If you’re new to triathlon, investing in a road bike is a perfectly fine place to start. But even for experienced triathletes, a road bike can provide adequate capability as a tri bike. Just add clip-on aero bars.
Below are some of our favorite road bikes for triathlon, ranging from the most affordable to more mid- to high-end options. These are bikes that you might spend $2K-$3K on but will deliver on performance demands for both triathlon and road cycling.
Also, check out our page on triathlon bikes to see tri and time-trial-specific models.
Road Bikes Under $2,500
These are some of our top picks for triathlete-friendly road bikes with more affordable options priced under $2,500. They offer great entry-level options for beginners. But they don’t compromise on performance, either.
State Undefeated Disc Road
We’re big fans of State Bicycle Co. The Undefeated Disc Road is one of the best entry-level performance road bikes money can buy. Also available in a sleek Graphite color scheme, the Undefeated comes highly reviewed (4.8/5 average rating with sixteen solid customer reviews.)
The Undefeated is uniquely engineered with Y9 Kinesium (aluminum alloy with titanium)f or a lighter, smoother ride. It’s approximately 21 lbs and is built with a 1×11 drivetrain.
You can buy it directly from StateBicycle.com for $1,499.
Trek Domane AL 2 Road Bike
If you’re on a $1k-ish budget but still want something good quality and long-lasting, the Trek Domane AL 2 is a terrific option from Trek.
We also like the Domane AL 2 because it’s relatively light for an aluminum frame bike (carbon fork), weighing about 21 lbs, and is built with Bontrager components and a Shimano drivetrain.
The geometry of the Domane AL 2 is well-suited for triathletes who are looking for something aerodynamic and versatile on the road, especially with clip-on aero bars.
Last we looked, you could find the 2023 Trek Domane AL 2 for $1,129.99 at Als.com.
SCOTT Speedster 40
The SCOTT Speedster 40 is a smooth-riding, fast-rolling alloy bike that’s designed with an aerodynamic frame and endurance-friendly geometry. In short, it’s an affordable alloy road bike that’s well-suited for triathletes.
Built with a Shimano drivetrain, Syncros Race wheels, and Schwalbe Lugano Tires, Scott’s Speedster 40 is a performance enabler that’s built to maximize your performance on the road.
We’ve found the best price for the SCOTT Speedster 40 to be $1,499.99 on Als.com.
SAVADECK Carbon Road Bike
When it comes to affordable carbon road bikes, SAVADECK offers some of the best options that money can buy. Built around a sleek aerodynamic frame, SAVADECK’s Carbon Road Bike comes complete with a Shimano SORA R3000 Derailleur System, shifters, and mechanical disc breaks.
In addition to the frame, the fork and seat post are both carbon, making for an exceptionally light (weighing just over 21 pounds) and smooth-riding road bike. For tread, the bike comes with Continental Ultra Sport II 700x25c tires, which can top out at 120TPI.
Available for about $1,700, the SAVADECK Carbon Road Bike comes pre-installed and is easy to assemble with minimal tools and experience. It’s available for purchase on Amazon.
Pinarello Gan Road Bike
The Pinarello Gan 105 Road Bike is a premium road bike that comes at quite a bargain. Featuring the performance-oriented Shimano 105 R7000 11-speed groupset, the Pinarello Gan is a full-carbon build that’s led by Pinarello’s Onda Fork for precise corning, optimal stability, and vibration dampening.
This triathlon-friendly road bike comes equipped with Fulcrum Racing 600 wheelset and Pirelli P7 tires. This combination delivers a fast, smooth, and dependable ride for both short-course and long-distance cycling. The complete build ways a mere 18.6 pounds, making it one of the lightest and fastest road bikes under $2,500.
Look for the Pinarello Gan 105 on Competitive Cyclist.
Ridely Fenix SLA
The Ridley Fenix SLA is one of the most rugged road bikes that’s ready for a wide range of riding. It could be the perfect entry-level bike for any beginner cyclist/triathlete looking to maximize their performance.
Ridley, being a proper race bike brand, built the Fenix SLA as a race-ready machine that’s still in budget-conscious territory. The triple-butted aluminum frame delivers a smooth ride quality and confident durability. The fork is a 24T/30T carbon fiber blend, helping lighten the load over rough, long, and demanding rides.
