes can be switched from fixed to freewheeling, we will be discussing these bikes as they are designed.
A Track bike is the originator of this style and was designed for riding in a controlled environment (closed oval course) without traffic and without hills. Many road riders who participated in this discipline of racing would use these bikes for training purposes and would spend some time training on them, sometimes on the road. These riders liked the simplicity of the drive-train in bad weather, and being forced to use only one gear. These bikes do not come with any brakes and are not considered safe for street use.
Surface: On an oval, typically made of wooden boards, free of traffic.
Riding Style: Training and racing in the track discipline.
Ride distance: Variable.
Extras: As track bikes are not intended for use on roads, they will not include safety features such as brakes, and will not include comfort features like water bottle cages or an ability to add gears later on.
Fit Notes: Track bikes fit similar to a typical road bike, but more aggressive than relaxed in position.
Examples: Specialized Langster
Fixed gear a.k.a “Fixie”
A fixie is a direct descendent of track bikes, but can often be a hybrid of these as well as other bikes. For clarification purposes, a fixie is typically not “track legal” and cannot be used in racing, but will have features common on other styles of bikes including brakes, water bottle mounts and more. Fixies typically have a heavy emphasis on design and looks. Simplicity is great in the case of a fixie; making them popular for commuting, errands around town, training purposes and more. There is less to go wrong on a single speed bike, so they can be great for students and people who need to leave a bike locked outdoors all the time (we still recommend lubing the chain routinely and keeping the bike properly adjusted).
Surface: Paved surface, though some may be fine for gravel as well.
Riding Style: Riding at its simplest form – commuting, cruising for fun, even for training purposes.
Ride distance: As much as a rider is capable of, though varying or hilly terrain is not well suited to this style.
Extras: When used on street, remember to keep equipped with legal equipment such as brakes.
Fit Notes: Neither aggressive nor relaxed. Getting a proper size is important to rider safety.
Examples: Retrospec Beta, Saint and Sidhartha; Raleigh Furley or Rush Hour and Specialized Roll
These posts serve to give a short overview of each style of bike in the road category. For many riders, multiple categories are acceptable, but if you can only fit one bike into your life right now, we recommend talking with one of our staff. We’re also excited this year to note that we have a new trade-in program for bikes purchased at Erik’s. Our Half Back Guarantee allows you to buy now and save later when you upgrade – all bikes below $1000 purchase price can be traded in for guaranteed half back in the first two years. Come in and take a bike for a test ride – we’ll get you on the right bike.