Jun 19

How to Buy a Triathlon Bike Without Breaking the Bank (amazing tips and tricks to save big $$$)

It’s no secret . . . triathlons are not the cheapest hobby in the world.  It can cost thousands of dollars to start running tris.  The most costly expense by far that any newbie triathlete will face is the cost of the triathlon bike. Finding a cheap triathlon bike can be incredibly difficult to do.  This chart below highlights our picks for the top 12 triathlon bikes that won’t break the bank (okay we did include an $8,000 bike for fun just because they are so cool to look at).

What to Look For in a Good Triathlon Bike

Okay so what really drives up the cost of different bikes are several aspects rather than just one thing these include:

  • Derailleurs (what actually shifts the gear)
  • Frame (steal, aluminium, carbon)
  • Wheels
  • Handle bars

Of course there is much more that goes into the overall cost of a triathlon bike, but those are the main driving factors in bike price.

What the %&$** is a Derailleur Anyway?

With the derailleur being one of the single most important factors that makes a triathlon bike either cheap or expensive it is important that you understand what one is and what makes one more expensive than another.

Shimano_xt_rear_derailleur-247x300

Wikipedia defines a derailleur as follows:

Derailleur gears are a variable-ratio transmission system commonly used on bicycles, consisting of a chain, multiple sprockets of different sizes, and a mechanism to move the chain from one sprocket to another.

In plain English that just means that the derailleur is the mechanism that moves the chain up and down from gear to gear.

When you hear someone talk about “COMPONENTS” they are generally referring to the derailleurs, brakes and shifters.

What Makes One Derailleur More Expensive Than Another?

Okay now that we know what exactly a derailleur is, what makes one more expensive than another?  In order to get a cheap triathlon bike you have to balance component quality with budget and try to find the best bike with the best components for the lowest cost possible.

Better derailleurs will generally:

  • Use less steal and thus weigh less
  • Have better construction to last longer
  • With better construction they will shift gears more smoothly

In the chart above you will see that all bikes have Shimano components.  I have attempted to list the type of component being used.  The “Low End” or “2300” component will be heavier and not last quit as long as the 105, Ultegra, or Dura Ace.

You will quickly see that the cheaper bikes have the Low End components.  If you buy a cheap tri bike you can always hang on to the bike and decide to upgrade the components at a later date as finances allow.  This is a trick that many bikers use to slowly create the perfect  bike.  One year upgrade the wheels, the next the front derailleur and so on until you have the bike of your dreams.

Hierarchy of Shimano Derailleurs – Comparison Chart

The chart below was not created by me but was borrowed from ChooseMyBicycle.com, you can view the original chart HERE.

This chart details the differences between each of the different Shimano components from lowest cost to most expensive.  If you are wondering what the difference is between a Shimano 105 and Dura Ace than this chart will help you to know which is the best and what the differences are.  This also works are a great comparison chart of all of the Shimano rear derailleurs.

I currently have a Javelin Triathlon bike with Shimano 105 and really have no complaints.

 

 

COMPONENT DESCRIPTION LEVEL
Shimano 2300

SHIMANO 2300

Basic Road Bicycle component

Low cost

Entry
Shimano Claris Shimano ClarisEvolved version of the 2400 groupset Entry
Shimano Sora

SHIMANO SORA

Reliable Gear and Braking system

Light Weight

Entry
Shimano Tiagra

SHIMANO TIAGRA

Light weight

Compact

Cost Effective

Mid Range
Shimano 105

SHIMANO 105

Very Light

Exceptionally Smooth

Increased Durability

Mid Range
Shimano Ultegra

SHIMANO ULTEGRA

Hollow Crank arms

Improved pivots and springs

Intermediate
Shimano Dura-Ace

SHIMANO DURA-ACE

Equal shifting through range

Perfect accuracy while shifting

Pro

Do I Need a Triathlon Bike or a Road Bike?

man triathlon iron man athlete standing with all his equipment in silhouette on white background

More than anything a triathlon is about conserving energy.  You learn to swim in a way that saves your energy for the bike, you learn to eat while biking to have enough energy to run, and you learn to run in a relaxed manner so that you can finish the race.