A 32-tooth big ring delivers high top-end speed potential, and an 11-speed cassette delivers incredible range for climbing/gearing. This is all built around the trusted Shimano 105 drivetrain and groupset, along with hydraulic disc brakes.
Ridley Fenix SLA is priced around $1,899 while supplies last at Competitive Cyclist.
Tommaso Monza Endurance
The Tommaso Monza Endurance is an Italian-made aluminum road bike that’s built with a carbon fork for added vibration dampening and weight savings. The total bike weight is just over 20 pounds, making it one of the lightest aluminum frame bikes available.
Built with a Shimano Tiagra groupset and drivetrain, the bike delivers a vast range of speeds (20-speed) with an 11x32T chainring. The Tiagra shifting is known to be highly responsive and lightning-fast, delivering a high-end feel for entry-level pricing.
Tommaso built the Monza Endurance with rider comfort in mind, offering a WTB Bold saddle and ultra-compact ergonomic drop bars. Equipped with 40mm rims and bladed spokes, it’s hard to believe this bike isn’t a high-dollar ticket item.
Attractively priced just below $1,200, the Tommaso Monza Endurance is available for purchase on Amazon.
Schwinn Fastback Tourney AL
For a triathlon-friendly road bike priced under $1k, the Schwinn Fastback Tourney AL is a solid option from a reputable brand in the industry. It’s an aluminum frame, so it’s slightly heavier than carbon options (weighing just under 25 pounds). But its geometry is engineered with efficiency and performance in mind.
The Schwinn Fastback Tourney AL uses traditional rim breaks, which are much easier to maintain compared to disc. And the drivetrain is controlled by a Shimano AO70 STI shift and brake levers, along with Shimano front and rear derailleurs that deliver smooth shifting.
With a 4.3/5 star rating, the Schwinn Fastback Tourney AL is a great entry-level road bike for triathlon and beyond. For under $800, you can’t beat it. Purchase it today on Amazon.
HeartsBio Carbon Road Bike
As one of the most highly-reviewed carbon road bikes (5/5 star rating), HeartsBio Carbon Road Bike offers a race-oriented design that’s well-suited for all types of riders. As a high-quality build, it’s also a great deal priced just below $1,600.
As an offspring of Google in 2014, you can think of HeartsBio as a California-based health products brand that offers affordable yet top-notch bikes at aftermarket/wholesale prices. Don’t be put off by its generic branding, as this carbon road bike is notably light and fast.
The total weight of this carbon road bike is 18.7 pounds, making it a very lightweight option for the price point. The groupset is Shimano SORA (18-speed), and it comes with an ergo-saddle and other customizable options.
Offering great value for the money, you can purchase the HeartsBio Carbon Road Bike on Amazon.
SAVADECK Phantom 2.0
Another top pick carbon road bike from SAVADECK is the Phantom 2.0. Not only does this model come equipped with higher-end components, but it’s also engineered for performance-minded cyclists weighing just 17 pounds.
The feel on the Phantom 2.0 is a bit stiffer, which triathletes and road cyclists will appreciate. But it’s also still very compliant and responsive, providing an excellent all-road option for climbing and out-of-the-saddle sprints.
The bike is built with a Shimano Ultegra 8000 groupset, 50mm carbon wheelset, and Continental Ultra Sport II 700x25c tires. It’s also topped with a race-oriented Fi’zi:k saddle.
Priced around $2,300 for the full build, you can purchase the SAVADECK Phantom 2.0 on Amazon.
For an aluminum drop-bar road bike that weighs 24 pounds and is less than $800 out the door, the Schwinn Phocus is a sweet option that doesn’t break the bank. Well-suited for triathlon, time-trial, and road racing, the Schwinn Phocus is a versatile road bike that delivers on performance.
Relatively lightweight and responsive, the Phocus series is a testament to Schwinn’s century-old legacy in the cycling industry. The bike has been reviewed over 200 times and has earned 4.2/5 stars. With quick-release wheels and seatpost, it’s also easy to maintain compared to other performance road bikes.
Priced right around $750, you can purchase the Schwinn Phocus 1400 or 1600 series models on Amazon.
