Best triathlon bike 2021 to crush the opposition with on triathlon races

The best triathlon bike will help you reduce drag and shave seconds off your PB

best triathlon bike can potentially help you win a race, something this person is doing (presumably), running toward his bike as he exits the swimming leg of a triathlon race
(Image credit: BMC)

Although riding the best triathlon bike won't make your next Ironman effortless, but at least it might make the cycling part a little more tolerable than if you tried to use your Dutch bike. The tri bikes on this list go above and beyond to provide you with the best aerodynamic advantage you can have in the lightest possible package possible.

Buying a triathlon or time trial bike can be more daunting than buying the best road bike, for example. If you haven't got a lot of experience in bike technology, it's easy to get lost in the details and get super confused by the different groupsets, chainsets and wheelsets. We will try to make this all clearer for you.

Triathlons come in many shapes and sizes, and if you are at the beginning of your triathlon journey, you might want to consider signing up for a triathlon sportive instead of a race. A sportive is a non-competitive version of triathlon, so instead of worrying about having been disqualified for going slower than the cut-off time, you can concentrate on the experience and enjoy the ride (literally).

As well as a tt bike, you might want to consider getting an appropriate fitness wearable too to track your next race, and we have loads of those on our best triathlon watch guide. They are similar to the best running watches but geared towards multidisciplinary athletes such as triathletes.

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TT bikes are not cheap but you might be able to find some good triathlon bike deals on Black Friday, admittedly the biggest shopping event of the year. We collected them all for your convenience, just click on the link above and you will be instantly taken to T3's Black Friday Hub where you'll find them all. View Deal

The best triathlon bikes, in order of preference

The Canyon Speedmax CF 8.0 is T3's top choice for TT bikes


(Image credit: Canyon)

A super light speedster coupled with a great groupset

Specifications
Groupset: Shimano Ultegra R8000
Wheelset: Mavic Carbon
Frame: Canyon Speedmax CF Carbon
Fork: Canyon F39 CF Carbon
Weight: 8.6 kg
Reasons to buy
+Fantastic looks+Extremely light+Great groupset combination
Reasons to avoid
-Looks might be intimidating for beginners

Canyon is famous for providing great quality bikes for a very reasonable price, and this is true to the Speedmax CF 8.0 as well.

The full carbon construction is as light as a feather, the medium-sized frame weighing only 8.6 kilos. The setup comes complete with a Shimano Ultegra groupset and Mavic Carbon wheels.

Canyon is so confident that you'll like the bike that they offer a 6-year guarantee on it. Also, Canyons own Bike Guard Box gets the bike to you in a conditions that it's almost ready to ride, straight out of the box.

Every detail has been taken into account, including the type of saddle used for the Speedmax CF 8.0, to maximise comfort as well as performance. The Fizik Mistica is a triathlon-optimised saddle with a shorter and wider nose and non-slip material on the top, you so you can ride in comfort for longer. Relatively speaking, of course.

the Ribble Ultra Tri Shimano 105 has a Pro-grade frame and looks aggressive in general


(Image credit: Ribble)

2. Ribble Ultra Tri Shimano 105

Pro-grade frame in its full carbon glory

Specifications
Groupset: Shimano 105 R7000 TT 11 Speed
Wheelset: Mavic Aksium Clincher
Frame: Toray T800 / T1000 Full Carbon Monocoque
Fork: Ultra Tri Full Carbon Fibre Monocoque
Reasons to buy
+Way cheaper than the Canyon Speedmax+0% APR finance available
Reasons to avoid
-Watch out for side wind 

Using the same frame as the Ribble Ultra TT, a bike raced by pro-Ribble riders, the Ribble Ultra Tri is engineered to be fast. Really fast.

The full carbon Ultra frameset has been perfected by Ribble to provide the least amount of aerodynamic friction possible. This feature will come handy when riding the 56-mile cycling part of the Ironman 70.3 in headwind. You don't need anything to  hold you back more than absolutely necessary.

The groupset on the Ultra Tri consists of mainly Shimano 105 R7000 pieces, apart from the brakes, it being TRP T860 alloy set. The cockpit is Ribble's own with both bars and the stem designed for the Ribble Ultra Tri. The wheelset consists of Mavic Aksium Clincher wheels and Continental Ultra Sport 2 tyres, with an extra deep profile.

Given the thick profile and all the additional storage units on the frame, the Ribble Ultra Tri is slightly susceptible to side wind, but since the bike is very light, it won't affect your riding experience all that much, especially in aggressive riding positions.

the Cervelo P2 is an Affordable tt bike from an Ironman favourite brand

(Image credit: Cervelo)

3. Cervelo 105 Disc

Affordable tt bike from an Ironman favourite brand

Specifications
Groupset: Shimano 105 R7000
Wheelset: Vision Team 30
Frame: Cervélo All-Carbon
Fork: Tempered P Fork
Reasons to buy
+Airier design+All carbon frame+Storage compartments

Cervelo is the most popular bike brand among Ironman Kona competitors and the P-series is one of its more affordable tt bike range. That said, even the cheapest Cervelo P bike, the 105 Disc, will set you back over $3,000, so it's definitely not for people who just need a tri bike to use once a year.

The Cervelo P series is a designed from the ground up to cater for the needs of all long distance triathletes: the bike is race ready pretty much straight out of the box, equipped with a bento box, downtube bottle and a rear seat hydration mount so you can keep your cycling water bottles on you without compromising on the aero properties of your setup.

Get ready for a bumpy ride as the P series increased stiffness at the bottom bracket and overall torsional stiffness too, compared to its predecessor. Said stiffness will enable you to transform energy to forward momentum easier: less power wasted on vibration.