In road biking you are looking for power and energy conservation is not as much of an issue.

It is this key difference that triathlon bike builders have integrated into the design of tri bikes.  The more of these innovations you have built into your tri bike the more expensive your bike is going to be.

So when it comes down to it . . . it is not NECESSARY to go out and purchase a new tri bike with all of the latest gadgets and gizmos if you are just starting out.  Instead buy a cheaper road bike and purchase desired ad ons.

 

A road bike will work perfectly for an entry level tri bike and it is much cheaper as most tri bike companies try to put all the latest technology on their bikes to have the coolest and best looking bikes out there and it can be hard to get an entry level tri bike for under $1200 minimum.

When I was a Boy Scout I did the Cycling Merit Badge and we had to do 4-25 mile bike rides and 1-50 mile bike ride.  I completed all of these rides on an old Huffy Mountain Bike from Wal-Mart.

Don’t get me wrong.  The more expensive bikes will make riding a bit easier but you can easily complete you training rides, sprint tris, and even short course triathlons on a simple mountain bike.  If you begin to do longer rides than a nice cheap triathlon bike might be a good investment. If later on down the road you start needing to worry about shaving a few minutes off your time than upgrading to a more expensive and decked out bike might be something you can save for.

When I say cheap I mean about $300-$700, this will get you a great bike that will last for years if well maintained.  If you feel that you MUST have an entry level tri bike plan on spending at least $1200.

So What Is the Difference Between a Road Bike and a Tri Bike?

  1. Seat Angle – Tri bikes have a much steeper seat angle that places the rider closer to the handle bars creating a more aerodynamic position.  This also puts less stress on your quads thereby saving energy for the run.
  2. Smaller Wheels – Triathlon bikes have 650c wheels vs 700c wheels of the road bike.  This creates less friction with the road and allows for greater acceleration.
  3. Aero Bars – Tri bikes come equipped with aero bars that allow the rider to lay forward in a more aerodynamic position.

Triathlet auf dem Fahrrad

These are the main differences between a road bike and a triathlon bike.  The fact of the matter is that these three things can all be changed at a later date for a nominal cost.  You can purchase a new seat post, new handle bars, and a new wheel set all for much cheaper than buying a top of the line triathlon bike.

 You’re Ready to Buy Now What?

So the first thing you need to know before going out and spending money on a new bike is the actual size bike that you should buy.  To do this you I recommend going to a local bike shop and having the clerks fit you on a couple bikes.  Act like you are SUPER interested in buying one of their bikes and get the number.  Alternatively you can use an online bike size calculator like this one here.

>>ONLINE ROAD BIKE SIZE CALCULATOR<<

This number tells you the size frame that you should buy.  There is room for adjustment once you purchase the bike but this number will give you a starting point.

Now, take this number and head over to Amazon or Craigslist to actually purchase your bike.  I recommend Amazon.com for a new bike or Craigslist for a nice used bike.

If you do decide to use Amazon and use one of the links above we do earn a commission and we GREATLY appreciate it! (Thanks : ).

For Craigslist I would suggest SEARCH TEMPEST.  What Search Tempest does is allow for you to search the entire USA for what you are looking for . . . a feature missing from Craigslist.

Either of these two methods will work great for finding a nice cheap triathlon bike that meets your needs.  Sandi and I actually used Craigslist to find a new Tri bike at half price as it was a closeout.  After negotiations we were able to get two new tri bikes for $1200 including shipping . . . a great deal!

Bike Is Here . . . Now What?

No that the bike is in your home and you are done ohhing and awing over the shiny new toy you need to put it together and head over to a bike shop to get it fit.  Fitting the bike will insure that the geometry is all right and that the positioning is right to not put pressure in the wrong areas (remember its all about energy conservation).

