In the world of bicycle racing, triathlon bikes are a different breed. Below we highlight everything you need to know about triathlon bikes, including some of the best models to watch for in 2021. Use the quick links below to find the type of triathlon bike you’re most interested in.
- Entry-Level Triathlon Bikes
- Mid-Range Triathlon Bikes
- High-Performance Triathlon Bikes
- Triathlon/TT Bike FAQs
Virtually synonymous with time trial bikes, or TT bikes, the geometry of triathlon bikes has distinct characteristics in frame design and rider positioning. Most notable is a steeper seat tube angle that puts athletes in a more aggressive and aerodynamic position.
It’s also common for the saddle height on triathlon bikes to be positioned slightly higher, which promote a horizontal, low-drag position while also widening the athlete’s hip angle. While a triathlon bike can be hugely beneficial for aerodynamics, it can also promote biomechanical efficiencies1 that optimize running off the bike.
2021 Triathlon Bikes: Entry-Level to Most Expensive
The technology behind triathlon bikes is constantly evolving. Manufacturers continue to push the limits with research and development, making bikes lighter, faster, more aero, and more comfortable for triathletes.
As a result, world records seem to be broken every couple of years. On the fastest Ironman courses, the best bike splits can exceed an average speed of 27 mph / 44 kph. It’s also more common to witness sub-8-hour Ironman finishes – which are largely based on a fast and economical bike split.
We’ve compiled a comprehensive list of 2021 triathlon bikes that covers the full spectrum of performance and price point, whether you’re privy to entry-level tri bikes or top-tier technology.
Best Entry-level Triathlon Bikes for Beginners
Let’s be real. For many of us, the cost of buying a triathlon bike is not far from a full month’s income. While finding a used bike can be an economical option, new bikes can easily average $4,000-5,000+. Fortunately, there are several high-end tri bikes that come with more affordable price tags. Here’s a handful of them.
Felt B Triathlon Bike
Bikes like the Felt S32, B16, and B12 were among some of the original legends of the late 2000s. The B marque has long graced the entry-level model in Felt’s range of triathlon bikes, and at price ranges well under $3k (some even less than $2k).
Fast-forward to today and Felt is still producing bikes based on this legacy series, now simply known as “B”. It’s been updated in recent years to feature a full carbon frame set with aero shaping gleaned from the brand’s top-of-the-line and six-time Kona-winning IA collection.
Featuring classic rims brakes and a Shimano Ultegra group, the B is a great option for beginner and experienced triathletes, alike, providing terrific performance and value.
While B integrates aspects of the iconic B12 and B16 models, it also takes cues from Felt’s top-performance IA model, as well as the iconic DA frame kit. In other words, B is based on decades of aerodynamic innovation.
Unlike some tri bikes of today, Felt’s B maintains the integrity of a simple design but one that doesn’t compromise on performance. The aerodynamically-optimized downtube design and TeXtreme carbon technology make for a top-end bike at an unbeatable price.
B’s designed around a carbon frame and fork and the bike weighs in at 20 lbs. It’s also equipped with Shimano Ultegra components and the capacity to convert to electronic shifting.
The Felt B triathlon bike starts at $2,299, Feb 2021.
Learn more at FeltBicycles.com.
A2 Speed Phreak
Priced attractively in the sub $2k range, A2’s Speed Phreak is an aggressive tri bike that’s widely regarded for its feather-light feel, stable cornering, and snappy acceleration.
Positioned with a low basebar, Speed Phreak is a proper TT bike that’s crafted for low aero positions and PR-breaking bike splits. While climbing may feel different with lower basebars, it can also be beneficial for out-of-saddle accelerations and sprints.
Although the bike’s low price and direct-to-consumer model make it appear like an entry-level tri bike, Speed Phreak is a top-rate carbon bike that’s well equipped for any caliber athlete.
For triathletes looking to invest in their first triathlon bike, but one that holds lasting value and growth, Speed Phreak doesn’t hold back on maximizing an athlete’s potential. It’s also the perfect foundation for performance upgrades and future customization.
Stiff, responsive, and aero, Speed Phreak is an ideal TT bike for short course racing and bike-dominant triathletes.
