Triathlon bikes are difficult to handle due to the geometry, but they are popular because the positives far outweigh the negatives, by limiting their weaknesses to allow them to go faster over 180km compared to a road bike. Here are the ones we scored 85% plus when we put them through their paces
- How does riding a triathlon bike differ to riding a road bike?
- What are the different parts of a triathlon bike?
- Which is best for descending; a triathlon bike or a road bike?
- What should be measured in a good triathlon bike fitting?
- What’s the difference between a triathlon bike and a road bike?
- Triathlon bike versus road bike
- How to turn your road bike into a triathlon bike
- Do you need a triathlon bike for 70.3 and Ironman races?
The best triathlon bikes
An Italian pro athlete once said: ‘Very, very important the skinny.’ He was talking about body composition but he could’ve been commenting on Look’s attitude to aerodynamics. The 796’s head tube is a mere 25mm across. Incredibly, the down tube and seat tube are equally narrow, so it’s certainly deserving of its moniker – Monoblade.
What we said: Exquisite, efficient and expensive tri racer with vast adjustment but best on smooth roads 89%
Before riding the Ventum One, we wondered if the Ventum, devoid of 40% of a conventional frame, might usurp the Blue Triad SL of a few years ago as the most flexy thing we’ve ever ridden, but within a hundred metres it was clear that it wouldn’t. In fact, the One initially feels normal, and nothing like it looks. The steering is neutral and accurate, it’s stable, and the power transfer is far more robust than you’d ever imagine from staring at the BB shell, hanging down like a pendulum. What’s more, despite all the reinforcing that must have been necessary with three tubes removed, the One is impressively compliant.
What we said: The Ventum is good but it hasn’t blown us, or a key rival, away as promised. However, this is only the start of the brand’s journey. We know how these guys love to make fast things faster. 85%
The Ordu Ltd has loads of tri-specific features such as extra mounting bosses on the top tube and the back of the seat tube, and the reversible seat clamp that allows you to get right forward over the BB to open your hip angle and save your legs for the run.
It’s stiff when climbing and handles precisely, inspiring the confidence to take roundabouts without breaking position. It’s quite light at 8.72kg, is easy to adjust and the brakes are strong and stay off the rims.
Best of all, though, the Ordu is fast. On successive mid-week time trials that we use for practice, we beat our overall PB (20:50, thanks).
What we said: Ready-to-race out of the box and a very well-crafted bike 94%
The Speedmax makes a big first impression: it’s fast! Our test bike came with an agressive set-up, so the position was aero and riding to a firm power output we were soon flying along. 25mph came easily. 30mph soon followed. Out of the saddle up a short climb, the frame felt stiff and eager under excited legs, the bar a rigid anchor point to push and pull. The new TRP brakes are strong and spring back from the rims far more positively than those of the old bike.
What we said: We were able to get a great position on the Speedmax, allowing the power to come easily and our legs still felt good after a fast ride. The biggest challenge might be holding yourself back on a bike that just wants to go so fast. 95%
The Planet X EX03 is a comfortable bike that we’d have no hesitation in taking to long-course events. You’ll need to add aftermarket storage and hydration kits, though, as the Exo3 only has the basic bottle bosses.
Carbon fibre engineering – that is, getting the best from the materials which, in this case, is high-ish end Toray T800 – is an area in which Far Eastern sourced bikes such as this one have really caught up to the top brands. Where wobbly handling and limp power transfer used to be the norm, the Exo3 is precise, confidence inspiring and efficient. It makes you want to ride hard and it rewards you for doing so.
What we said: Incredible value spec and quick, but just slightly behind the top boys for speed. 87%
We have only given this a brief ride so it hasn’t undergone the full 220 test but it’s performance so far, we fell, merits its inclusion on the list.
It simply isn’t possible to give the P5X a score based on 100 miles of riding, and we’ll be waiting until we can get our hands on a test bike here in the UK before giving a final verdict. But our initial thoughts are that the P5X is thrilling to ride, and perhaps the most carefully considered tri-specific bike yet. But there’s room for improvement while the disc-brake technology catches up and even more testimony is submitted with regards to storage and hydration options.
What we said: This means the P5X is perhaps just the beginning of Cervélo’s ‘ultimate tri bike’ journey, rather than the ultimate solution.