You can attempt to fit the bike on your own using this amazing website HERE (TRI BIKE FIT). Warning:: Doing this on your own will not ruin your bike but you may be left working MUCH harder on your rides than necessary.

The Bottom Line

There are cheap triathlon bikes out there and it is possible to race and train without going broke.  In the end I think the bottom line is that you don’t want to spend thousands of $$ on a bike that will only save you 5 minutes.

You want to find a bike that is reliable, comfortable, and fits within your budget.

Please realize that while the super expensive bikes look awesome they are NOT required to start running triathlons.  If you already have a mountain bike in the garage grab a pump dust off the cob webs and hit the road.

If you really need a good bike set up a budget (a couple hundred bucks will do the trick) and head out and get the bike that meets your needs.  Remember if REQUIRED you can make updates later on down the road.

Now use our list and pick out your bike (if you do click on one of the bike links and make a purchase we do earn a commission and GREATLY appreciate it) Thanks!

See you on the road!

Image Credits: C. Corleis

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Jun 18

How to Train For a Triathlon Without Spending a Dime (money saving tips for the poor triathlete)

Triathlons are expensive. In fact one of the first reasons people give me for not having run a triathlon is cost.  Unlike marathons where all you need are a good pair of running shoes, triathlons require a lot of gear.  And it is easy to keep spending on the top of the line tri products to make the race a bit easier.

Actual Cost of Triathlon Gear

The below costs are taken directly from Amazon.com and include middle of the road gear (not top of the line and not the cheap-o stuff) needed to begin training for a triathlon.

This brings the cost of simply buying the needed gear to begin training for a triathlon to $2060.  This is a huge amount of money.  Especially for someone who isn’t even sure that triahtlons are for them. Add to this the cost of gym memberships, pool memberships, and replacement parts and you are talking about several thousand dollars just for training.

Keep in mind this isn’t even the top of the line gear.  This is really just for the entry level gear to get you started out in racing. . . oh and don’t forget the $200 race entry fee (for a small unknown race).

Then you realize that every training plan you can find wants you to train for 3 or more hours up to 5 times per week and it quickly becomes clear that this is no joke.  If you are gonna train for a triathlon you are going to have to get a second job to pay for everything but you are also going to have to quit you day job in order to find the time and energy to actually workout and train.

young athlete triathlon in front of a sunrise over the sea

Don’t Fool Yourself – Gear Won’t Make THAT Big a Difference

It doesn’t have to be so expensive OR complicated. Only a very small percentage of racers will ever achieve elite status and of those who do only a small few will ever make money racing.

This guide is meant to introduce you to an alternative manner of triathlon training that won’t break your bank or make you neglect your family. Simply showing up to the starting line of a triathlon and then crossing the finish line is such an enormous accomplishment.

“If you set a goal for yourself and are able to achieve it, you have won your race. Your goal can be to come in first, to improve your performance, or just finish the race; its up to you.”

 

-Dave Scott 6 Time Ironman World Champion

 

 How To Train Without Spending a Dime

I will cover the money saving tips that I have found in my triathlon training in order of the events in the race. That seems to make the most sense and will allow for some organization in topics.

Swimming Tips

Swimming doesn’t have to be expensive right?  All you need is water and a suit.  Well where most people drop the most money is on a triathlon suit that is made of breathable moisture wicking material that dries quickly.  These suits also have a small pad in the butt to aid with the biking portion of the race.

The cost of these suits starts at about $60 for a Pearl Izumi, while not too expensive you can get a nice Speedo swimsuit, goggles, and swim cap for about $45 from a place like Academy Sports or Dicks.  To save even more money just use the suit you have in your dresser.

During the early stages of training you aren’t as concerned about speed as you are about just putting your time in the pool.

