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Newbie Bike Question
CREATED: 03/21/11 by smagnani REPLIES: 16
smagnani    JOINED: 1/19/11    POSTS: 6
Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/21/11 7:37 AM

This is my first ever triathlon and currently only have a mountain bike to ride/race with. I am hesitant to purchase a road bike before I know if this is something I want to continue. I have done some research and it looks like there are always newbies and mountain bikes at triathlons. I need honest answers here people: Just use the mountain bike (and risk potential of humiliation; well more humiliation than my finish time) or purchase/borrow an actual road bike?


dsgrunning's ravatar dsgrunning    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 1481
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/21/11 8:55 AM

The thing about triathlon is that no matter what bike you ride/purchase, 99% of the time there will always be bikes that look better than yours, costs more than yours, and are better than yours. I think that it's more foolish to purchase an expensive bike only to put it aside after the race because you find out that tri/biking isn't really for you than it is to ride a cheap bike that you got in the 10th grade.

There have been people who've actually come onto this very board (do a search on zipp and cervelo ;) ) to sell their new $2k wheelsets and new $3k+ bikes shortly after their first race or first season because it wasn't what they thought it would be. That right there is foolish ... not riding a mountain bike during a triathlon because you are unsure if it's for you.

Most people in a triathlon are too preoccupied about their own issues than to notice what bike you ride. You will never see any of those people again so why does it matter what they think? I think that (especially for a triathlon that caters to newibies like the DC Triathlon) you will see a lot more bikes like your mountain bike in the transition area at the DC Triathlon than you think. Heck, I saw a commuter bike in the transition area of Ironman Florida last year. That is not to say that I didn't see a bunch of $10k setups either :)

If you have money to burn ... burn. If you don't, don't.


bad ford's ravatar bad ford    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 186
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/21/11 9:30 AM


Consider that anyone who blows by you on a road or tri-bike, will probably stay ahead of you and you won't see them again. Anyone who is riding next to or behind you just go whupped by someone on a mountain bike. It's win-win for the mountain biker.


mosered's ravatar mosered    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 2217
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/21/11 9:36 AM

I've found the general attitude at races toward hybrids and mt. bikes is one of admiration toward those willing to handicap themselves during the ride, and still power through the whole race. At duathlons and tris, some riding such have even posted impressive times. The heck with the spandex smarties--take things one step at a time; you can always upgrade your bike if you want to.

chloevdc's ravatar chloevdc    JOINED: 1/25/10    POSTS: 63
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/21/11 10:18 AM

Hey Sarah,

I was in the NTP program last year and signed up to do a tiy shortly after buying a new hybrid bike to commute to work in. Since buying another bike was out of the question at the time, I ended up completing 3 olympic tri races on a hyrbid. It is definitely an exercise in humility, as 95% of the people will pass you on the bike. That being said, it is totally doable and you have just as much fun as if you had a road bike. You'll find people on the race courses are very encouraging and cheer for you (yes, as they pass you). And as said above, it is also a pretty great feeling to pass someone on a road bike when you are on a hybrid or mt bike :)
After last year, I do have a road bike now, because I know I am hooked to the sport.
The only thing I would have changed is that I would have switched out my pedals on my hyrbid and clipped in last year, simply because you get a bunch more power regardless of the type of bike. I did all of my races with regular pedals and looking back I would have switched after my first race.

My only other piece of advice would be to sign up for your second race before you do your first one. It wasn't until my second race that I really fell in love with the sport. The first one was really challenging for me. Having already committed to the second race, I was forced to keep training, which made race #2 much more fun and enjoyable.

urbanlumberjack's ravatar urbanlumberjack    JOINED: 3/25/09    POSTS: 143
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/21/11 11:49 AM

To further Tuan's point, no matter what you are riding there is also a 99% chance that someone there is riding an older, heavier bike than you!

If you aren't sure you want to do this more than once, ride what you have. If you do have a mountain bike though, I would definitely invest in a pair of slim tires. Makes a world of difference when riding on pavement and will cost you 30-80 bucks.

dmd326's ravatar dmd326    JOINED: 10/28/10    POSTS: 71
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/22/11 9:23 AM

I watched the Nations tri last year and saw people in all kinds of bikes. From the beach cruiser with a basket in front, to a 70s road bike that was eerily familiar to what I remember my dad riding. There were mountain bikes, and $7000 tri bikes with those fancy rims. Really, I wouldn't worry about it. The only thing I didn't see was someone pulling a buggy. Which, I like to do on weekends with my dog. :)

vatriathlete    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 685
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/22/11 1:35 PM

like tuan says no matter if you spend 10k dollars on a bike there will be someone that spends more than you makin gyour bike look cheap, that is life.

on the flip side there will be someone else on a bike that is worth way less than yours so if you want to gloat you will be able to.

in triathlon races the bicycles used run the entire gamut from bikes barely worth $20 all the way up to bikes that cost upwards of 20k dollars if you have the money for it.

don't worry about what other may think about your ride, as long as it is safe enough to ride so that its not a danger to you or someone else, ie your brakes don't work or it doesn't steer or your tires are just waiting for them to blow out, which are all major safety issues for you and those around you, then its good to go.

main thing is have "a safe functioning bicycle" to be able to do the race/training on for now. you can always upgrade to a better bike later down the line months/years from now if you have the finances for it and like the sport.

