by Bethany Rutledge, Energy Lab Atlanta
It’s that time of year when many aspiring triathletes begin their training journey. One of the biggest decisions they will make early on relate to their first big bike purchase. Here are 5 things I wish I knew that would have saved me a lot of time and money when I was starting out!
Get Fit First- No really you should. This is the most important thing I tell beginners who are just starting with Atlanta Tri Club or Energy Lab. I can also add my personal story which gives my advice a bit more weight. Long long ago (9 years ago!) in a land far away (Play It Again Sports in Roswell) I, too, thought a bike fit was unnecessary.
[caption id="attachment_1081" align="aligncenter" width="300"] My first race with a tri bike and the only time I managed to be aero the entire race.[/caption]
I found a bargain used bike fit for a 6’ tall man (I’m 5’6), and got to work! Ultimately, I went through four bikes in the first two years of my triathlon journey to find something that wasn’t a horrible fit. I spent way more money in selling and repurchasing bikes, buying special stems and seat posts, and more than I would have if I had just started with a good fit!
[caption id="attachment_1080" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Training ride on the bike I used for Kona. It looks and was very uncomfortable![/caption]
Fortunately, all that changed in 2011 when I first connected with Matt and crew at Podium. He was able to deliver the truth in a way that resonated with me finally- “you will never perform your best if you don’t start with a bike that fits!”
[caption id="attachment_1082" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Perfect bike for me with a perfect fit thanks to Matt at Podium![/caption]
Buy a Bike Based on Features- This seems obvious yet, like car shopping, many people make bike purchasing decisions based on appearance or brand perception. The most important feature is fit which we already discussed. But beyond that, there are a slew of features such as components, ability to make fit modifications, and ease of maintenance. All of these merit consideration prior to color scheme entering the mix. The good news is that with the availability of bikes, you should be able to find something that meets your needs and looks great!
Don’t Necessarily Start with a Road Bike- Common advice for budding triathletes includes starting out with a road bike. The reasoning is sound and includes reasons such as a road bike is more versatile, you will use it forever, and you can still ride it if you quit triathlon. But I say it depends on the individual. Some people train awhile and sign up for a season of triathlons prior to ever getting started. If this describes you and you have competitive aspirations, you might as well give yourself every advantage from the start. And if you buy a tri bike instead of a road bike that’s a serious free speed advantage!
One more thing to mention on this topic. Some say that a fast bike is only for ‘serious’ athletes. I would argue the opposite actually. If your desire is to get to T2 faster, for any reason, whether it be for competitive reasons, or just to get it over with, then you can benefit from a fast bike!
Keep Searching for that Match! Like the search for the perfect saddle, the search for the perfect bike could take months or years and you may deal with some lemons along the way. Once I started getting good advice, my bike selections got progressively better till I found my perfect bike, the Felt IA, which I dubbed Bikey. He’s speedy, good looking, and he makes me super aero for all the free speed you can buy. He even works (harder) when I’m not in perfect shape. With bikey in tow I’m a heck of a lot faster than I would be otherwise even when I’m not setting PRs!
[caption id="attachment_1083" align="aligncenter" width="300"] My Felt IA[/caption]
Getting Refit- Yes we covered this, but the thing about a fit is it doesn’t last forever. Our strength and flexibility changes over time as do our target distances. It’s important to head in for a refit periodically. Personally, I’ve had three fits, all with Matt or Dave at Podium that ‘changed everything.’ They include my very first fit at Podium after which I set bike PRs, a refit and a change to Bikey after which I set more bike PRs, and a slight change early this year which made Bikey my preferred bike to take to the mountains. I would recommend getting a refit once per year to make sure you’re in your best position whatever your goals may be.
Time for a fit or refit? You can find out more about our bike fits and book online here.