To get your time in the water use the summer to do your swim training.  We do all of our swim training in our neighborhood pool which is free to use (except for required HOA fees).  Most triathlons are in the Fall and Spring anyway so using the summer to swim works out perfectly as you can spend the hot months in the water.

If you don’t have a community pool use the city pool, a lake, or friends pool.  If you do end up having to pay to use a pool block out as much time as possible to get extended pool workouts in this way you can go less.  Rather than simply doing a 500m swim try doing an additional workout.  The goal is to simply learn how to swim while conserving your energy and to make sure that you can at least swim the minimum distance required for your race.

Remember the swim is the shortest (time and distance) portion of the race so don’t spend TOO much time stressing over it.

Swim Money Saving Tips:

  1. Use the swim suit you have
  2. Use a community pool
  3. Swim during the summer

Once the race day draws near and you are feeling much more confident on the swim portion then you can purchase a Tri Suit.  But waiting until you have had time to practice will help you feel more confident and give you time to save up for this purchase.

Biking Tips

So the bike portion of the race is where is become VERY easy to drop TONS of money.  A top of the line bike can cost well over $10,000 and it is almost impossible to buy an entry level tri bike for under about $1500.

I’m afraid it is the bike that keeps more people out of triathlons and that makes me sad.  I have admitedly been passed in races by individuals riding a $70 Wal-Mart mountain bike.  But it is human nature to think that if we had the tools the pros use than we will automatically be as good as the pros.

I admit: having a light weight bike and clip pedals does make biking long distances EASIER but it is not required.

To start training for a triathlon simply dust of the old Huffy bike that is sitting in your garage and hit the road.  You should buy a cheap helmet.

At this point in the game the trick is to simply put in the miles and get your body used to biking and sitting down for that long.  The bike portion of the race will be where you spend the most amount of time during your triathlon so it is important to not ignore your bike training.

Don’t rush out and get a new tri bike.  When Sandi and I upgraded to triathlon bikes we went first over to Craigslist and were able to pick up $1500 tri bikes for about $600 including shipping.

Prior to doing this run down to your local bike shop and have them fit you out for the right size bike.  With this number in hand hit up SEARCH TEMPEST which allows you to search Craigslist nationwide and start shopping.

If want to spend under $200 then check out your local WalMart or sporting goods store (yes, I am being serious).  You can pick up a nice road bike like the Schwinn Prelude for just over $100. Or this Victory Vision for about $200.  Obviously you will be sacrificing on quality and speed, but it will work fantastically for short races and training and will work as a great cheap tri bike.

Bike Money Saving Tips:

  1. Use the old Huffy
  2. You don’t need bike shorts
  3. Buy a helmet
  4. Check Craigslist, WalMart, and sporting goods stores

Run Tips

I remember when I was a kid and my mom would take us to Payless to buy new shoes before each school year.  I would put the new ones on and head outside to run and break them in.  Without a doubt each time I got new shoes I honestly thought the new ones made me faster. It blows my mind how MUCH money people are able to spend on running. All you need are shoes.  I think that:

If people spent as much time actually running as they did buying name brand running clothes they would all qualify for Boston.

 

Under Armor, Nike, Adidas, etc. . . are all made in the same sewing factory in Asia.  They will NOT make you faster . . . you don’t need them.

As far as shoes go it is important to get a running shoe that fits comfortably . . . BEYOND that – – – just don’t buy stuff you can’t afford.

>>Watch “Don’t Buy Stuff You Can’t Afford HERE<<

When it comes to running just slap your shoes on and begin slow just getting your body used to running and being on the road.

Run Money Saving Tips:

  1. Use your old shoes
  2. Hit the road
  3. Don’t buy stuff you can’t afford

Now is the Time – Run a Tri

There are always a million reasons not to run a triathlon.  When it comes down to it, for a lot of us finances is really just another excuse for something else . . . most likely fear.

You don’t need to be rich, retired, single, or even in perfect shape to sign up for an run a triathlon.  Just set a goal and be realistic with yourself.  Don’t expect perfection and just get out there and train and run with the gear that you have.