The P-Series is also more aero than even the P3 was. According to Cervelo, the P-Series was 26g faster than the P3 when tested in a wind tunnel. Pretty impressive.

the Felt IA Advanced 105 2020 is a multiple Ironman Kona winner

(Image credit: felt)

4. Felt IA | Advanced, Rim Brake | 105 | 2020

A multiple Ironman Kona winner

Specifications
Groupset: Shimano 105 R7000
Wheelset: Devox 30A
Frame: Felt Integrated Aero Tri UHC Advanced + TeXtreme carbon
Fork: Felt IA UHC Advanced carbon monocoque
Weight: 9.49 kg (medium frame)
Reasons to buy
+BTS storage pack included+Textreme frameset for a reasonable price
Reasons to avoid
-Slightly heavier than the top bikes on this list

The Felt IA Series won the Ironman World Championship five times out of the last six years, which says a lot about the performance of this series. The IA | Advanced, Rim Brake is your entry to this very prestigious family.

The Felt IA | Advanced, Rim Brake | 105 | 2020 uses a Shimano 105 R7000 groupset, coupled with an all-carbon aero frame. For the 2020 year, Felt introduced the the lighter and stronger Textreme frameset to the entry level model of the series, to everyone's delight.

The bike is slightly heavier than the Canyon and Boardman entries on this list, but still comes under 10kg, which, considering all the tech that's involved here, is amazing.

All the better, Felt also included A BTS storage pack too, so you can store your wheel fixing accessories or food/drinks in an aerodynamic compartment as well.

the BMC Timemachine 02 Two 2020 is a Swiss-designed TT machine

(Image credit: BMC)

5. BMC Timemachine 02 Two 2020

Gotta go fast on this Swiss-designed TT machine

Specifications
Groupset: Shimano 105
Wheelset: Shimano WH-RS 010
Frame: Timemachine 02, PF86 bottom bracket
Fork: Aero Premium Carbon
Weight: 9.18 kg
Reasons to buy
+Integrated fuelling box+Shimano 105 groupset works great+Hidden brake booster at rear+Dual-mount seatpost
Reasons to avoid
-Full-aero cockpit needs some getting used to for beginners-No shifters on drop bar

The BMC Timemachine 02 Two is a very competent tri bike. The always reliable Shimano 105 groupset does the work just fine when it comes to commandeering the derailleur in between the 22 available speed options. Better still, the Shimano Dura Ace Barend shifters complement the groupset beautifully and makes shifting gears in aero position way easier.

The Timemachine 02 frame is hyper-aero and slices through the air: everything is fat and flat to reduce drag on the road. The dual-mount seatpost is a nice touch and lets riders customize their riding position in a variety of ways.

Feel free to go fast on the BMC Timemachine 02 Two: the hidden brake booster tech "increases the brake-lever-pull to caliper-free-stroke ratio", as BMC puts it. The same system allows for the complete disconnection of the cockpit (when paired with electronic shifting options) for travel purposes too.

I wouldn't put the BMC Timemachine 02 Two in the beginner tri bike category as it is not only it has a rigid carbon setup and therefore provides a firmer ride, but it also mostly caters for more experienced tri riders with barend shifters and stuff like the highly customisable seat post.

person riding a tt bike in full cycling gear on the road in front if some green vegetation


(Image credit: Cervelo)

How to choose the best triathlon bike

Assuming you won't want to break the bank when investing in a new triathlon bike, there will some compromises you will have to make when picking a tt bike.

One of the main thing you will notice bike description mention is the type of groupset they use. A groupset is all the parts on the bike that make it move and stop, so all the equipment that transforms the kinetic energy generated by your legs and body to forward momentum (plus the brakes). This includes the crankset, the bracket, brakes, shifters and derailleurs, but even the chain and rear cassette too.

Groupsets you will see most often on time trial bikes are the Shimano 105, the Shimano Ultegra and the Shimano Dura-Ace. Of the three, the 105 is the most 'basic' set and the Dura-Ace is the most advanced. The 'basic' is in brackets because the 105 is by no means a cheap set and as with all technology, advancements from higher end models cascade down to later year entry-level models, meaning a new Shimano 105 is probably more advanced than a Shimano Ultegra from a few years ago.

Another key factor to take into account is the frame. Many triathlon bikes have aero frames, where 'aero' stands for aerodynamic. This frame-type comes from the world of time trials, where they came up with the light but rigid frame composition. In time trial, every gram matters, and as technology advanced and production costs dropped, areo frames made their way from track courses into the world of triathlon, too, becoming a an everyday sight as opposed to being a toy of the top 1% of triathletes.

The wheelset is also crucial when deciding on a setup. These are made out of many different materials, but you would like something light, like carbon, to make the bike even lighter altogether.

Is a triathlon bike worth it?

We would argue that a dedicated triathlon bike is mainly worth it for people who take triathlon racing seriously. That said, for longer races, riding on a well-calibrated tt bike can mean the difference and enable you to ride in relative comfort, not to mention other features found only on triathlon bikes such as compartments for food/gels/drinks etc.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is a fitness fanatic (a.k.a. fitness and nutrition writer) who's been rambling on about all things health and fitness for over two years now here at T3. His achievements include a short-lived fitness podcast called Fit Mentality Podcast and being a judge on the Fit&Well Awards 2021. In his free time, he works out at home, runs, cycles and loves a good ol' walk around the city. He writes about general fitness stuff, fitness tech, workouts, workout gear/equipment, nutrition and much, much more.