Skip navigation

5953 Views 11 Replies Latest reply: May 7, 2010 5:44 PM by Sophile
HearHillaryRoar Rookie 3 posts since
Feb 27, 2010
Currently Being Moderated

Apr 27, 2010 4:03 PM

Newbie (But got bit by the tri-bug!) Bike questions!

Hi, I am relatively new to triathlon, I only have one sprint under my belt, and i have been running my entire life.

However, my bike is an out-dated department store mountain bike, which has a permanently stuck rear brake (constant resistance!! so fun for that 13.1, and the 20 mile training rides!)


Anyway, my question to all you experienced triathletes, is what kind of bike would you recommend? I am a college student (thus pretty broke) and am looking to spend no more than 500 dollars. Also, this season, I'm only doing sprints, and next season i'm going to do some sprints and olympics (and a crap ton of half marathons thrown in there!! but i digress...)


Anyway, my question to you all, is should i get a (WAY) low end Tri- bike? Or a mediocre road bike? The race on my mountain bike was AWFUL. The gears don't shift properly, the brakes are awful, and I'd like a bike that is a help rather than a hindrance.

I have looked on ebay, but there really aren't too many bikes listed that are in my price range.


Any help, or words of advide on this matter are welcome!!


Thanks in advance,



  • alimoyni Rookie 1 posts since
    Apr 16, 2010

    As a college student there has to be a bike store near you.  And with high population turn over perhaps even a used bike store near you?  I would see if you could get a used road bike or at least get those back brakes fixed so the bike portion isnt a struggle.


    Grats on your first tri!

  • dnavarro82 Pro 113 posts since
    Apr 24, 2008

    Hi Hillary,


    I would say that if you can't find a decent bike for $500, get your mountain bike a full tune-up.  Don't buy a bike if you don't have to.  Getting those gears shifting cleanly and brakes to disengage will do a lot.  Also, if you stick with the mountain bike for now, go buy some slicks, those knobby tires create resistance.  If anything, go that route this season, and save a little more for a better bike next season.



  • Einherjar Amateur 28 posts since
    Jan 28, 2008

    Don't forget to check out craigslist too for used bikes. I've seen some pretty good deals on there. Just make sure to take it for a spin before you buy it.


    I would say either road or tri bike would be ok and will make a huge difference than riding an old (probably steel) mountain bike.

    Xterras are fun.

    First 50k - 10/16/2010 - 4:20

    Half and Full Ironman in 2011

  • Kyle39 Legend 202 posts since
    Sep 8, 2008

    Hi Hillary,


    I'm also a triathlon newbie, currently training for my second sprint, and as a father of three with a stay at home wife, I've got quite a tight budget, too. I did my first try on an old mountain bike from Target.


    Try and just keep patiently surfing it for bikes.  I live in the Richmond, VA area, and after about a month of watching ads, I picked up an old road bike for $165.  I'm now about 2mph faster (doesn't sound like much, but it's about 5-6 minutes in a sprint tri), and I enjoy riding a lot more.  Also, now that I own and ride a road bike, I'm learning more about them and getting a better idea of what I would want in a better model if and when I ever have the money to upgrade (which I probably won't).


    If you don't have the bucks (or the nerve) to get into biking shoes, try toe cages or toe straps for your pedals.  They're about $10-15 and make a big difference as well.


    Plus, if the bike doesn't work out for you, just put it back up on Craigslist and sell it.


    Good luck!

  • tonipete Rookie 1 posts since
    Apr 10, 2010

    I don't know where you live, but if you aren't sure what kind of bike you want you might consider renting one for your event; depending on how many events you do per year, this might be a cheap way for you to try a good bike. I live in the Charleston, SC area and there are several bike shops that will rent really nice rode bikes.

  • tom360 Amateur 31 posts since
    Mar 5, 2010

    After I got hit with the bug I also didnt have the money to buy a nice road/tri bike as well. I was able to buy a decent Trek roadbike on for about $450...its a good place to start I think.



  • IronMakeover Community Moderator 738 posts since
    Jul 7, 2008

    Congratulations Hillary!

    It's fun to read all the great feedback so far.


    I agree, check out the bike shops in your area & look for a used section. We bought a basic FUJI roadbike for less than $400 to put our powercranks on.

    Don't rush into it. Shop around, find something you fit well & feel confident riding.


    I wouldn't rent a bike for a race unless you rent it for a period of time & have many chances to ride it & learn it's unique aspects/feel of its ride.


    You definitely want the brakes/gears fixed. :-) Quick tune-up? There's also a ton of info on youtube if you want to learn more about certain fixes.

