Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Triathlon on a Road Bike?

On a recent trip to Arizona, I spent four days riding the new Cervelo S5 road bike (Thank you to Tribe Multisport in Scottsdale, AZ, and Cervelo for the loaner). This may be the most straight-forward, kick-ass road bike on the market. If Cervelo's numbers are right, it's as aero as many of the TT and triathlon bikes out there. Which got me thinking during the Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) race, where I spent a lot of time out on the bike course, watching triathletes ride. I noticed a micro trend: Triathletes doing the bike leg on a road bike, set up as a road bike, with no aero bars.

The other thing I saw was something that I have been seeing for a while now: Many triathletes riding state-of-the-art fully aero triathlon specific bikes, but riding a lot of the bike leg sitting up-right, hands on the base bar.

If you put the two groups together - road bike riders, and up-right tri-bike riders, it might have been a quarter of the race field at IMAZ. Maybe more!

This got me thinking - for these folks, why not just race the Ironman on a road bike? For sure there are people in Ironman races these days, who are looking for every advantage, wanting to go faster and faster, going for a top place in their Age-Group, and possibly qualifying for Ironman Hawaii. But there is also a large cohort of people these days doing Ironman races who have no thoughts, plans or goals along those lines. They just want to finish. This is a lofty and admirable goal in it's own right. However, with all due respect, these hard working and dedicated triathletes have more in common with Sportif category cyclists - not really racing, but not touring either.

Would these triathletes not be better off on a well fit, aero road bike such as the Cervelo S5? Surely they would be more comfortable and the bike would be much better handling than many of the set-ups I saw out on the IMAZ course. Many seem to ride these tri bikes in what appears to be very uncomfortable, unbalanced and precarious positions. If they can't maintain that classic aero position for more than half of the race or more, what's the point?

Sure, if we are to believe the numbers, athletes who choose to ride a road bike, as a road bike, will be giving up a few minutes of time on the bike leg due to the less aero body position on a road bike - but again, with all due respect, what's 5 - 10 minutes in a 12 - 17 hour day?

I know that many will think me crazy for having these thoughts or putting this forward, but from what I saw at IMAZ, I am just putting 2 and 2 together here and throwing in a bit of common sense.

What do you think - would it make more sense for some folks to just do triathlons on a well fit (aero) road bike?

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