Time trial and triathlon bikes are at the forefront of bike innovation and design, created to be as fast and slippery as possible. Extensive research and development goes into aerodynamics, yaw angles, fluid dynamics, tube profile optimization, and integration to make the perfect speed machine.
More recently, we've seen the emergence of triathlon-specific bikes. Not bound by UCI regulations, triathlon-specific bikes have no restrictions on tube shapes, storage options, or rider position. They generally have enormous down tubes and seat tubes, integrated hydration and fuel storage, hidden brakes, and a large amount of adjustability making them perfect for triathlon.
Here are eight of the best time trial and triathlon bikes for 2016 for under $4,000.
Giant Trinity Advanced
The Giant Trinity got a facelift in 2016 with a new frameset design and geometry to help triathletes achieve their ideal fit. The top-of-the-line Trinity Advanced Pro has been 'engineered to be the world's fastest triathlon bike' and much of the innovative technology has filtered down to the Trinity Advanced model. The Advanced and Advanced Pro versions share the same frame shape and aero features, the only difference being the 5:1 'Aero Drive Tri' fork and the 'AeroVault' hydration and storage system on the Advanced Pro.
The Trinity Advanced is one of the few triathlon bikes to come in under $3,000, despite featuring Advanced-grade composite frame and fork, integrated cabling, hidden 'SpeedControl' brakes, and a large degree of cockpit adjustability.
The Trinity Advanced is ready to race straight out of the box, whether you are doing a local Individual TT or an Ironman Distance Triathlon.
Frame & Fork: Advanced-grade composite, Hybrid steerer
Drivetrain: Shimano 105, Shimano BSR1 Bar End Shifters, FSA Gossamer, 36-52T crankset
Wheels: Giant S-R2 wheelset, Giant P-SL 2 front & rear specific tyres, 700x25c
Cannondale Slice 105
In an era where we see triathlon and time trial bikes adopt enormously thick downtubes and profiles to create the aero advantage, Cannondale has gone the other way, relying on 'Truncated Aero Profile' shapes of the Slice tubing to create a fast yet comfortable bike. The difference is apparent when looking at the Slice from the side: much less material which saves on weight, and ultrathin seat and chain stays that aid comfort.
Cannondale claim the Slice is the 'the world's' lightest Tri frame, with the best stiffness-to-weight'.
A well as the mechanically designed compliance of the seat and chain stays, the Slice comes with 'AERO SAVE' micro-suspension technology that absorbs road vibration, further improving the ride comfort.
Frame & Fork: Slice, BallisTec Carbon, AERO SAVE, Di2 ready, PF30A.
Drivetrain: Shimano 105, MicroShift bar-end Carbon Shifters, FSA Gossamer Pro, BB30a, 52/36 crankset
Wheels: Shimano RS11 wheelset, Schwalbe Lugano tyres, 700x25c
Specialized Shiv Elite
The Specialized Shiv was created to provide three key elements every triathlete needs: aerodynamics, fuel, and fit.
Triathlon bikes are all about integration, and very few bikes represent total integration better than the Shiv. The Shiv Elite from Specialized ignores UCI regulations to create a triathlon specific bike complete with the unique 'Fuelselage Hydration System' that is built into the frame improving aerodynamics and reducing the need for retrofitting additional equipment. The internal hydration system provides the same amount of fluid as a traditional water bottle but can be topped up on the go without creating any additional drag.
The frame is made from Specialized FACT 10r carbon and, as you can see from the side profile, has an enormous down tube and seat tube, typical of the modern day aero triathlon bike.
The Shiv Elite is finished off with Shimano 105 drivetrain and AXIS 2.0 wheelset.
Frame & Fork: Specialized FACT 10r carbon, FACT IS construction, crosswind-optimized airfoils, 1-1/8" lower bearing, OSBB, Control Tower Fit System, Fuelselage Integrated Hydration System, Specialized FACT Aero carbon fork.
Drivetrain: Shimano 105, TURN Zayante by Praxis Works, BB30, 52/36T crankset.
Wheels: AXIS 2.0 wheelset, Specialized Turbo Pro tyres, 700x24c
Avanti Corsa DR Tri
The Avanti Corsa DR is the aero bike option from Avanti designed using Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) to optimise tube profiles for aerodynamic advantage. The 'DR' stands for 'Drag Reduction,' which is achieved not only through aero tube profiles, but also partial seat tube and down tube cutouts, reducing drag from the wheelset.
The Corsa DR Tri utilises the ADT R5 Carbon Corsa DR frameset with Profile Design T2 Wing with clip-on Aero bars. As a result the Corsa DR Tri provides the same 'Performance Road Geometry' as the road option, but with a time trial specific cockpit. It's basically Avanti's aero road bike with TT bars.
At $2,799, the Corsa DR Tri is one of the cheapest options in this category representing great value with Shimano 105 drive train and Shimano RS010 wheelset.
Frame & Fork: ADT R5 Carbon, Performance Road Geometry, Universal component capability, ADT R5 Monocoque Carbon Integrated fork with 1 1/4"-1 1/8" Steerer.
Drivetrain: Shimano 105, Shimano Dura Ace 22-Speed Bar End Shifters, Shimano 105 5800 53/39T crankset
Wheels: Shimano RS010 Wheelset, Kenda Kountach 700 x 25c Folding tyres with Superlite Tubes
Trek Speed Concept 7.0
The Trek Speed Concept 7.0 is the blueprint for modern day Triathlon bikes, boasting aerodynamic tube shapes that reduce drag, hidden brakes, integrated cables, integrated storage that astonishingly makes the bike faster, and a level of adjustability that caters for all shapes and sizes.