Don't worry the bike shops/bike companies will still be there ready and willing to take your money to get a cool looking race bike. :)

if you think that riding an old bike is humiliating, check your ego at the door with triathlons as quickly as possible. Because in a good race you will have some people much older than you and much younger of both sexes passing you easily in possibly every event like you are standing still, the only time that doesn't happen is if you named chrissy wellington, chris maccormack or javier gomez. LOL

bcfrank's ravatar bcfrank    JOINED: 3/23/09    POSTS: 1098
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/22/11 1:49 PM

That is a very valid question and as you can see, the answer is that "yes, you can ride a mtn bike/hybrid" in a triathlon. And it's nothing to be ashamed of.

I did my first triathlon on my mtn bike for the very reason you stated: I wasn't sure I would enjoy triathlons and want to continue. I did what Matthew suggested and purchased some of the slimmer tires for my bike. That cost me like $80 total. Much better than a grand or two on a road bike.

So there is no humiliation in riding on your mtn bike/hybrid. No one is going to make fun of you. No one is going to tease you. And it's very likely that if anyone does tease you, you'll be the one passing them during the bike portion, even on your mtn bike.


dmd326's ravatar dmd326    JOINED: 10/28/10    POSTS: 71
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/22/11 1:51 PM

Not sure if you are an NTPer, but I totally rocked out the group ride on a mountain bike last weekend.

Yeah, a little humbling with people and some sweet bikes, but, hey, it's my first ride and a borrowed bike, till I decide I want to actually invest in something else.

jonwolfsthal's ravatar jonwolfsthal    JOINED: 3/22/09    POSTS: 43
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/22/11 3:08 PM

I did my first tri on an MB. Brian did some huge times on a MB. If you are super rich, buy an awesome bike. Otherwise, ride what you have and then see.

RJohnson1979's ravatar RJohnson1979    JOINED: 9/13/09    POSTS: 82
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/22/11 3:42 PM

Hi Sarah,

I agree with all of the above. I did my first tri on my commuter hybrid then upgraded. Take the time now to get to know the sport and learn more about biking. Once you are sure that you like it, when you upgrade to a new bike, you'll be that much more satisfied (and faster!).

Good luck!


bsull184's ravatar bsull184    JOINED: 2/6/10    POSTS: 283
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/22/11 4:30 PM

I'll agree with everyone else. No need to go overspending before you know what you like. I see plenty of people doing tri's on their mountain bike or hybrid, so you certainly won't be alone.

There are also some cheaper things you can do to your mountain bike to make it faster along the course:

1) Get some slick, high pressure tires. Ditch the knobbies.
2) Lock out your front suspension or get a suspension corrected rigid fork (I know Surly makes a few that aren't too expensive).
3) Even put some clip on aero bars on there (which you can re-use on a future bike later).

Of course, creating that sort of franken-bike may also take more money than is prudent to spend on something that you'd just end up upgrading if you liked the sport.

smagnani    JOINED: 1/19/11    POSTS: 6
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/22/11 5:26 PM

Wow thanks for all the suggestions guys! I will probably keep my bike and as I ride more maybe change some small things before the DC Tri. Thanks again!


smagnani    JOINED: 1/19/11    POSTS: 6
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/23/11 7:50 AM

So a friend actually lent me a road/racing bike! I will try it out Saturday and bring it to the group ride Sunday. The tires are so thin; I 'm scared! Thanks for all of the suggestions guys!


dsgrunning's ravatar dsgrunning    JOINED: 2/28/09    POSTS: 1481
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/23/11 8:03 AM


Be careful with the bike. Make sure that it is the right size for you and fits comfortably. Knee injuries/pain is a common thing among cyclists who are on an ill fitted bike. Shoulder pain is another issue but the knee one is a biggie. That is what sidelines most cyclists.

Many of us veterans folks have spent hundreds of dollars to get fitted professionally so that we don't run into this issue. This is not to say that you have to get a professional fit. It is to emphasize that an ill fitted bike on a rider may be more trouble than it is worth in the long run.


sidneyscully    JOINED: 3/23/11    POSTS: 1
RE: Newbie Bike Question
POSTED: 3/23/11 4:19 PM

Hi Sarah,

I didn't have time to read all the other posts but as a newbie a few years ago myself, I rented a road bike from Big Wheels or another bike store. It is a cheap way to test a road bike for the race while you see if you even want to continue Tri-ing. Be sure to get it adjusted for your size. I used my Mt. bike for my first Tri and found it frustrating and discouraging as everyone else flew past me and I was putting out twice the amount of energy still getting nowhere. I still enjoyed the Triathlon but swore I would do the next one with a road bike so I rented one. It helped to make a smoother ride and I found that with the road bike, I really did enjoy triathlons. I now have a road bike which I found used for fairly cheap and didn't put out all the money initially as I was still testing the waters.

Hope this helps!!
Good luck on your first TRI. I have to admit, they are addicting.


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