With several more premium options available, the Ultegra 105 version is priced at $1,899
Scope the Speed Phreak at A2bikes.com
Dovetailing on Cervélo’s widely-acclaimed P2 and P3 time trial bikes is the new P-series, a lighter, stiffer, and more aerodynamic evolution from the prolific bike brand.
The Cervélo P-series triathlon bikes provide an optimal balance between speed and comfort. Athletes can leverage highly-responsive power transfer and receptive handling, all while enjoying smooth, compliant comfort in the saddle over the course of long miles.
Based on a long-standing legacy of the Cervélo P2 and P3, the P-series triathlon bike advances air economy and overall aerodynamics, infusing the long-distance race requirement features available in higher-end models like the P5X.
The extended seat tube cutout, a distinct feature in Cervélo P-series bikes, shields the leading edge of the rear wheel to enhance aerodynamic capabilities. Built around an all-carbon frame, tapered P fork, and seatpost, Cervélo P-series marries performance with an approachable price range.
There are several models available, with the Ultegra 105 entry-level version of the P-series starting at $3,200
Learn more at Cervélo.com
Quintana Roo PRfour
Quintana Roo is a household name in the triathlon scene. The brand has taken claim in the invention of the first triathlon-specific bike back in 1987.
Of the latest models to reflect QR’s pioneering innovation in TT bike technology is the PRseries. With three primary models extending from the PRfour to the PRsix, QR offers a premium tri bike for all levels.
The PRsix offers a high modulous carbon composition, making the frame lighter and stiffer than the PRfour and PRfive. This model can be found in the $4-6k+ range, depending on the build.
As for the entry-level model, the PRfour is a triathlon bike that delivers all-out race performance at the $3k price point. It’s stocked with disc brakes, top tube storage, Shimano 105 components, and a spectrum of color options.
In addition to creating beautiful tri bikes, Quintana Roo is well regarded for its customer service and an overall great reputation for quality bikes.
The Quintana Roo PRfour can be found for around $3,000
Learn more from the official site QuintanaRooTri.com
Giant Trinity Advanced
The Giant Trinity Advanced is an exceptionally high-quality and rigorously-tested triathlon bike that doesn’t break the bank. Trinity is the result of Giant’s refined aero frame geometry and a wider range of adjustability to allow for a TT-specific fit that can accommodate many different athletes.
Trinity Advanced’s contact base bar offers a full range of adjustability, so athletes can dial in the perfect aero position for optimal comfort and performance. It also offers an integrated food storage unit otherwise known as Giant’s AeroVault system.
Built with “Advanced-grade composite materials,” which is a carbon composite that offers superior stiffness-to-weight ratio, Trinity Advanced doesn’t compromise on performance for its entry-level cost.
Trinity Advanced is also engineered around AeroSystem Shaping Technology, which is Giant’s way of saying every tube shape is designed to minimize drag and maximize aerodynamics no matter which direction the wind is coming from.
With Shimano 105 components, the Giant Trinity Advanced starts at $2,500
See more specifications and info at Giant-Bicycles.com
Specialized Shiv Sport
The Specialized Shiv Sport is one of the best entry-level triathlon bikes for the price. It’s also one of the most universal tri bikes that provides an honest fit for a wide range of athletes.
The Shiv Sport is designed around a Control Tower fit system that enables athletes to optimize stack and reach to achieve the most comfortable and powerful position based on their body composition.
Built with the Specialized FACT 10r carbon fiber frame, the Shiv Sport is wind-tunnel tested and aerodynamically-optimized for straight-line speed. It also features meticulously-engineered airfoils that minimize side force amid heavy crosswinds.
A unique aspect of this Specialized triathlon bike is its Fuselage Hydration System, which is a water bladder designed inside of the frame. Although sold separately, a Fuelcell can be integrated to store nutrition and tools for flat repairs.
The price for the Specialized Shiv Sport is set at $3,000
Take a closer look at Specialized.com
Mid-Range Triathlon Bikes for Ironman & Top Athletes
The sweet spot with top triathlon bike technology is in the mid-range category. Here you can expect to invest in a highly aerodynamic time trial machine with quality componentry. Many of these bikes are also designed to go the distance, catering to optimal comfort for long sessions in the aero position. In general, mid-range triathlon bikes are priced between$3-5k, but can easily escalate to $6+ with certain performance upgrades.
Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0
The Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0 is a well-crafted ultra-lightweight tri bike that delivers professional-grade speed, handling, and comfort – all at a price range most serious triathletes can afford.
What’s notable about the Speedmax CF 8.0 is its superior design. It’s a well-crafted triathlon bike that combines exceptional aerodynamics and acceleration with versatile adjustability and ergonomics.
Where Canyon goes above and beyond is by integrating top-end parts and components. The Speedmax CF 8.0 Di2 is equipped with Shimano Ultegra Di2, as well as a Fizik Mistica wide nose saddle, highly-adjustable Profile Subsonic aero bars, and DT Swiss ARC 1400 wheels (with performance upgrades available).
The Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0 is a perfect bike for triathletes who need a high-performance time trial machine but at a price that doesn’t cost 6 months of rent.
The starting price for the Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0 is $4,299
Take a closer look by visiting Canyon.com
The Orbea Ordu is designed for serious triathletes looking to upgrade their triathlon bike to something faster and more ergonomic. The Ordu is used by professional triathletes as well as road racers who require a UCI-legal TT bike.
In the progression of today’s top triathlon bikes, aerodynamics, weight, and stiffness have always been a focus for improved performance. However, gains in one category often result in compromises in others.
The Ordu is a harmonious balance in maximizing all of these qualities. As for geometry, a 72-degree head angle gives athletes more responsive, direct control, and the bottom bracket is positioned lower for better weight distribution and balance.
Orbea does not mention the weight of the Ordu build, but its elongated OMX frame and fork are both full carbon, totally about 1,570 grams or 3.4 pounds combined.
The Orbea Ordu comes in three models: M20LTD, M20iLTD, and M10iLTD. The M10iLTD is primarily an upgrade in Shimano Dura-Ace components and Rotor ALDHU crankset.
The base build of the Ordu M20LTD model starts at $4,999.
See the Ordu tri bike at Orbea.com.
Felt IA Collection
Felt’s collection of IA triathlon bikes has been overhauled for 2021 with several different builds and color schemes. For athletes who obsess about the performance details but won’t compromise on aesthetics, the IA collection is the winning choice.
Winner of six consecutive Kona World Championships in the women’s pro division, the IA features a finely tuned balance of cutting-edge aerodynamics, superb handling, and stellar ride quality.
The Felt IA collection delivers dialed specification and impressive adjustability for varied riding positions. It’s a 30-year culmination of iterative research and development, and it’s touted as the most aerodynamic bike in the world.
One of the many beautiful aspects of the IA collection is that it comes with multiple options, starting with the IA Advanced 105 rim brake model to the IA FRD Ultimate Dura-Ace Di2 model. The IA FRD Ultimate weighs in under 20 lbs.
While IA FRD Ultimate is a steep climb to the $16k range, the base model in the Felt IA collection starts at $2,999
Take a look at the IA collection at FeltBicycles.com
Trek Speed Concept
The Trek Speed Concept is a lightweight triathlon bike that’s been a pack leader for the last decade, and the 2021 model is a testament to the bike’s legacy.
Designed around Trek’s 500 Series OCLV Carbon frame, Speed Concept full foil carbon fork, and highly-aerodynamic Kammtail Virtual Foil (KVF) tube shaping, the Speed Concept is a byproduct of Trek’s impressive engineering in time trial machines.
Trek has mindfully crafted a high-performance build that doesn’t break the bank. The Speed Concept is a unique blend of Shimano Ultegra 11-speed componentry with Dura-Ace bar-end shifters, and Bontrager Speed Limit brakes. It’s also extremely customizable for a wide range of aero position fits.
Adding to the bike’s aerodynamics and top-end speed is a set of Bontrager Aeolus Comp OCLV Carbon TLR wheels. Combined with a Bontrager Hilo Comp triathlon-specific saddle and fully-integrated handlebar and stem, the Trek Speed Concept doesn’t compromise on technology for its price range.
