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Pick The Tri Bike For You

  • By Aaron Hersh
  • Published Jun 19, 2014
Photo: John David Becker


Strengths and shortcomings of one of every tri bike style under the rainbow.

The most technologically advanced bike isn’t necessarily the best. Each individual rider dictates what he or she finds valuable in a tri bike, and many personal lists do not align with the cutting edge of innovation. Fundamental attributes like ride quality and fit can easily get lost behind flashy nose cones and dramatic aero tubes, but function—not flair—will keep you happy with your tri bike years after rolling it out of the store. Start your search for a tri bike by listing the characteristics that mean the most to you (and by getting a bike fit). Tri bike design has split into many directions, and these four bikes cover the complete range of fit, ride and construction styles to choose from.

Orbea Ordu M30

$4,999, Orbea.com
Bike profile: Keyed to the wants of demanding cyclists

Suited to the values of road time-trialists with a twist of tri-friendly fit, the Ordu shifts instantaneously and has a mean-looking integrated front end suited to aggressive positions. It jumps at every input—steering or sprinting—and responds with aggression. For a forgiving fit, this bike isn’t the one, but immaculate component function (except for the rear brake) and compact fit make it an ideal choice for the hard-nosed and discerning rider.

Fit
As the sport has grown and welcomed athletes of every body type, tri bikes have become increasingly friendly to moderate and upright positions. The Ordu is not part of that trend. Orbea’s integrated front end is shaped to drop the bars into a demanding, aero-oriented position. Flat aerobar extensions provide ample leverage through the wrists to yank an extra couple of watts out of an intense effort. These bars, however, do not create a relaxed grip suited to long riding or offer the ability to reshape into a dramatically more conservative fit. Make sure your position is suited to this bike before pulling the trigger because it is best for an ambitious riding style.

Function
Forget the notion that Shimano Ultegra is a mid-level groupset—it functions at the absolute pinnacle. Derailleurs get the glory, but it’s the full kit spec’d on the Ordu M30—crank, cassette and shifters—that separates this group from most tri bike builds. Every piece of this 11-speed kit is designed to work in unison, and the difference is tangible. The external Shimano front brake controls the bike beautifully, although the hidden rear caliper lacks stopping power and is a challenge to adjust.

Ride
Responsiveness trumps stability with the Ordu. The bike feels dynamic in all situations, and the under-foot stiffness of this frame seems to outdo the others, yet most road vibration melts away. Moving quickly is the bike’s natural inclination, which places more responsibility on the rider to hold a straight line from the aero position. A steady cruiser this is not. Its stiff and snappy construction makes riding it a blast.

It Goes to 11

Ten-speed kits have had a decade-long run that is coming to an end. Mid-level 2014 SRAM and Shimano kits are both 11-speed, and the most price-conscious Apex and 105 groups are likely to follow in the near future. These component kits are not technically compatible with their prior-gen predecessors (although some pieces can be crow-barred together), so replacing parts and swapping between bikes will become increasingly difficult over the next few years as 11-speed becomes ubiquitous. Ten-speed parts won’t disappear, but having an 11-speed kit will become an increasingly valuable convenience in the next few years, irrespective of shift performance.

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FILED UNDER: Bike / Gear & Tech

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh

Aaron Hersh is the Senior Tech Editor of Triathlete magazine. To submit a question, write Aaron at Ahersh@competitorgroup.com.

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