The foundation of the Speed Concept is the Kammtail Virtual Foil (KVF) tube shape. The KVF shape was created by starting with a 5:1 airfoil, then cutting 'off the tail at just the right length to trick the wind into thinking the full foil is still there, creating a super-aero virtual tail.' This genius design uses less material, saving on weight and creating a stronger overall shape, more resistant to flex.
The Speed Concept 7.0 only comes in black, but through Trek's Project One program you can customise every finite detail of your bike.
Frame & Fork: 500 Series OCLV Carbon, KVF (Kammtail Virtual Foil) tube shape, BB90 w/Speed Fin, DuoTrap compatible, SC Draft Box 2 & SC Speed Box compatible, SC full foil carbon fork with integrated brake
Drivetrain: Shimano 105, Shimano Dura-Ace, bar end control, Shimano RS500, 50/34 (compact) crankset.
Wheels: Bontrager alloy Wheelset, Bontrager R1 Hard-Case Lite tyres, 700x23c
Merida Warp 3000
The Merida Warp 3000 shares many of the same traits other time trial bikes in this category, but the Warp 3000 is the only bike in this line-up that comes with a deep aero wheel as standard. The 'Merida super AERO 38 pair' wheelset offers aerodynamic gains and has an alloy brake track, which improves braking power over carbon clinchers or tubulars.
The 'NACA Fastback' tube profiles of the Warp series are the same as Merida's aero pro peloton bike, the Reacto, designed with 'cropped rear ends' that combine stiffness and aerodynamics. The only exception is the elongated trailing edge of the headtube, which further improves aerodynamics but is definitely not UCI legal.
At 9.4kg the Warp 3000 is on par with other bikes in this category, but as mentioned, does come with deep aero wheels and plenty of aero advantages to offset any weight penalities.
Frame & Fork: WARP TRI CF4, Warp Tri-direct-E fork
Drivetrain: Shimano 105 FD, Shimano Ultegra RD, Shimano BS-R1 2 / Shimano BS-R1 11 Shifters, FSA Gossamer 50-34 crankset.
Wheels: Merida super AERO 38 pair Wheelset, Continental Grand Sport Race tyres, 700x23c
Scott Plasma 20
Scott went all out when they created the new Plasma Premium TT bike: custom designed handlebar with integrated fuel and hydration storage, cutting edge aerodynamic design with not a cable in sight, and a vastly stiffer frame. The Plasma 20 has benefitted significantly from the new Plasma Premium design, becoming stiffer and easier to adjust than previous versions.
The frame design of the Plasma 20 differs slightly to the Premium, less integration of the cockpit and less trail on the seat tube - seat stay junction, but similarly stiff and aerodynamic everywhere else. The cockpit is the most noticeable difference, the Plasma 20 using a conventional steerer, which makes it easier to adjust and replace parts if necessary - extremely important in triathlon and time trial events where finding the right individual setup is paramount.
The Plasma 20 weighs in at 9kg which is almost half a kilo less than most other bikes in this category.
Frame & Fork: Plasma 4 / IMP technology / HMF / TT / TRI Geometry / Plasma HMX seatpost / Replaceable hanger / UCI approved, Plasma 4, 1 1/8" Carbon / integrated fork.
Drivetrain: Shimano 105, Shimano Dura-Ace SL-BSR1 bar end Shifters, Shimano FC-RS500 34/50 crankset.
Wheels: Syncros Race 27 Aero Profile Wheelset, Continental Ultra Sport tyres, 700x23c
Felt IA 16
IA stands for 'Integrated Aero' and it is clear to see that Felt have done everything they can in the name of aerodynamics on the new IA triathlon bike. To create the perfect triathlon bike, Felt abandoned the UCI rules, and rather than adapt a time trial bike to the meet the needs of triathletes, decided to create a whole new triathlon-specific bike. The most obvious feature of the IA range is the enormous down tube and seat tube profile. The new Airfoil shape has great aerodynamic benefits at all speeds and despite its thickness, is said to perform equally as well in strong cross winds as with small yaw angles.
Most aero bikes, road and time trial, have dropped seat stays but not many would come close to the nearly horizontal angle of the Felt IA. The extremely low seat stays create superior aerodynamic benefit but also supply a more compliant ride by allowing more movement from the rear triangle.
The IA has integrated storage on the top tube and a large amount of cockpit adjustability, which will be welcome by all triathletes. The triathlon-specific nature of the IA frame continues to the rather short crank arms which see a 170cm crank arm for a 56cm frame and 172.5cm for a 60cm frame. The shorter cranks open up the angle of the hip, allowing a more aerodynamic position on the bike and a better transition into the run leg.
Frame & Fork: Felt Integrated Aero TT / Tri UHC Performance carbon fiber, MMC with InsideOut construction, BB30 and adjustable carbon horizontal dropouts, aerodynamically optimized for direct mount rear brake, internal cable routing (mechanical and electronic compatible), Felt UHC Performance carbon fiber monocoque construction, 1.125" carbon fiber steer, blades, dropouts, crown, aerodynamically optimized for a conventional brake fork
Drivetrain: MicroSHIFT TT 11-speed shifters, Shimano 105 front and rear derailleur, FSA Omega BB30 50/34T crankset, Shimano 11-28T cassette
Wheels: Felt TTR4 wheels with Felt Aero TTR2 tyres