The going rate for the Speed Concept is $4,199
Have a closer look and visit TrekBikes.com
Fuji Norcom Straight 2.1
The new and improved Fuji Norcom Straight 2.1 is an impressive level-up in TT bike technology, and at an attractive price. Fine-tuned to be faster and more efficient than its predecessor, the Norcom Straight 2.1 is a progression of Fuji’s performance-focused premise and ultra-modern aesthetic.
Composed of an ultra-high modulous carbon material, the Norcom Straight 2.1 is incredibly light, highly rigid, and ultimately designed to be the fastest bike on the course.
The frame and fork design around Kamm tails, which are truncated airfoils that outperform full airfoils, offering less drag at side wind/yaw angles. Internal cable routing also helps enhance aerodynamics while maintaining a clean appearance.
Not only does the Norcom Straight 2.1 deliver superior aerodynamics and top-end acceleration, but it also provides optimal comfort and control while in the time trial position. It’s equipped with Shimano components and comes with Vision TC55 carbon tubeless rims.
The Fuji Norcom Straight 2.1 goes for $5,999.99
Find it at FujiBikes.com
Most Expensive High-Performance Triathlon Bikes
There’s a reason why the most expensive triathlon bikes cost as much as they do. Not only do these tri bikes represent the pinnacle of aerodynamic engineering and long-distance ergonomics, but they’re also built with premium drivetrains and components, like eTap AXS groupsets and SRAM RED brakesets. These triathlon bikes are also some of the lightest, with some weighing less than 20 pounds.
As the official time trial bike for Team EF Pro Cycling, the Cannondale SuperSlice doubles as a high-end triathlon bike for competitive multisport athletes.
Unlike other TT bikes in this price range, the SuperSlice offers a clean, elegant design that doesn’t look like it was dropped-off from outer space. Its meticulously engineered low yaw angles and deceptive, 77-degree seat tube angle make for a highly-aerodynamic setup.
The SuperSlice also has a 71.5-degree head angle that delivers controlled and confident handling in demanding situations. Equipped with SRAM RED disc brakes and components, SuperSlice doesn’t cut short on the build.
SuperSlice is also well regarded for its incredibly-stiff bottom bracket and head tube, enabling top-end acceleration for the most powerful cyclists. As Cannondale put it, the SuperSlice is “savagely fast.”
As to be expected with a professional-grade TT bike, the SuperSlice weighs a mere 18 lbs. Largely made of carbon, it’s one of the most lightweight triathlon bikes on the market.
While Ultegra models may be more affordable, expect the Cannondale SuperSlice RED eTap to be priced between $9,000-$10,000.
Learn more about the SuperSlice at Cannondale.com.
BMC Timemachine One
BMC Timemachine One is a time trial superbike that provides an impressive balance of aerodynamics, stability, and integration. Designed with aero-compatible storage systems, integrated caliper covers, and cables, the Timemachine One has been mindfully crafted for both top speeds mixed with practicality.
As a notable Swiss manufacturer recognized for quality, BMC’s Timemachine series is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with, as it’s been the bike of choice for countless Ironman victories and Tour de France time trial wins.
Every angle and component on the Timemachine One has been designed to slice through the wind as efficiently as possible. The cockpit has a forward offset position which maximizes vertical compliance. Overall, the bike’s frontend lends to optimal aerodynamics, even for athletes who prefer taller stack pad dimensions.
A time trial bike by nature, the Timemachine One is noted for its high wind stability, providing more confident handling in technical sections. It also offers a top tube fuel box for nutrition, rear-mount equipment storage, and dual water bottle mounts in the aero front triangle.
The Timemachine One is built with SRAM Force eTap AXS 12-speed groupset for highly-efficient shifting. This model starts at $7,499.00
Have a closer look by visiting BMC-Switzerland.com
Quintana Roo PRsix2 Disc
The PRsix2 Disc from Quintana Roo is a substantial level-up from the previously mentioned PRfour. It’s a fully-equipped aero machine that offers a 10% lighter and 11% stiffer frame from the base PRsix model – thus the hike in price.
The PRsix2 is a beautiful blend of top-tier performance and design simplicity. It’s touted for its T47 bottom bracket, built-in hydration system, invisible cable routing, and integrated enhancements that maximize power from every angle.
Available with integrated Di2 port, athletes can upgrade to the Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 electronic groupset, which delivers unmatched drivetrain performance. In addition to various wheelset upgrades, these mods can quickly escalate the price tag over the $10k mark.
