Choosing your first bike can be an extremely overwhelming process. Today, the choices are rather numerous and several factors must be considered before you make a final decision.
How much should I spend? What material is the best? Who makes the best bike? Should I buy a triathlon bike or road bike? What size bike should I be considering?
First of all, you must decide just how committed to the sport of triathlon you really are.
If you are in the “just giving it a TRI” stage, than I suggest you look for a used road bike. ( i.e., classifieds, tri mags, Internet etc. ) and do not spend more than a few hundred bucks. My first bike was a steel Giant for which I paid $200. I spent a year racing and training on that bike and she performed just fine. If you do purchase a used road bike you can always buy the necessary components to convert her to a tri bike such as a forward seat post and aerobars.
If you wish to purchase something new, you will have to spend some money. Fortunately, today, you really cannot go wrong with the quality of bike made. The bottom line is… how much do you want to spend?
Differences in Cost
Most of your bikes today, “tri-bikes” as well as “road bikes”, fall within a $1000-$4000 range (complete bike) depending on materials, brand name, and even year manufactured.
A very popular material used in the construction of bicycles today is Carbon fiber. Typically, carbon fiber bikes are very light and very stiff. Not only are these bikes light and stiff, most are designed aerodynamically. One small problem though, the price of these bikes can be rather hard on the wallet falling somewhere between the $2500-$4000 range…ouch!
Aluminum is another popular material used in bicycle manufacturing. An aluminum bike is stiff and rigid but cheaper in price than carbon fiber.
And then there are the Titanium built bikes. Titanium is a light, very durable alloy, and more flexible than aluminum…It is also pretty darn expensive. These bikes can cost as much as $4000. But you may find some closeout specials for around $1000.
Save Some Money On Previous Year’s Model
Well, now that you have seen some of the choices and some of the costs involved, the best advice I can give regarding saving some money on a “new” bike is to look for a clearance model from the previous year or two.
And do some research. Check you’re your local bike shop to find out if there are any clearance models available. Compare it to the prices of the same models at the larger nationwide retailers (online as well). The larger the bike shop, the greater the amount of product in stock and the larger the amount of product, the greater the need to unload last years models. And it is these larger shops where you can really pick up a good deal.
Bike Size and Weight
The next thing to consider is your size and weight. If you are a bigger guy, you will find that the ultra light bikes will not hold up as well. Nor will the ultra light components.
Combine your size with your geographic location and you have a whole new set of considerations. If you live in a hilly or mountainous region, you will be putting a good deal of torque on you frame/components while climbing. The larger the body, the sturdier the equipment needed.
Type of Bike
The next step in choosing a bike will be deciding on the type of ride to purchase…a Tri bike or Road bike? You will find a break down and description of both in Part II of this series appropriately titled, What Should I Buy, A Road Bike or a Tri Bike?
And finally, once you have narrowed your choices down, make sure you are properly fit for the bike you wish to purchase. You may find the bike you think you want, may not be the best bike for your body type, height, etc.
In fact, before you even decide on a particular manufacturer, you should be properly fit. Every bike is designed differently and a proper fit will not only insure an efficient and powerful ride but will also eliminate a lot of endless searching.