Triathlon Bike Reviews: The Best Long Distance Bikes for Triathlon
“Looking into Triathlon Bike Reviews to give you ideas on what Tri bike to buy? We review some of the best long distance bikes for triathlon. Read on!”
When looking for a bike for big distances, whether you’re training or competing in a sportive, the needs differ hugely from a competition bike. A race-day bike needs a longer, lower position to help you beat the wind and the clock, and the design of a tri bike means they can do both. But for really long rides, you’ll want something a little more comfortable and a frame that will smooth out rougher road surfaces. For a bike that’ll offer a more comfortable position; look to go slightly shorter in the top tube and slightly taller in the head tube.
The more upright riding position will stave off fatigue for longer, reducing the chance of aches and pains. The wheelbase is usually longer too; the extra length will have the effect of making the handling more stable and less twitchy – ideal for keeping you on the road at the end of an epic ride when concentration is reduced. We’ve chosen bikes that fit the bill, but that all have individual design touches to offer a wide range of options.
Trek Madone 3.1
A firm favourite returns for 2013 but will the revised specification package mean it keeps its status as a respected ride? While Trek’s range- topping OCLV Madone frame has had a successful aero-makeover, the 3 Series has kept the previous design. It’s the same as last year’s 3 Series round-tube carbon that’s constructed with the OCLV process, but with a few upgrades on the spec to potentially enhance an already great value package. The Madone legend may well have been tarnished by recent revelations with the Armstrong scandal but in the midst of this it’s best not to forget that the Madone is one of the true greats.
FRAME AND FORKS
The 3.1 uses Trek’s H2 geometry. They offer three nominal geometries in their performance range, from the low-slung aggressive H1 to the tall, relaxed H3. The H2 sits in the middle ground and adds a few millimetres to the head tube height and subtracts a few from the top tube length. This gives the 3.1 a ride that’s just the right side of swift with the added bonus of being relaxed enough to relieve pressure when the odometer hits three figures. Our test rides on board the 3.1 coincided with some of the wettest weather of the year, making us wish we’d asked Trek to supply a set of Bontrager-approved fenders to match the frame’s hidden mudguard eyes. For a bike as performance focused as the Madone to include these makes it a fine choice for our weather conditions. If you intended to use it for commuting duties too, then Bontrager even offer a rack, the Back Rack lightweight. As well as having mudguard eyelets, the 3.1’s fork features Trek’s neat built-in ANT+ compatible SpeedTrap sensor which can transmit to any compatible device.
Though the H2 geometry is undoubtedly endurance biased, we are hugely impressed with the 3.1’s handling. Even in the wet, the R1 Plus tyres still give plenty of feedback, letting you feel out the limits of grip without getting caught out. We found ourselves taking entry speeds into fast downhill corners that on similar priced, less cleverly specced bikes would have seen us backing off. Combining the compact chainset and wide ranged cassette gives a low gear of 30/34; that’s low enough for even the most climb-averse rider to make it up the steepest ascents without resorting to walking. The compact drop bar is very well shaped and the reduced distance from hood to bottom flat makes shifting between positions a breeze, plus not being overly stretched means we spent more time in the drops when pummelling on the pedals on the flat. The wheels are outclassed by the frame and finishing kit and are a little heavier than we’d like but we didn’t find ourselves suffering much from the extra mass on steeper prolonged climbs. We slotted in a higher spec set and the 3.1 was transformed. The light chassis and sorted handling make it a bike perfect for alpine climbs and epic rides. A full-on race bike like the new aero Madone certainly does have the edge in fast handling, but the 3.1 is significantly cheaper and it offers precisely what most of us want from a big distance bike, and that’s comfort and confidence on the road.
+ Superior comfort balanced with fine handling
+ Massive gear range is a boon to tired legs
– Wheels don’t do justice to the frame
– We’d also like a carbon seatpost
Great value endurance bike. We’d upgrade the wheels but it’s still one of the best equipped for the price.
Don’t be fooled by the understated looks, there’s more than meets the eye with this new 2013 model. The original Z-Series carbon frame set the standard for Felt’s distance bike range as it combined endurance-focused geometry and decent components at competitive prices. More recently though the frame was starting to show its age, lacking provision for electronic drivetrains and in need of losing a few grams to keep up with the advancing competition.
FRAME AND FORKS
For 2013 the Z-Series carbon has been revamped from the ground up, not that you’d know from its quietly understated looks and thankful lack of overstated acronyms. Up front there are all new carbon forks with a steerer that tapers from 1.25inches to 1.5inches. The fork design features a ridged central spine on the legs that is continued into the oversized head tube. These ridges change the profile of the head tube into a more ovalised shape, which Felt claim bolsters the front-end stiffness. This leads into a squared profile, oversized down tube flowing into a huge BB30 compatible bottom bracket. Oversized chainstays with full carbon dropouts curve upwards in their final few inches flowing in one continuous piece into slender seatstays.
While the bottom half of the frame is all about the business of stiffness and power transfer, the top sections are designed to offer comfort. The top tube starts wide and broad but quickly tapers down to a very slender joint with the equally slender seat tube. Unlike the previous generation Z-Series carbon frames, the new chassis features full internal cable routing. That keeps cables out of the elements and away from grime meaning it’ll keep running smoother for longer. It also adds compatibility to the latest electronic drivetrains, as where the cables enter and exit the frame, it’s a dual fit design to take either wider (mechanical) or narrower (electronic wiring) cables.
The ride is absolutely defined by a beautiful smoothness, that’s impressive seeing as they haven’t resorted to fitting a 25c tyre, relying on Mavic’s standard 23c Aksion’s which come as part of the Aksium wheelset package. We’d love to try the Z5 with a bigger volume tyre as we’d expect it to become a cobble-busting blaster perfect for the classics. The ride position is quite upright and, though the geometry of 72.5° head angle and 72.5° seat angle combined with a 200mm head tube and 575mm effective top tube length isn’t particularly relaxed, we quickly dropped the stem down as it comes with over an inch of spacers below. We’d still like to drop it further but a cone-shaped headset bearing top limits slamming it down any further. We recommend changing this cone spacer as soon as you can, especially if you’d like to use the Z5 for racing duties as well. Despite the slightly elevated position, the Z5 still has impressive handling traits. The front end reacts quickly without getting nervy and the head tube never exerts any drama. The long 102.5cm wheelbase adds to the stability but it does dull the edges a little when you’re snapping through a pack or railing through a section of S-bends.
+ Wide gear range optimised for climbing
+ Future-proof frameset
– Sportive focused design won’t appeal to racers
– Cone-shaped headset top cap limits adjustability
Significant improvement over the old model – one of the finest bikes of its type around. It’s light, smooth and very well equipped.