The Aeria Hydration system has been exclusively designed specifically for the PRsix2, providing 30oz of capacity at the aero bars. And like most Quintana Roo triathlon bikes, the array of base and decal color combinations offer over seventy variations.
The Quintana Roo PRsix2 starts at $8,500
Check it out at QuintanaRoo.com
Scott Plasma 6
The Scott Plasma 6 triathlon bike is the epitome of a top-speed time trial machine. Featuring a uniquely-optimized frame design with a down tube positioned directly behind the front wheel, the Plasma has been rigorously refined and tested for enhanced aerodynamics
Perhaps most popularized by Sebastian Kienle, the bike-dominant German who’s seen multiple Kona podiums and a first-place victory in 2014, the Scott Plasma series has proven itself worthy of the best triathletes in the world.
The Scott Plasma 6 is a versatile bike, enabling just about any athlete to find their most efficient aero position on the bike. It also takes storage to a higher level, allowing athletes to pare parts and nutrition inside the frame design.
With subtle improvements made from the Plasma 5 design, the new hydration system on the Plasma 6 also makes it possible for athletes to remain in the aero position during hydration and nutrition intake.
The RC model, which comes equipped with Shimano Di2 componentry and weighs in at 21.8 lbs, starts at $8,999.99
For more information, visit Scott-Sports.com
S-Works Shiv Disc
The S-Works Shiv Disc from Specialized is a dynamic tri bike in more ways than one. Not only does the Shiv Disc provide impressive adjustability that lends to optimal comfort for long hours in the saddle, but it’s also one of the fastest triathlon bikes on the market.
According to Specialized, the frame comes in four sizes all based on 1k Retül fits with actual athletes. Although its FACT carbon frame is not UCI legal, most triathletes will have no issues leveraging the bike’s incredible aerodynamics and crosswind performance.
The Shiv Disc comes with Specialized Hydration and Nutrition Fuelcell systems, offering aerodynamically-optimized storage for over ten gels or five bars. These features when combined with its sleek, aero design makes for a powerful triathlon bike for Ironman distance racing.
The S-Works Shiv Disc can be scooped for $13,000
Get more details at Specialized.com
Common Triathlon & TT Bike FAQs
As much as there is to learn about the different makes and models of triathlon bikes, there are still a lot of questions that arise. Below you can learn more about the science and defining characteristics of triathlon bikes and common questions that often come up.
Road Bike vs Triathlon Bike: What’s the Difference?
There are several pros and cons to using a triathlon bike vs road bike. The choice between a triathlon or time trial bike over a road bike depends on an athlete’s riding preferences (i.e. group rides vs individual time trialing), biomechanical needs (saddle and arm positioning, hip angle, comfort), and overall race goals (time trials and triathlon-specific events or a wide range of road riding).
Most beginner cyclists and triathletes are often best suited for a road bike. Unlike triathlon bikes that are designed for straight-line speed, road bikes provide greater handling, balance, and fitting capabilities. And with minor position adjustments and the integration of aero bars, you can turn just about any road bike into an aerodynamic time trial machine.
Compared to road bikes, the geometry of standard triathlon bikes is the most significant difference, which is apparent in frame design and aerodynamic positioning (see the graphic below). Tri bikes are characterized by having a steeper seat tube angle (STA), which puts riders in a more aggressive and aerodynamic position.
For instance, the STA on most triathlon bikes exceeds 78 degrees, while on road bikes the STA is closer 72 degrees. In addition to a more aggressive STA, it’s also common for tri bikes to have a higher positioned saddle. This position enables athletes to achieve a more horizontal and aerodynamic position while also widening the athlete’s hip angle, which can have biomechanical efficiencies when getting off the bike to run.
What’s the Difference Between a Triathlon Bike and TT Bike?
The difference between triathlon bikes and time trial bikes is largely based on subtle differences in seat tube angle, fit, and whether the bike must adhere to the International Cycling Union (UCI) regulations.
Keep in mind, triathlon bikes and TT bikes are so similar that they’re often treated as the same. In fact, some manufacturers offer a triathlon model and a TT model of the bike, just different build.
