This has been asked in the past, but please bare with me as I wonder if recent school-of-thought on seat angle for triathlons might affect my decision to replace my nearly-everything bike.
I want ONLY two bikes: one with knobbies (and attachments for small kids) for cruising around DC with all of its glass-ridden roads and another for everything else: 70.3 goal races, 2-3 shorter tri's a year, casual centuries (at which aerobars have been frowned upon), training rides, and bricking-it.
Will I hurt my performance in 70.3 races by getting a good road bike with removable aerobars? Would I feel it in during training or just during the race? How would I know if I made a bad decision?
In case it matters, cycling is the weakest of events for me.
Long live DCTRI and all my fellow water breathers.
Then I think you want a mountain bike and a road bike, not a tri bike. Clip on aerobars and forward seat post will get you to a nearly TT position, while you can go back to road geometry for your century rides.
Will it hurt performance? Dunno. Theoretically yes, b/c you're not fully aero. But if you don't ride in the tuck the whole time (i.e. up on the bullhorns), then you're better off with a road bike.
Bad decision? If you cannot complete and/or compete your event of highest priority, then you made a bad decision. Doesn't sound like you're pushing for podium finishes, so what does a few min during the race really matter?
I agree, sounds like a good road bike is what you need.
That said, who cares what roadies say or think about your ride? A good friend of mine and I do the Sunday Bicycle Place group ride and he takes his tri bike out (I sometimes do, sometimes don't). Once the guys in the A group realize we can ride, the looks stop. Deep down, if you want the tri bike, go for it and don't think about what others say about it.
I own two tri bikes and no road bike. I do fine in smaller group rides but stay away from the mega group rides. Even on a road bike I wouldn't feel comfortable. One word of caution, tri bikes handle different and some people never get used to them.
i think you answered your question for yourself already. as you don't want too many bikes in the garage, and that is a smart thing.
think of a tri bike as a paring knife very specialized for its own uses, but you wouldn't really want to be using it as your sole knife for cooking if you wanted to prepare a 5 course meal.
the road bike is more like the 7 inch chef's knife of cooking, you can you use it for a lot more uses, ie road/centuries/group rides/triathlons, and it does it all very well, with road cycling specifically as its main advantage.
like others said you give up very very little by not getting a tri bike in terms of speed, an improvement to your fitness by cycling a lot in general will make you much faster tahn a tri bike in the short and long term.
the tri bike is really for that extra little bit of speed if you truly want to spend the money.
I don't have anything else to add to the tri vs. road bike issue, but I would point out that a mountain bike might not be the best choice for "general" riding. You might be better off, and happier, with a hybrid or a cyclocross bike as your general "around-town" bike. Mountain bikes can be very heavy. If you aren't going to be riding on technical and tough off-road trails, then you don't need the heavy suspension and fat tires of a mountain bike.
A cyclocross/"adventure" bike might work better. They usually have tires suitable for limited off-road riding (and on gravel and minor potholes) but they aren't as heavy as mountain bikes. Some of them also have braze-ons, which will let you add panniers, baskets and kid seats more easily. A cyclocross bike is also better for longer rides than a mountain bike is. So if you wanted to do some longer rides on something like the C&O Canal towpath, a cyclocross bike would be almost ideal.
A hybrid is another possibility, for the same reasons as the cyclocross bike. It's lighter and many models are designed to be decked out in commuter-friendly items and kid-friendly attachments.
You could get one of those rear attachments that include a seat and pedals, along with one wheel, for the child, while it connects to the seat post on your bike. Since this results in extra weight for you, it might be better to go with a lighter bike. Thus the cyclocross or hybrid would again be a better option than the mountain bike.
I have a mountain bike for general riding, commuting and running errands. I never go on technical off-road trails. After about a year, I think a cyclocross bike would have been a better choice for non-triathlon cycling/training rides.
Wow. Great responses - thank you. Just one follow up question for vatriathlete. So would a folding bike be more like a paring knife or a swiss army knife.
hmm good question, my take is that a folding bike would be like a swiss army knife, but more like the smaller type that fits on your key chain.
then again on second thought maybe a tri-bike is more like a fish filet knife instead since its usually a sleeker looking knife