Without a doubt the bike-equipment you choose can greatly influence the outcome of your first Ironman Triathlon.
However, don’t believe for a moment that the more expensive the bike, the easier and faster your bike split will be. The most important factor–and one that is often overlooked–is having the bike you choose sized just for you. Most bike outlets will supply this service. I just can’t stress how important this is. A proper fit means you will be getting full use of the proper muscle groups and will have a smooth, circular pedal stroke. Most importantly, it can make for a much more comfortable transition into the run.
Also, when you consider it, there’s not much point in spending thousands of dollars more for a bike because it is a pound or two lighter when you’re going to be packing five pounds of water and food on it for the race. For your first Ironman I would suggest a good reliable mid-priced bike. You can always upgrade if you choose to continue on with the sport in the following years.
Here’s something to think about. In 1984, on a brutally hot and windy day during the Kona Ironman, there were two cyclists under the 5 hour mark. Dave Scott was 5:11 and went on to run a 2:53 marathon and ultimately won the race. My point is, pretty well any mid-range priced bike you buy will be 10 times better than what these guys raced on that day. Think about it. Aerobars would have been HUGE that day. There was no such thing. Everyone had the old toe clips. The bikes were MUCH heavier. The tires were nowhere near as good as we can get now. There is just no comparison.
Ultimately your training and overall preparation—your athletic ability, and your courage are equally important ingredients to a successful Ironman bike ride.
Its about more than just the bike.
PROFILE BARS- I don’t believe they’ve invented an Ironman race yet that has no wind. Profile bars are a “must” to reduce wind resistance and conserve your energy for the upcoming marathon. If possible, try and have your shift levers mounted at the very front of your profile bars where your hands meet. That way you’re not sitting up or reaching down to shift gears. I have something called “swift shifters.” They are just perfect for the Ironman bike leg.
CYCLE COMPUTER-Some bike computers have way too many functions. All you need is cadence, speed, and an odometer to tell how far you’ve gone. That way you’re not forever pushing buttons to find the proper setting.
CLIPLESS PEDALS AND SHOES TO FIT-These were just a great invention. They are so easy to get in and out of and allow for a much smoother and more economical pedal stroke than the old clips we started out with. Its VERY important to have the tension set just right. You want to be able to get into them easily, yet not have your foot snap out at the worst possible time.(Like climbing a hill for instance). If you ski, its sort of the same idea as ski bindings. Just keep experimenting with it until you have to give your ankle a fairly quick, sharp twist for your shoe to come away from the pedal. That way you know its not set to loose. Also, make sure the bike has forward momentum when twisting out of the pedal. If you are almost stopped you could fall right over.
BOTTLE CAGES-Personally, I carry 4 water bottles. One inside the handlebars with a flexible plastic straw so I can drink without removing the bottle, one in the standard position on the frame, and a two bottle cage behind the seat. The water bottle on the frame and the two behind the seat were for my replacement drink…Gatorade etc. The bottle with the plastic straw was water. It has a top that snaps open, but stays attached and at aid stations I can just refill it with water if needed. When I wanted a replacement drink, I would take it from the bottle on the bike frame. When it was empty I would switch it with a full bottle from behind the seat. If I thought I would need more than three bottles of my replacement drink, I would leave one or two at the special needs station.
***If what you normally use for a replacement drink is being supplied on the race course, then you can do away with the two bottles behind your seat and just keep changing the bottle on the bike frame at the aid stations. Most of the time it was garorade or something else I didn’t use and I would just bring my own.
HELMET-You can’t race without one, so just find one that is comfortable, fits you well, and meets all safety standards. Remember, if its too loose, it will fall over your eyes when you lean forward into the profile position and that will drive you crazy. Also make sure it can be done up and undone easily.
SUNGLASSES-This is one piece of bike-equipment you MUST have for your Ironman training and racing. And I don’t really care if they cost $2.99 or $299. Just make sure you wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Say you’re going downhill at 40 mph. And the bee coming towards you is travelling 25 mph. when he hits your unprotected eye. That could be REALLY, REALLY SERIOUS!! Always wear sunglasses and a helmet. Sun or not!! I found that yellow tinted sunglasses are excellent for overcast days.
I can think of at least 8 or 10 times over the years that something has hit my sunglasses hard enough to do lots of damage if I my eyes were unprotected.
Hopefully these few tips will help you in your bike equipment choices.