Do you have money saving tips?  Share them below \/\/\/\/\/\/

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May 14

8 Moms Who Run Marathons (they are pretty DAMN fast too)

There are a couple of things I am pretty sure I will never do in my life.

  1. Run a sub 3:00 marathon
  2. Have a baby

I am pretty confident the baby thing will never happen, unless Arnold Schwarzenegger was on to something in Junior.  I know I will never run a sub 3:00 marathon.  I have tried and my best was only a 3:24.  So my mind is always blown away by a mom who can run a marathon after having a baby.

So lets introduce our 8 Elite Marathon Moms.   To be completely honest, I have included a few triathletes in our list, but to be fair these moms not only run a marathon, but also swim 2 miles and bike 100 miles before the marathon, so I felt they more than qualified.

  1. Paula Radcliffe
  2. Kara Goucher
  3. Deena Kastor
  4. Jessica Jacobs
  5. Emma Gerrard
  6. Sara Gross
  7. Heather Gollnick
  8. Michelle Andres

Paula Radcliffe

2 Children, 2:15:38 Womens Marathon World Record Holder

CC Copyright fergie lancealot

CC Copyright fergie lancealot

Not only is Paula a mother of two children, but she holds the current world record in the marathon, is a 3 time London Marathon winner, 3 time New York Marathon winner (the year she had her baby, and the year after), and a one time Chicago Marathon winner.  She has also won countless awards and accolades for her running accomplishments.

Oh, and did I mention that she has asthma? Oh, and anemia.

Paula is truly an inspiration to mom and athletes everywhere. On training while pregnant Paula has said“The minute you find out you are pregnant, your priorities change, and of course I slowed down.  I ran for health and pleasure, not for competitive reasons”.    Of course just 12 days after having her baby she was back out training, but later admitted that 3 weeks may have been better.

She won the 2007 New York Marathon just 10 months after having her baby.

Never set limits, go after your dreams, don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. And laugh a lot – it’s good for you!

Paula Radcliffe

CC Lisence Flickr user Alan Cordova

CC Lisence Flickr user Alan Cordova

Kara Goucher

1 child, 2008, 2012 Olympics, 3 Time NCAA Champion

Flicker User Stewart Dawson

Flicker User Stewart Dawson

Kara burst onto the marathon scene in 2008 by finishing 3rd at the Boston Marathon.  She gave birth to her son in 2010, in 2011 she placed 5th at the Boston Marathon with a time of 2:24:52 a PR by more than a minute and beating her 2009 (pre baby) Boston time by 7 1/2 minutes.  Shortly after that she was on her way to the 2012 London Olympics.

She has won many other races and events since having a child and has proven her strength as a runner in recent years.

Acknowledge all of your small victories. They will eventually add up to something great.

Kara Goucher

Deena Kastor

1 chlid, US Record holder in Marathon, Half-Marathon, 15k, 8k, 5k

Photo take by: Ambio

Photo take by: Ambio

Deena gave birth to her first child in February 2011, eleven months later she ran a 2:30:40 marathon to place 6th at the age of 39. Since then she has gone on to place 3rd at the LA Marathon and 9th at the world championships at the age of 40.

Deena is truly an athlete that takes excuses away from the regular folk like you and I.  Despite being a mother and “over the hill” she continues to compete on the world stage as an elite marathoner. In 2006 she was named the top womens marathoner in the world.

When you have the enthusiasm and the passion, you end up figuring how to excel.

Deena Kastor

 

Jessica Jacobs

1 child, 2012 Kona IronMan World Championships 26th place (11:38:39)

Jessica began racing triathlons in 2011 and quickly became hooked on the sport.  Despite a frustrating first  race she returned for more races and qualified for the 2012 IronMan World Championships where she placed 26.  In 2013 she completed 5 Half IronMan races (70.3) and 2 Full IronMan races never placing below 14th. Her IronMan PR is a stellar 8:55:10, good enough for a 1st place finish at the 2011 Florida IronMan. . . All this while raising a daughter!

