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The ‘Captain Obvious’ Seach Term of the Week: I can only ride 20 mph do I need a tri bike?

September 2013
« Aug   Oct »

I almost spit out my milk, through my nose:

“I can only ride 20 mph do I need a tri bike”

The easy answer is, “Of course you do”!  But is an extra mile and a half an hour worth $6,000 $3,000-4,000?   “Of course” would be the answer if I were:  A) a bike store owner B) a Manufacturer of Tri bikes or C) a triathlete training to race in  an Ironman (the full 140.6, not the half) a triathlon.

Because I am none of those, the answer is:  “Nope, you need to pedal harder”.

Now, smart Alec responses out of the way, I can feel your pain.  Getting above that 20 mile mark solo is not easy – especially considering you already ride faster than most cyclists out there.  First of all, remember, you’re talking about overall speed here and unless you’re riding on closed roads your speed will be adversely affected by as much as 1 to 2 mph.  Now, if you really cannot pedal your bike faster than 20 mph, start with your cadence – you can go faster pedaling faster on an easier gear, that’s first.  I can increase my speed from a tough 20 to an easy 21.5 just by shifting down one gear and picking up the cadence.  Next, if you haven’t had your bike fitted, you should have had that done before you bought your bike.  Take it to the shop, pay for the fitting, buy the new stem that you’ll probably need, and let them set your bike up the way that will get you the most power.  Finally, if those two are already in the bag, slam the stem and get used to riding like the kids half your age.  That’s easily worth 1 mph, it’s just not that easy.

Beyond that, there is no amount of Long Steady Distance that will raise your speed.  You’ll have to increase your ability to push a harder gear comfortably.  The only two ways I know to do this is climb mountains on your bike and do intervals.  I would also join a club that averages between 21 & 22 mph over 30 miles or so and try to hang on.  I would love to give an easier, softer way, but that is the easiest, softest way.

Whoever you are, good luck and thanks for the laugh.

UPDATE:  Elisariva pointed out, and I begrudgingly conceded, that a tri-bike setup does not cost $6,000.  LOL.  However, she also took exception to the rest of my tongue in cheek commentary about whether they’re necessary to break 20 mph and narrowed that to do I need a triathlon bike to do a triathlon…  While I’ll roll over on the cost, and have changed it, the subject matter remains the same:  Do you need a Tri Bike to break 20 mph?  Nope, I can any time I want to – as long as it doesn’t interfere with recovery rides – gotta have the steady one’s too.


  1. elisariva says:

    Okay, there is more to it, I have both road and tt bikes. Comfort matters too – for 40K, 56 miles or 112, riding on aero bars is more that just aerodynamic, comfortable too for the back. Sure, you can add aero bars to a road bike, however shifting is a pain. Tri bikes have te gears on the handles. Then there is the T2 component. The geometry of a tri bike is so much better on the legs for the run. Coming off a road bike the legs take a mile or two to adjust on the run. On a tri bike it is so much easier to run. This helps a lot when the run is only 10K. So there are more factors to consider. Tri bikes start at $1800 – so the price range is wide.

    And since I am here, great post on sale at Nashbar, I picked up a few things. Thanks!

    • bgddyjim says:

      I gave you the full Ironman and I might even go for the half, but for an OLYMPIC? No way, I did two on a stinkin’ mountain bike with slicks on it! A road bike is more than enough for that, it’s only a 10k run!… But that wasn’t the question either! The question was, do I need a tri bike to go faster than 20 mph – the answer to which is, of course you don’t!

      Now, the TT Bikes START at $1,800 but anyone nutty enough to buy a whole TT bike to break 20 mph isn’t going to settle for the aluminum chassis! Minimum is going to be about $4,000 – after the fitting and the needed components, aero helmet and bottle cages? Yeah, that’s $6,000 easy.

      Now, my awesome Venge just so happens to come with a reversible seat post and enough spacers that I can drop the bars and have a legitimate TT bike with an extra few hundred dollars for clamp on aero bars – Geometry problem solved. 😉

      • elisariva says:

        Absolutely Olympic. The 5150 series all pros and elites (fast cyclists) ride tri bikes. The only competitive triathlons where roadies are required are draft legal races (rare) so breaks are easily accessible. You may have done olys before but you know your heart is a roadie now. In tri world, serious triathletes have a tri bike. The most popular tri bike is Cervelo P2 – good for noobs to pros and retails for $2600. My friend is a pro and rides a Felt – with carbon wheels – all in cost is under $5000. There are options… (We are going to have to call a draw here…)

      • bgddyjim says:

        I’ll take the draw on the cost – but the question had nothing to do with triathlons, you have to give me that one. A person does not need a tri bike to break 20 mph – I do it every day on my road bike.

      • elisariva says:

        Yes, you have that on subject matter. (So good to be back with our banter 😉 )

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