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Tri Bike vs. Road Bike with Aero Bars: Which Is Better

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Cycling is one of the liveliest exercises that has become really popular in recent years. It can not only protect you from some serious health issues but also allow you to become a part of a vibrant and eco-friendly community.

Buying the right bike can, however, be a tricky task, especially if you are choosing between a triathlon bike (also commonly referred to as a tri bike) and a road bike.

If you are considering a triathlon bike, there is a very decent chance that you are preparing for a triathlon event or at least looking into participating in one. A triathlon is a race that includes swimming, long-distance running, and then cycling at the end.

It’s not an extreme sport but it’s a test of endurance and practice. Triathlon bikes are race-specific and most coaches or triathletes suggest getting one.

If you aren’t going to participate in a triathlon, you still might want to participate in a casual community race, touring, or other group cycling activity. In these circumstances, it is especially important to know your uses and do some homework on your future needs and budget, etc.

This article will help you decide which bike you should get and the difference between them.

Cyclist riding his bike with aero bars on highway during sunset

Figure Out Your Use

Before jumping to reading comparison, you must know what you need the bicycle for. Are you specifically going to participate in a triathlon?

If yes, then you still may not want to go straight for a tri bike. You have to consider the overall utility, the design, your comfort, the type of racetrack, and much more.

Most of all, triathlon bikes require practicing the riding posture. It might hurt your back if you aren’t used to the specific posture required.

If you are considering buying a road bike, you might have a wider range of utility. But you should know about everything you will miss out on by not purchasing a triathlon bike.

Most of all, the purchasing decision, in the end, boils down to your budget. Do you have the budget for a triathlon bike? Let’s see how the two bikes compare.

Triathlon Bike

Portrait of triathlon bike

You might already know that triathlon bikes are design-focused. They are built in a way to enhance performance in every way. The aerodynamics of the cyclist and the cycle play an important part in the speed along with the build quality, weight, tire width, and pedaling comfort.

A triathlon bike is designed to cut the air. The seat is inclined, and the bike’s handle is steeper than the seat’s height. It provides a weight shift to the front wheel and helps you gain a comfortable and tight position to get the best out of aerodynamics.

The posture helps in a direct transfer of weight and power so that you can go faster with less effort. Since you are already exhausted in a triathlon due to running and swimming, you need that extra support to get you through faster!

Road Bike

A road bike is made for a wider audience and is built to be used in a wide range of activities.

Anyone looking for a casual cycling experience or a small race thinks of a road bike. These bikes have taller handles than triathlon bikes and don’t allow for an aerodynamic position as efficiently as triathlon bikes do.

Road bikes come with gear shifters and you can switch between whatever setting you might find comfortable or suit your needs. The handle has a better grip and riding posture is eased as compared to a triathlon bike.

Even in the road bikes category, you will find some variations. Some road bikes have a design with a lower handle height as compared to the seat which makes them similar to triathlon bikes.

Furthermore, you can adjust the seat’s height and get a somewhat similar posture so that you can compete in a triathlon.

A man carrying a road bike on his shoulder.

Road Bike vs Triathlon Bike: Price Comparison

Triathlon bikes are much more expensive than road bikes.

A triathlon bike will cost you an average of $3000-$4000 easily while a high-quality road bike would be priced at a maximum of $1000.

You have to keep your budget in mind when deciding unless you have enough money to spend on both.

If you are short on budget and still want to get a tri bike, then you can get a decent beginner bike for around $1500-$2000 by compromising some of the premium build quality and attention to detail.

The first thing you should check is the build quality. The carbon fiber frame is the most expensive and the most useful compared to the cheaper and more durable aluminum frame. Since carbon fiber is lighter, it means more speed and ease in pedaling.

Remember that you can always change the accessories on a bike but can never change the frame so make sure to invest in a good frame.

Road Bike vs. Tri Bike: Which One to Buy?

The biggest single difference between these bikes is the geometry and angle at which the cyclist can incline and cut the air. This is only beneficial if the triathlon has a straight and smooth racetrack instead of a hill or an off-road track.

In that case, aerodynamics won’t help you at all and everything will come down to how balanced you are and able to control your bike. To do that, you need to be as comfortable as possible on your bike.

If you are going to specifically train for a triathlon and plan to participate in it every year or so, then you should get a high-quality triathlon bike. But if you only wish to participate in it once and still want other uses from your bike, the road bike is your all-in-one choice.

Furthermore, a road bike will provide you with a beginning experience with the triathlon. Many triathlon coaches recommend a road bike to beginners.

If you are purchasing for casual community races and cycling rallies, you can put your money in a road bike and expect some impressive performance from it.

Make sure that whichever bike you end up buying is fitted for you.

Bike Accessories and Aero Bars

Triathlete riding his triathlon bike with aero bars

If you are afraid that you will miss out on aero bars by not purchasing a triathlon bike, then worry no more. Remember that you can always customize your bike with various accessories that will provide you with a more comfortable ride and enhance your experience. 

You can purchase an aero bar  and place it on your road bike for a triathlon. For further customization, increase your seating level and you are all set to incline down and grip clip-on aero bars to participate in a triathlon.

If you are going to ride long distances, you might get tired of sitting on your cycle. Replace your saddle with a softer one that provides a better fit and comfort.

You can also replace tires depending on the type of track surface or increase the paddle’s length by replacing it with the larger paddle bar. This will provide you with a better fit.

Final Words

By making tactful decisions, you can use everything to your advantage and cut down all the setbacks you might face with a road bike.

A triathlon bike will be your first choice if you are participating in a professional event. Otherwise, you can do all sorts of stuff with a road bike including participating in a triathlon.

Make the decision that is right for you. Good luck and happy riding!