    Can you tell if your wheel is "true?" and rolling well? I guess kindof hard to tell with the brake rubbing!


    Active has some guides on tri vs. road too.


    Keep us updated on your shopping & training,


    Sara Cox Landolt

  • Barry11 Legend 332 posts since
    Dec 5, 2007

    I'd get your breaks and shifter fixed and ride what you own.  Hopefully its the correct size.  Craigslist is your best bet, but I highly doubt you will get much of an upgrade with a $500 budget and you will definitely not get a new one. (tri or road) for $500.  Save the $500 add $1,000 next year and then you can get into a low end tri-bike.


    Sorry for the negative honesty.

  • runazrun Amateur 16 posts since
    Sep 10, 2008

    Have to echo what other say, get a used road bike.  I'd think they'd be available at a college.  It'll be a big step up from your mountain bike.  Fit it with aerobars if you get one a little under your budget.  Clip in pedals and shoes are good but cages will do if you can't afford those.

  • Sophile Amateur 10 posts since
    Sep 9, 2009

    Arete, all the way. Congrats Hillary, "Welcome to our lair"(j/k).

       My history is like yours, with the cycling and running being reversed. I ran a bit in the military, but I grew up on a mountain bike (transportation, recreation AND exercise). Don't fret over a cheaper bike. I had to go through several, in my youth, before my father realized that buying ONE nice one, was, in the long run, cheaper than replacing a lesser brand every year/other year. The upper models are generally designed to upgrade, replace, and repair its parts more efficiently; modularity is the key, here. This leads me to my main point: You CAN get a decent "base bike", to start, then upgrade at your leisure/ability.

       I would recommend that you keep your mountain bike, fix the simpler problems, as these other folks have recommended. You can even use it to learn some basic bicycle maintenance techniques: rim truing/spoke tension, brakes, and derailleur adjustment, just to name a few. Once you become familiar with these 'basics', you'll save money (and time/energy) and potentially PRE-diagnose issues as or before they arise, avoiding costly 'nickel-and-diming' that often averts many would-be cyclists.

       I, too, was a college student when I first joined the school's triathlon team (UCLA). I had NEVER owned a road bike, and hadn't really ridden one since high school. I got my first (current) tri bike on E-bay for around $750, with bars, ready to go [It's a Jamis Comet TT]. It has held up through a hit-n-run accident that left me in a coma (Note: MUST WEAR HELMET, it saved my life!). The tri team was sponsored by Profile and others (X-Terra, BMC, etc), which were availed to the team at vastly discounted prices. If your school has a team, join/investigate. You can get many deals if you are affiliated with a team.

       Now, THAT particular ride was ready to race. However, you can definitely get a "base bike" for much cheaper, I sorry Mr. Cynical. I recently bought a decent bike for ~$250. It's more of a commuter as it's currently configured, which will need pedals/shoes, bars, and other parts to render it race-ready; BUT, it's doable. You may want to aim for <$400, and save the rest for upgrades/auxiliary parts.

       You're smart to start with sprints. You might make some mistakes in your early attempts. Again, don't fret. I only have 7, but every triathlon I've ever done, I've learned SOMETHING from my mistakes (transition, pace, etc.). As you already have a background in running, "brick workouts" should be no problem for you.  Since you are already capable of sustaining the pounding of running, the further development of your legs with no pounding, should only complement your tri-abilities.

       In addition, I noticed that you have 'set distance' rides, yes? Although I do not want to discourage accurate mileage tracking, you may want to incorporate some 'fun rides' into your regimen. Decent length, but not limited to a confined "course". As a runner, I'm sure you can relate. I know I never liked running on the track, chasing myself in circles, when I could be out on some scenic back-roads (reinvigorating my soul).

       You should quickly begin to notice significant complementary feedback with your run-n-rides/"bricks". If you can find a good deal on a 'base' tri ride, pull it. Otherwise, acquiring a reasonable road ride, as long as it has a solid frame and forks, and decent componentry, is quite alright. As I said, you can upgrade at your leisure, or as you become more serious about tris. Also, local tri clubs are filled with those who are NOW upgrading to their 2nd ride, and more than willing to help get 'new-friends' into the sport with a solid deal (they're often trying to simply afford upgrades themselves).


    P.S. I'm sorry for the spewing, I AM a philosopher, it's a curse [we're prone to analyses].


    P.P.S. If you think the "runner's high" is nice, wait till you try the "tri high". Good luck.




More Like This

  • Retrieving data ...


  • Correct Answers - 10 points
  • Helpful Answers - 7 points