Emma Garrard

1 child, Multiple top finished in XTERRA Championships and Winter Triathlon Championships

Emma is a serious competitor and a very busy woman. On top of training for XTERRA and Winter Triathlon races, she is a mom, a photographer, and she coaches various athletic programs. In 2011 alone, she ran 11 organized races. Most recently she placed 2nd in the 2014 XTERRA West Championships just weeks after being bedridden with sickness.  This was her best finish in a pro race. . . EVER. All this just months after having a baby.

She keeps a very fun and inspring blog at EMMAGARRARD.com outlining her workouts, family time, and races.  If you ever wanted to get an inside look at racing and training with kids, this is probably the best blog to read from a professional athlete.

Smart preparation in not-ideal circumstances can only get you far, good results also require consistent specific training.

Emma Garrard

Sara Gross

2 Chlidren, Professional Triathlete

In 2013 Sara completed 11 triathlon races, completing the Zurich Ironman in 9:55 and placing in the top 3 in 6 of those races.  Yes, that is with two children.  In 2011 she finished 2nd in the Calgary 70.3 just 7 months after having a baby.  Oh, did I mention she also hold a PhD from the University of Edinburgh.

When I get home from training I quickly shift from athlete-mode to mom-mode  . . .

I think that all women should get in the habit of taking care of themselves for at least an hour or two a day.

Sara Gross

As for working out while pregnant, Sara says that she averaged 1-1.5 hours of exercise a day.  Running until week 32, biking until week 37, and swimming up until the day before her baby was born.

Sara confesses that her training has changed since having children.  She no longer is able to plan her training as much as before and must work around her babies schedules. To follow Sara online visit her website at www.saragross.ca.

Heather Gollnick

3 Children, 5X Ironman Champion

Heather is 44 years old a mother of three children and has over 100 podium finishes as a professional triathlete.  In fact if you check out her website at HeatherGollnick.com you will see that those top finishes just keep rolling in at nearly every race she enters.

We had a third child and ever since it has been complete madness with my husband and I being out numbered. Training is not the number one thing but I can still get out there and mix it up and love it!

Also remember training will always be there, your little ones get so big so fast.

Heather Gollnick

Heather states that she has no intention of slowing down any time soon and loves the thrill of racing and competing on a professional level.  She is the author of Triathlon EQ which states that endurance sports are as much a test of emotional endurance as physical stamina.

triathlon-eq-heather-gullnick-198x300

To top it all off, Heather also provides triathlon coaching and is a public speaker.  Find out more about her coaching here.

Michelle Andres

5 children, full time teacher, 3rd Age Group Finisher Kona Ironman Championships

Michelle is an example of a “regular” mom who set her mind on a goal and made it happen.  She has a full time job as a teacher, she is the mother of 5 children, yet she still finds time to train and compete on a very high level.  She is 36 years old and holds the Minnesota state record for the Ironman Triathlon.  Her Ironman time at Kona was 9:50 which was good enough to earn her the #3 spot in her age group. She did all of this with no coach and most of her training was done in her basement on a stationary bike and treadmill.

If its important to you, you’ll find a way, if its not important, you’ll find an excuse. We all have more time in our day than what we think, we just waste a lot of time on things that are not important.

Michelle Andres

She now has her sites set on qualifying for the Olympic trials in the marathon.

Are You a Marathon Mom?

While all of these women have amazing stories to share and have all accomplished a lot professionally in terms of running, they all say the same thing: running after having a baby is not easy, but with planning and determination it is doable.

You may not be trying to win a triathlon or qualify for the Olympic trials, but you can reach your goals with running and weight loss.  You can accomplish what you set your mind to.

Are you a mom who continues to run?  Do you have tips for running with children?  Share your thoughts below in the comments.

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