my love affair with the bicycle

Decisions, decisions, decisions....

Last year when I started cycling, I intentionally purchased an entry-level road bike, because I wasn't sure if I would like it and couldn't afford to spend a lot of money on something that might sit in my basement.  2000+ miles later, I'm in love with cycling, and starting to look at upgrading the bike.  But there's a lot to consider.  For the purposes of the dreamland I'm living in, let's just set the whole "poor graduate student" thing aside for now.  And the whole "I started doing my taxes this morning and had a heart attack" thing.  Fantasyland, enter here.

On the one hand, last year I did mostly tour-type pack riding.  I did a full century and some shorter group rides.  I also rode alone or with a friend to the tune of 125-175 miles a week, every week, all summer long.  I routinely attended the crazy hill workout.  I did one sprint triathlon.  I would have done at least two more centuries were it not for the massive inconvenience of having my IT band cut open.  So I know, from my own history, that a fancier road bike will fit the profile of the riding I've been doing.  

However, on the flip side, I've got two 70.3 races on the schedule for this year - and probably a number of smaller triathlons.  The decision I'm really trying to make is, are those races important enough to validate buying a triathlon bike?  I could always have aerobars put on my road bike for these races, or I could rent a triathlon bike for the week leading up to and including these races.  But I know that if I'm in these races and being passed left and right by others on triathlon bikes, I'll get mad at my bike first.  Not rational, by any stretch, as my training will be more to blame than the bike that I ride, but it's what I know will go on inside my head.  Will I continue doing 70.3s?  It's likely.

But, I'm not sure that I want a triathlon bike to be my main bike.  When I return to settle the score with the Reston Century, I know that I'm going to want a road bike for those ridiculous 48% climbs, not a triathlon bike.  When I'm attacking the hill workout on Tuesday nights, ditto.  When I'm doing tempo rides around Haines Point, ditto.  

I went last night to Bonzai Sports in Falls Church, and was enchanted by the shiny, pretty triathlon bikes.  But when I presented the above to the awesome guy who was talking to me about them, he summed it up pretty nicely: tri bikes are for racing.  Which means two things to me: I don't need one for when I'm not racing, and I do need one for when I do.

Obviously the solution here is to buy two bikes.  And if anyone from Specialized, Cervelo, Trek, Felt, or Quintana wants me to test something out for them or send me a "Buy 1 Get 1 Free!" coupon, I'm happy to be a guinea pig and tattoo your brand on my back.  Otherwise, I'm wide open to advice, from cyclists and triathletes both.  What do I really need?  How do I prioritize bicycle purchasing?  What questions do I really need to be asking?  Where can I find a money tree?


  1. I can't offer any advice, but I am hoping that I can fall in love with cycling like you have! Right now I have a bit of an irrational fear of falling, but a friend just gave me the road bike that has been gathering dust in her garage so I'm determined to face my fears head on. We'll see if it becomes my next exercise addiction, but I'm sure I'll at least end up with some good stories.

  2. Road bike only... but, I'm gonna put out some good intentions toward some generous triathlete that has too many tri bikes and wants to gift one to you, 'cause you'll ride the rims off rather than let it sit.

  3. Hahahaha. I thought you were waiting until spring to do this?

  4. I'll just point out that you will probably want to use the tri bike for loops around Hains Point and probably for a lot of your training, because surely you wouldn't show up to a 56-mile ride without plenty of time on THAT bike. That being said, I think you should maybe do the first tri on the road bike and see if you can do it, with or without aerobars. I'm usually only passed by men, and they are usually on tri bikes, but I don't feel bad about it, because they are rich gear heads, and I am not. Though I do start at the back of the pack because of the swim. But I pass women on tri bikes all the time.

  5. I am in NO position to hand out bike advice so I'll stand by and read the comments.

  6. So I have run into this same exact situation. I owned an 'entry level' road bike for 8 years (think I got my money's worth ;)) and last year up-graded to a fancy road bike, and then I started doing tri's. Now I love my bike but I often feel the itch to get a tri bike, but I did do pretty well on my REALLY nice road bike during those triathlons, and one of the tri's was Half Full (a 70.3) which I had no problem doing, even without aerobars. The tri bike is just so specialized that if you want to go for a 'fun' ride, on say W&OD, you look a little funny going out on a tri bike, but you have to ask how often you are going for fun and not training. Also the aero bars probably do help with overall time but so do a fancy set of wheels, and those you can rent. So I would suggest a nice road bike, and maybe look for a gently used tri bike. The thing with triathlon is it's a sport full of people who make $$$$ and I've seen a number of very gently used (ie 1 season) tri bikes offered for sale on, so maybe that's a route you could consider.
    I'm also looking for a money tree so if you know where to find one, help a girl out!

  7. I like the buying road bike, renting tri idea.

  8. Tris (70.3 anyway) are pricey, require travel, plus you often have to sign up FAR in advance - something to consider if you aren't rich and/or you tend to get little injuries often. How many 70.3 do you think you'd realistically do each year?

    I'd go with a really nice road bike and aerobars. Keep in mind I've no tri experience (unless you count crewing) but I rarely see my friends on their tri bikes. Of course, they all settled down and had kids, and you're an obsessive swim, bike, run girl. Hmm. Maybe I should ask around, what size bike you looking for? :)

  9. DO IT!! Girl, you are hard core and you need a hardcore bike. Don't take my advice to seriously.....I think it is okay to go into debt for exercise equipment! Hope you are having a great day!

  10. man...i wish i had any decent advice to give...but i never ride a bike. except for the two speed that i bought in second grade. and by "bought" i mean was bribed with by my parents who made me move after first grade :)

  11. I used to ride a tri bike, then switch to road a few years back. My thinking was that around here, most of our races involve lots of climbing. A tri fit won't help you out there. A road bike is also more practical for other riding. Just my two cents!

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