UCI regulations defining time trial bikes are often considered the primary difference between triathlon bikes and TT bikes. A TT bike, which is made specifically for time trials versus multisport races, must have the tip of the saddle nose within 5cm/1.97inches from the center of the bottom bracket.
Because triathlon bikes naturally have a steeper seat tube angle, thereby minimizing the saddle nose to bottom bracket distance, this rule is rarely a disadvantage or limitation.
What’s Special About Triathlon Bikes?
Based on the differences mentioned above, seat tube angle and fit are what make triathlon bike designs special. Like TT bikes, the geometry of triathlon bikes allows a larger seat tube angle.
An in-depth study(1)that looked at several performance markers points to many reasons why TT and triathlon bikes have many benefits. The first and perhaps most obvious finding was that increasing seat tube angle positions the cyclist in a more forward inclination, thereby reducing drag and improving aerodynamics.
A more kinematic analysis of the study identified greater hip extension and ankle plantarflexion at a steeper seat tube angle. As the hip angle increases the length of bi-articulated muscles crossing the hip (Biceps Femoris, Rectus Femoris, Semitendinosus, and Semimembranosus), the level of output can be optimized for power and endurance.
Additional research(2)on hip orientation suggests that increasing hip angle improves power from these muscles – widely known as the primary quads and hamstrings.
At a wider seat tube and hip angle, kinematic relationships in the force-velocity and length-tension of these powerful muscle groups are enhanced.
Ultimately, TT bikes can yield biomechanical gains in power, strength, and efficiency, especially for triathlon. Further research(3) has demonstrated that a steeper seat tube angle reduces fatigue associated with transitioning from cycling to running.
In summary, triathlon bikes not only improve aerodynamics, but they help optimize key muscle groups like the Biceps Femoris (or hamstrings) to enable more efficient running of the bike.
Why Do Triathlon Bikes Look Different?
As mentioned above, triathlon bikes have a steeper seat tube compared to road bikes. This widened angle opens the hips to sit forward which puts less tension on the cyclist quadriceps and hamstrings. This angle on triathlon bikes often exceeds 78 degrees, while on road bikes it’s more like 72 degrees.
In addition to a steeper seat tube angle, triathlon bikes often look different due to their unique frame designs. Triathlon bikes and time trial bikes typically have very narrow, thin, and tapered frames and forks.
This popular frame design seen in 2021 triathlon bikes delivers aerodynamic advantages that are magnified at higher speeds. Among these considerations is the yaw angle, which is is the angle between a rider’s direction of motion and the relative wind direction vector. The relative wind vector takes into account both the rider’s speed and the ambient wind direction, so higher speed TT/triathlon bikes can benefit from a very narrow, tapered frame design.
Where to Buy Used Triathlon Bikes?
The two primary options when buying used triathlon bikes is to shop locally or online. Both routes have their advantages and disadvantages.
In the case of buying online, you have far more options at your fingertips. While there are many different websites that sell used triathlon bikes, it’s important to buy only from retailers that have rigorous refurbishing standards. In fact, some online stores have certification stamps and performance guarantees that ensure used bikes have been fully inspected and damaged parts are replaced prior to putting them up for sale.
Shopping local can be a suitable option when seeking a used triathlon bike, but your options greatly depend on where you live. Because triathlon bikes are a very specific type, they’re harder to come by compared to road bikes and gravel bikes.
In any case, always be sure to thoroughly check the frame and fork for cracks and chips, and firmly test the steering for any play near the head tube. Also, assess the quality of the drivetrain, brakes, and wheels. If you’re not experienced with bikes, it also helps to have a trusted bike shop mechanic to evaluate a prospective used bike.
1. Will Duggan, Bernard Donne, Neil Fleming. Effect of Seat Tube Angle and Exercise Intensity on Muscle Activity Patterns in Cyclists. Int J Exerc Sci. 2017; 10(8): 1145–1156.
2. Reiser R, Peterson M, Broker J. Influence of hip orientation on Wingate power output and cycling technique. J Strength Cond Res. 2002;16:556–560.
3. Garside I, Doran D. Effects of bicycle frame ergonomics on triathlon 10-km running performance. J Sports Sci. 2000;18:825–833.