I'm training for my first tri, a sprint, and need a bike (among other things) that would fit me---I'm 5'2''.
I'm also on a very, very tight budget and can only spend max $400.
Any help would be greatly appreciated!!!
First of all if you are on a limited budget and that limit is $400, I would suggest that you get a bike that is $300 or less. You will need that extra $100 to buy some accessories such as helmet, tire pump, spare tube, and tools to make adjstments to the bike and change a flat. Other stuff that you may also consider that will cost money include lock for the bike, bike shorts, bike gloves, and water bottle holder. These are some of the things that kind of escaped my mind when I had a bike budget in place to purchase my first bike ... and it does add up.
For a cheap bike, consider trolling craiglist or some other online classified adds. You can also go to Target or the Sports Authority to get a bike that's $300 or less. People do spints and oly distance tris on all kinds of bikes. You will see the Walmart versions, mountain bikes, old 20 year old bikes, banana set bikes, hybrid bikes, and etc. If you win the lottery, know that there are also folks riding $10,000+ bikes with $2,000 race wheels in the sprint and oly distance races also. The point is that whatever bike that you eventually get, know that you are not alone in whatever version it is that you are riding.
There are two school of thoughts when buying a bike for a newbie. The first and more rational approach is to get a cheap starter to see if you like the sport and invest on a more expensive one once you've decided that it's something that you really want to do on longer term basis.
The second approach is the ways of the Tuan and splurge on an expensive tri bike and guilt yourself into doing an Ironman even before you can swim across one length of the pool. Either way will work ... one is more of a deathwish than the other.
My suggestion is to be patient and look for a used deal. When my road bike (a very nice one) was stolen I was in the same boat as you. Eventually I managed to pick up an older Cannondale (minus wheels) for about $220 on ebay. I have upgraded it multiple times since then, and can honestly say that I like as well as my $3,000 Blue that got finked. A crappy Walmart bike can keep you from wanting to ride in the first place. Also, don't forget about proper size.
Thank you both for your insight!!
Might try places like Play It Again Sports or pawn shops (yes, I'm serious) in addition to searching online. Bikes don't hold their value well, so you can actually get a pretty decent 5 to 10 year old road bike for a few hundred bucks.
I'd also check with local bike/tri shops as they may know of people that are interested in trading up and need/want to sell their old bike.
From experience, I know that the pickings are pretty slim at your size. I'll check the store when I get in today to see if we have anything that's really discounted - sometimes the really small and really large sizes don't sell right away. You could also try Phoenix bikes in Arlington. They refurbish used bikes for resale.