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Is A Triathlon Bike The Same As A Hybrid Bicycle?

by Ashley Nell
(Pretoria, South Africa)

I live in South Africa and the terminology for a lot of the things in the cycling world is a bit different. I was wondering, is a triathlon bike the same as a hybrid bicycle? If not, what are the differences?

Intelligent Triathlon Training (Mark) replies:

A triathlon bike is not the same as a hybrid bike. A hybrid bike is traditionally a mountain bike style frame with cantilever or disc brakes.

Some have short travel suspension forks, but most have rigid ones. The wheels are 700c - the same as road bikes, but the tyres are wider and nobblier than a road bike, but not as aggressive as mountain bike’s nobbly tread. They will often have triple chainsets on as the main market for these types of bike is recreational with light off-road use and - due to their better road performance than a mountainbike - commuting.

A triathlon bike is more like a cycling timetrial bike. In fact most of the components are the same. The difference can sometimes come from the position of the rider, rather than the bike.

Occasionally you will see manufacturers market a specific triathlon bike which will usually have a steeper seat tube angle, which pushes the rider further forward. However in more recent years, most manufacturers use their timetrial frame as the basis of their tri bikes, using different branding or kit levels to differentiate between timetrial and triathlon use.

Triathletes need to run after the ride and so do not generally adopt such aggressive positions as cycling time-triallists. Also triathletes are allowed to use water bottles or hydration systems that are outlawed in cycling. You can often see images of riders with a straw poking up from between the aerobars - this is from a bottle suspended between the aerobars.

In reality any bike can be used in a triathlon as long as its safe, has two brakes and a free wheel (as opposed to a fixed wheel such as those on a track bike).

Triathlon-specific bikes are only really required when you start to get serious and shaving off time is important to you.

Hope that helps, if you want any further clarification let us know!

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Aug 15, 2011
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thanks!
by: Ashley

thank you so much! that was really helpful. now i know which one to purchase.

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