Sunday, October 25, 2009

Triathletes: Your Next Bike is . . . . A Road Bike!

No you are not reading the title wrong. Yes, triathletes out there who only own a tri-bike, forget more aero do-dads and upgrades to the TT rig, get a road bike and really learn how to ride. I am serious about this. And don't kinda do it, by looking for a super aero road frame and/or going half way with this. Get a real road bike, that fits you properly.

You see, the thing is, many new triathletes, and their has been massive growth in the sport in the last five years, have gone straight out and bought a TT/Tri-Bike as their first bike. Nothing wrong with this. If you are doing triathlons, and you are well fit, comfortable and aero on this bike, you have the right tool for the trade. However, many newer triathletes think this is what cycling is all about, when in fact, they are practicing a sub-discipline of cycling - time-trialing. Ironically, a sub discipline that many real cyclists, loath!

So get yourself a real road bike as a second bike - and keep the tri-bike. You can't go wrong in this regard with the R series of bikes from Cervelo( R3, R3 SL & RS). These bikes are in my view the best designed road bikes on the market.

In my job, I am lucky enough to be able to ride a number of different bikes in a year - usually loaners from friends and customers when traveling. In this regard, I get to really ride these bikes - 2 to 3 hour rides and not just a spin around the block. I can honestly say, that from having ridden a number of the very best road bikes in the world by some of the leading manufacturers, that the Cervelo R3 really does it all in, terms of what you want to get out of a road bike. It's very stable and stiff. Well balanced. However, at the same time it has this amazing ability to soak up rough stretches of pavement. This is truly an all-day bike. It's the kind of bike top road racers look for as they have to spend, many hours each day in the saddle - a touring bike, that rides like a real race bike, if you will. This is the feeling that the R3 delivers - I-beam like stiffness and stability, but with a level of comfort that has to be experienced to be believed.

The secret to the comfort are the thin seat-stays on the rear of the bike. These soak-up and absorb most of that harsh vibration and bumping from the road. The first time you ride an R3, it's not uncommon to keep looking down at the rear tire to check and make sure it's still fully inflated! These thin seat-stays are a wonder of bike engineering.

The RS model has a taller head-tube. If you prefer a more up-right position and or have a short torso and long legs, the RS model might be the better bike and fit for you. The RS's seat stays are slightly bowed/curved and deliver even more rear-end compliance than the R3 model.

The favourite bike frame in the world of the weight weenies is the R3 SL. If your goal is to build up the lightest road bike that you can, then the R3SL is a great starting point to hang all your super light weight components on. I rode a R3SL last year that weighed about 13 pounds and it was perhaps the most surrealistic feeling bike ride I ever had. It was almost like there was no bike beneath me!

Riding a real road bike, such as the Cervelo R3, to the triathlete who may have only ridden on a tri/tt bike, will be a bit of a revelation. Assuming a good fit, the steering will be more predictable. The bike more stable. Carving high speed turns, becomes old hat! You may feel more secure on descents and more powerful on ascents. You will be more comfortable on longer rides. What's not to like?

A real road bike also gives you options. More options than if you just own a tri-bike. You can go on more group rides or organized century rides. Next year, a whole new seris of century rides will be launched in North America, modeled after the Gran Fondo's in Italy. The Centurion Series is being put together by Graham Fraser, who literally put Ironman races and Ironman racing on the map here in North America. From what I can tell, the Centurion events are going to be the next big thing! You will want to do these rides on a road bike.

If you wanted to take it to the next level you could get into road racing with a real road bike. Road Racing, to the uninitiated is completely different than the bike leg of a triathlon. About the only thing the two have in common is that they are both done on two wheels. The similarities end there. Road racing can be a huge amount of fun, and often the final outcome does not matter - just being part of the scene and part of the action of the race is what matters. Unlike triathlon it tends to be a winner-takes-all sport, so finding those other victories and places to slot-in, are key. Whatever, the case, the Cervelo R3, would serve you well in any bike road race. After all, this is the bike that 2008 Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre rides most of the time, so you'll be in good company!

Picture at the top is my new R3 in gravel/dirt road mode - mud, dirt and all. This is yet another advantage of this amazing bike. It will take up to 28mm wide tires(give or take). Add some MTB pedals and you have a bike that can even handle a bit of light cyclo-cross riding on easy trails and grass and rides along gravel and dirt roads like a dream! After all, this is the same bike that has been ridden to victory in the famous and brutal Paris-Roubaix road race twice in the last few years!


Anonymous said...

After only having a tri bike for 3 years, I finally decided to get a road bike. It was built up this weekend and taken on its maiden voyage last night.

mine looks a lot like yours. =]

Fleck said...

Ben - welcome to the road side of things. I am sure you will enjoy every minute of riding on your new bike.

Koddy said...

I love ridding my bike!
Actually, always I have to Buy Viagra , I enjoy going to the pharmacy on my bike, it is simply exiting!

Kathryn said...

Fleck - I just found this column and have been convinced to buy a road bike (I'm one of those newer to tri's as I borrowed a bike last season.) Seeing as the column was written in 2009, do the models number still hold?



Since I wrote this blog there have been some changes to the Cervelo line.

I would suggest going to the Cervelo web site to get the full details:

Thanks for reading and happy riding.


Rodrigo said...


great post...
Any updates to your recommendation considering the 2011 models?
Is the R3 still the road bike of choice for someone coming from a TT bike (in my case the P2C)?
I'm trying to decide between the S2 and R3 (or maybe RS)


Mike Thompson said...

I just purchases a 2011 R3 after riding only a TT bike for the last 12 months. I was amazed at the comfort, handling and speed of the bike. I extended the ride since I was having so much fun. When I got home I was shocked to see the avg MPH where the same for this loop as I do on my TT bike. Only it seemed way easier.

Steve Fleck said...


My apologies for the very late reply. I address your question here: It really depends on usage and your needs.


In a perfect and absolute world you should be faster on the TT bike, but maybe that does not matter to you - seriously. If you are having fun, it feels good, and you like it, that's all that matters!

Thanks for reading.