Road Bikes Over $2,500
These road bikes offer more advanced technology and performance. For serious cyclists or those looking to maximize their capability on the bike, check out some of these great options below.
Specialized Tarmac SL6 Sport Bike
The Specialized Tarmac SL6 is a road bike designed with aerodynamics a top priority. Appropriately named a “sport bike,” the Tarmac SL6 is a very lightweight steed that’s highly aero and ready for any triathlon. Overall, it’s one of our favorite road bike choices for triathletes.
The 2023 Tarmac SL6 Sport Bike is quite a level up from the Tarmac SL5. Not only does the SL6 offer a more evolved carbon fiber frame and fork, but it’s 20% lighter than the SL5. It’s also equipped with quality DT Swiss wheels, Shimano 105 drivetrain, and a few S-Works touches.
Right now, the best price for this is $2,699.99 at Als.com while supplies last.
Canyon Endurace CF SL Disc 8.0
Canyon Road bikes are recognized for offering a high degree of performance, comfort, aerodynamics, and aesthetics. The Endurace CF SL Disc 8.0 is the perfect representation of Canyon’s ability to offer a beautiful-designed, top-tier road bike in the sub $3k price range.
The Endurace CF SL is the carbon model in Canyon’s Endurance series of road bikes. It’s equipped with Shimano Ultegra R8000 components and weighs just over 17 lbs / 8 kg. The Endurance AL (aluminum) models are available sub $2k, but pack an additional ~2 lbs / 1 kg.
Rated a 9/10 by German Rennrad magazine, the Canyon Endurace CF SL Disc 8.0 is an award-winning bike that suits long hours in the saddle. Well designed for bike racing, training, triathlon, or touring, the Endurance CF SL is a comfort seeker’s bike that caters well to athletes covering long distances.
See Canyon’s Endurance bikes to learn more.
Felt FR Race Bike
The Felt FR Race Bike is an all-star choice that embodies the Felt brand name for simplicity, speed, and mindful engineering. The FR is a carbon-built freedom machine that’s impressively lighter and stiffer compared to most other road bikes.
As one of the lightest road bikes at an attractive $2.5k price point, the Felt FR weighs 17.8 lb / 8.09 kg, which is the byproduct of Felt’s UHC Advanced + TeXtreme carbon fiber frame, fork, and ControlTaper steerer tube.
The Felt FR with a Shimano 105 setup can be acquired at a cost of just above $2k. Felt provides an array of build options, including the $12k featherlight FR FRD Ultimate that weighs an astonishing 15.2 lbs / 9.1 kg and comes built with a Dura-Ace Di2 drivetrain.
Find out more about the Felt FR Race Bike.
Trek Domane SL 5
The new Domane SL 5 from Trek bikes is a carbon road machine that’s gotten high praise. Coming in at just over $3k, the Domane SL 5 is acclaimed for its speed, smoothness, and versatility.
For those seeking a gravel-friendly road bike that can withstand rough road riding, the Domane SL 5 provides generous tire clearance enabling up to 38c wide tires. While Domane’s geometry is optimized for long-distance comfort and weighing 21.8 lbs / 9.9 kg, it also has the capacity to be an all-out race bike.
Trek’s Domane SL 5 is built with a Shimano 105 groupset. The bike also has an internal storage compartment for stowing tools and gear, which is a thoughtful addition for long-distance cyclists.
Take a gander at the Domane SL 5 for more information.
Boardman SLR 9.2 Disc Carbon
The SLR 9.2 from Boardman is a carbon road bike that’s beautifully engineered for a long, low race position. It’s one of the best road bikes for triathlon beginners and elites alike. Its frame has a narrower, more aerodynamic design compared to most other bikes in its class. Combined with aero bars, the SLR 9.2 seamlessly transforms into a TT bike.
The Boardman SLR 9.2 is modestly equipped with Shimano Ultegra R8000 series groupset and a 50/34 chainset with an 11-30 cassette. Stock builds run Alexrims RXD3 Wheels with Vittoria Rubino Pro Graphene 2.0 tires. Altogether, the bike weighs a mere 17.6 lbs.
