The Right Bike for the Beginning Big Triathlete

author : browncd
comments : 1

Trials on getting a bike that fits while also being reliable

Getting the right bike for the big triathlete that is comfortable, can hold up to the extra stress, and doesn’t feel like you are dragging an anchor when riding it can be a challenge. It took me about a year filled with frustration, with breaking parts and uncomfortable training rides on the bike before I realized that the advice I had gotten from a local bike shop (LBS) and some slim folks that ride bikes was not working for me. I needed some better advice. I thought I would pass along what I learned from my mistake so other big triathletes wouldn't make the same one.

First a little about myself, I currently weigh about 230 pounds, down from 270 a year ago. I have a goal of getting under 190 as I continue to train. When I first started riding again, I used a borrowed "comfort" bike to ride around. I soon got interested in training for and later doing some triathlons. With this goal in mind, I started looking for a bike. The first LBS recommended a bike with a carbon frame along with all the lightweight components, including the wheels and tires. Since the riders that hang out at the bike shop had similar equipment, I figured it was the way go. They said I needed to add some aerobars for triathlons. Boy, were they wrong. They must not have considered that I weighed 100 pounds more than most of them, even though it was pretty obvious. After a few weeks of riding, I was getting stronger so my speed and distance started increasing. The bike was not comfortable, but I thought that was something I just had to get used to. When I got in the aerobars, the bike did not handle very well and it was hard to keep it in a straight line. To make matters worse, things kept breaking (spokes, wheels, cranks, etc.) I even cracked the frame. I was fed up.

Then I met some other big guys that rode bikes. Some of them had done some triathlons. They suggested that I check out another bike shop in the area where they got most of their equipment. The owner is not a little guy, so he understands what works for heavier riders.

When I walked in, I knew I was at the right place. Before he started showing me bikes, he asked a lot of questions. Then he took several measurements so he could match a bike to my frame. He explained there is no one bike that fits everybody, and getting the right bike is not a once and done thing. As you change, so should your bike to match. For my size and current fitness level he suggested a couple of frames that should work well for me.

I ended up selecting a "cyclocross" frame (Surly Cross Check ). The frame and fork are steel. The geometry is more relaxed. He built it with a stem and handlebars sized right for me. He added a set of Ritchey wheels that are built to handle the load and stress of a larger rider along with a set of 700 X 30 tubular clincher tires (to help prevent pinch flats). It has a FSA compact crankset (50X34) with a 12 - 27 rear cassette to make climbing a little easier. The bike is a little heavy, but is really comfortable and handles well. I can ride hard for hours now at a good pace. And after several hundred miles, I haven’t had a single breakdown (not even a flat tire).

He took my old bike in on trade, as he will this one, when and if I need something else. When I asked about aerobars, he explained that mounting them on a regular road bike will result in handling issues like I described. In his opinion, they should only be put on a bike with the geometry to distribute the rider’s weight properly in the aero position. When I am ready to ride in the aero position, he has some bikes in mind that will work for me.

For now, this bike meets my needs and is fun to ride. I look forward to every training ride. It sure helps to have a bike that fits and that you can count on to get you there and back.


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date: January 1, 2006