The SLR-series of Boardman melds optimum power transfer, comfort, and aero-optimized/wind-tunnel tested triathlon performance. Price may vary on this bike from Boardman, typically starting around $3K.
For more info, visit Boardman Bikes.
Cannondale SuperSix EVO
The Cannondale SuperSix EVO is the ultra-fast evolution of the legendary SuperSix ethos. With its sleek, drag-reducing tube shapes and race-driven geometry, the SuperSix EVO delivered 30-watt savings at a 30 mph / 48.3 kph compared to the preceding model.
Design with Cannondale’s high-strength, high-stiff BallisTec carbon composition, the SuperSix EVO has developed a long-standing legacy for its smoothness, handling, and speed. It’s equipped with Shimano 105 components and hydraulic disc breaks.
The Cannondale SuperSix EVO is an agile and durable road bike with an aerodynamic frame that’s shown to reduce drag by 30% compared to standard round bars. Integrated cable routing, 30mm tire clearance, and an overwhelming reputation for smoothness are a few additional qualities that make the SuperSix EVO an all-star choice for the price.
Check out the Cannondale SuperSix EVO.
Specialized Allez Sprint
The Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc is a high-end entry-level road bike the provides a stunning look and high-return performance ROI. The Allez Sprint Comp is considerably stiffer and more compliant than your normal $2.3k road bike, which maximizes power transfer while providing a rigid feel.
Dovetailing on the design inspiration of Specialized Tarmac’s “Rider-First Engineered™,” the Allez Sprint doesn’t compromise comfort for stiffness and performance. The Allez Sprint is superiorly responsive and agile and is designed from an advanced aluminum alloy.
Finished with Specialized Tarmac’s Disc FACT carbon fiber fork, Allez Sprint absorbs the road while providing incredible stiffness and front-end handling. The Allez Sprint is a strong contender, even against full carbon fiber competitors. See more tech specs and details of the Specialized Allez Sprint Comp Disc.
Cervélo Caledonia Carbon Road Bike
The Cervélo Caledonia is a carbon road bike that provides an optimal balance between comfort, speed, and responsiveness. Athletes can leverage Cervélo’s notable power transfer capabilities and receptive handling, all while enjoying smooth, compliant saddle comfort over the course of long rides.
The entry-level Caledonia option comes with Shimano 105 drivetrain and starts at $2.9k. It’s a performance-ready road bike that provides ample performance for crit racing, pack riding, ultra-cycling, adventure bike racing, and triathlon.
Get a closer look at the Cervélo Caledonia Carbon.
Triathlon Road Bike FAQs
These are our 2021 picks for entry-level road bikes by Specialized, Trek, Felt, Cannondale, Canyon, and Cervélo. Stay tuned for regular updates, and see road bike FAQs below for more information.
How Much Does a Good Road Bike Cost?
Depending on your preference for new versus used options, the cost of a high-quality entry-level road bike usually various between $1-2k on up brand new. It’s a broad question that greatly varies based on one’s budget, performance demands, and the current marketplace, both local and online.
In most cases, a brand new, high-performance road bike will cost $4-5k on up. Upgrade to an even higher-end model, and you can easily drop $10-15k on a baller road bike. Conversely, you can downgrade to the sub-$2k price range and still acquire a trusted steed that unleashes your athletic potential.
Can You Use a Road Bike for a Triathlon?
Yes, road bikes can absolutely be used for triathlon training and racing. For most beginners with limited cycling experience, a road bike is often recommended for the first year or two as an athlete builds handling skills and confidence.
Adding clip-on aero bars to a road bike can enable athletes to achieve a better aero position1 without relying solely on drop bars. Aero-adapted road bikes are especially useful for a myriad of reasons, but especially for triathlon and ultra-distance cycling when having a variety of hand positions helps with comfort across long days of riding.
When equipped with aero bars, using a road bike for triathlon isn’t far off from an actual time trial/triathlon bike. Sure, there’s a steeper seat tube angle and aerodynamic design considerations with TT bikes. But for most athletes, a road bike functions just fine for triathlon, all while also providing better range for non-TT style cycling. Here are some of our favorite picks.
Alternatively, triathlon bikes are not made for optimal handling. They are designed for straight-line speed and aero-position riding. In turn, a triathlon bike can certainly offer aerodynamic advantages2 compared to a road bike, which saves considerable time in long-course races and Ironman distances. However, the aero advantage of TT bikes comes at the expense of agility and quick handling, which is important not only for beginners but also for group riding, drafting, and comfort.
How to Ride a Bike on the Road?
While bikes have many of the same rights as vehicles, it’s important to use your best judgment and avoid high-traffic roads that might endanger your safety. Always use shoulders, designated bike lanes, and commuter trails whenever possible to avoid vehicle traffic.
When sharing the road with automobiles, such as a shoulderless road, exercise extreme caution and awareness. Bicyclist fatalities by motor vehicle crashes continue to increase in the U.S. and are only intensified by higher rates of phone-distracted driving.
Before hitting the road, learn the basic hand signals to let other drivers and cyclists know when you are stopping or turning. Also, be sure to acquire proper bike lights, such as a red taillight, ideally with blinking or strobe abilities, and a bright headlight and/or headlamp.
Also, if you use clipless pedals and cycling shoes over flat pedals worn with any shoes, get familiar with clipping in and out before taking your bike to the road.
Should I Get a Road Bike or a Gravel Bike?
Gravel cycling has become increasingly popular over the years, as many athletes enjoy the versatility and minimal traffic that comes with unpaved road riding.
Most road-specific frames and brake systems do not accommodate wider gravel tires, so you’re often limited to skinny tires and paved roads. For cyclists who are seeking greater versatility and capability in their riding (e.g. gravel, two-track, fire roads, single track, and other unpaved surfaces), a quality gravel bike can offer a better investment than a road bike only.
Many gravel bikes can accommodate both road and gravel tires – so it’s easy to swap out wheelsets depending on the riding you’re doing. Some of today’s “gravel plus” bikes allow up to 3″ wide tires with 650b wheels (or 2.8″ for 29er/700c wheels). At that range, you’re able to ride most mountain bike terrain.
The major drawback is cost – or the cost of owning multiple bikes. Most high-quality gravel bikes – like carbon and titanium gravel bikes – are typically priced over $3k for a solid entry-level performance option. Add a nice carbon wheelset, triathlon tires, and aero bars, and you can quickly spend a lot of money. If you don’t have that kind of money to spend, check out these budget gravel bike options that are under $3k.
Last Word About Beginner Road Bikes & Triathlon
When exploring options for triathlon, road bikes are a great place to start and can last many years of use for competitive triathlon racing and other cycling events. Be sure to invest in a bike that will maximize your potential (like the bikes shown here).
A beginner’s first time on a road bike is often an unforgettable experience. The level of speed and efficiency felt with narrow tires, a lightweight frame, and drop-bar handlebars makes for a fast and fun ride. Add high-end technology at entry-level prices, and you get some of the best road bikes for the cost.
Road bikes are freedom machines in many regards. Whether for performance, commuting, touring, or triathlon, buying a road bike is a practical investment for a myriad of paved road cycling.
But let’s be real. New road bikes can cost the equivalent of a few months’ rent/mortgage, as most mid-range models are priced well above $4-5K. Tack on any additional components and features, and just the cost of an entry-level road bike can quickly escalate.
For those who don’t have a limitless budget or more than $4k to spend on a new bike, these mid-level and entry-level road bikes deliver on performance without don’t break the bank (too much).
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1. Sheel AW, Lama I, Potvin P, Coutts KD, McKenzie DC. Comparison of aero-bars versus traditional cycling postures on physiological parameters during submaximal cycling. Can J Appl Physiol. 1996 Feb;21(1):16-22. doi: 10.1139/h96-002. PMID: 8664843.
2. K. B. Blair, “Cycling Aerodynamics: Clearing the air,” MIT Open Course Ware, 2013. [Online]. Available: https://ocw.mit.edu/courses/experimental-study-group/es-010-chemistry-of-sports-spring-2013/lecture-notes/MITES_010S13_lec10.pdf
Endurance athlete, professional off-road cyclist, and avid blogger, Tyler Tafelsky participates in long-course multisport and cycling events. Today, Tyler competes in ultra-distance cycling races at the professional level. Since starting Better Triathlete in 2014, he has been the head of content for the site's editorial team. Learn more about Tyler