Triathlon Training: Buying A Bike For Triathlon Cycling

cycling, bike, triathlon training

Cruising on my new ride. (Photo:

My third triathlon, the Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon, is just five days away. But triathlon training without a bike is difficult. I rented a bike for my other two triathlons—the Subaru Triathlon Series Peterborough Sprint in Ontario and the Long Island Gold Coast Triathlon in New York. And since I didn’t own a bike, my triathlon training for the cycling leg of the race was lackluster at best. It’s hard to get better at cycling if you never cycle. And if you want to cycle more, you have to own a bike.

So I decided to take the plunge this season and buy a bike.

triathlon training, cross training, bike, cycling

Riding a rental bike in my second triathlon. (Photo: Capstone Photography)

Every triathlete and cyclist I talked to advised against getting a triathlon bike unless you’re very serious about the sport.

So I reached out to my aunt who is an avid cyclist and got some recommendations from her for buying a road bike since I don’t know the first thing about them. Cranksets, frames, and geometry were all Greek to me.

She gave me a list of the basic components she thinks every starter bike should have. Her best piece of advice was to buy new, but also to get an older model year that hadn’t sold yet in order to save money. I went to a few stores here in New York City to get an idea for size and style and started looking aggressively online, including Craigslist, for a bike that fit my needs for triathlon training and my budget.

Since I’m not a gung-ho cyclist and will be using it mainly for triathlons and triathlon training I wanted to spent less than $600, but also get a decent entry-level bike. It was a tall order, especially if I wanted to get all the components my aunt recommended as a baseline for a new rider. Most of the bikes I saw that fit the bill were more in the $1,000 range.

But thanks to being tall, I found the perfect bike for me: a 2011 Trek Lexa S Compact, a women’s geometry bike with an aluminum frame and a carbon fork. Bicycle Habitat in Manhattan had some left in the largest size the manufacturer made. The current 2013 model retails for $989.99. The best part: the 2011 was marked down to $530 and met most of my aunt’s suggestions for components.

Here she is:

bike, cycling, triathlon training

My new ride: A 2011 Trek Lexa S Compact.

After reading online reviews, which were largely positive, I ran—literally—down to the store to try the bike on.

The salesperson told me that so many women had tried it hoping to take it home, but it was always just slightly too large. Not for me! At 5’8 with long monkey arms, I was thrilled to hop on and find it a comfortable fit. At two other bike shops, salespeople had told me I might be better off with a men’s bike because of my height. That didn’t excite me for one reason: all the men’s bikes I looked at came in boring black or red. Blah. I like fun colors!

So I was very glad to find a women’s ride that fit and came in a fun turquoise blue and happened to be under my budget. So I bought a helmet and a water bottle cage to match, naturally.

I’ve ridden it a few times and feel like I’m finally getting the hang of cycling. I’m still not super comfortable, but feel like I’m getting there. How bad could I possibly be, you ask? Only last week was I able to ride with one hand and drink from a water bottle with the other. Before I bought my bike that would have resulted in an accident—one-handed cycling was a no go. But try triathlon training—or racing a tri—without being able to drink water. Not so much fun!

As a newbie cyclist, I have yet to futz with cycling shoes, clipless pedals, aerobars and the like. That will come with time.

For now, I’m really excited to head into Sunday’s triathlon on my very own bike. Montauk, here I come rolling into town…

triathlon training, bike, cycling

Getting friendly with my new ride. (Photo:

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


07 2013

20 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    Yeah! Good for you and I LOVE the color!

    The biking is totally the part that intimidates me the most about doing a triathlon. I have a hybrid bike, but I really never ride it, I’m thinking of trying to start training for a spring/ summer triathlon after the WDW Marathon this year! Oh, the other thing that scares the heck out of me are wetsuits! I want nothing to do with one so I need to find/ do a race where the water is warm enough to not need one.
    Danielle recently posted..Weekly Training RecapMy Profile

  2. 3

    So awesome! I remember when my boyfriend started looking for his first bike. He was in the same situation as you – wanted something in the $500-700 range. He ended up having to buy used from a local bike store, but it worked out really well for him. He’s had that entry-level bike for 2 years now and is thinking about upgrading. I really want to get into riding with him but my fear of riding near cars is a big hinderance!
    Kristina @ Blog About Running recently posted..Pushing Myself to Two PRs in Two Weeks!My Profile

  3. 5

    Yay on the new bike!!! It’s gorgeous, I actually looked at that bike when I bought my Felt road bike back in the spring. I totally agree about not going to triathlon bike right away, or even clipping in right away. It’s best to get used to cycling itself and gradually add in the “more serious” things. You are going to do amazing in the triathlon, and I am so happy for you that you got bike you love and didn’t have to break the bank!

    I love my road bike that I got this year, slowly I have made modifications (the biggest being switching to clipping in), and will most likely add aero bars by the beginning of next years season. Easing into things made me feel more comfortable and it also made it more affordable! Not spending all the money at once was a big relief!
    Laura recently posted..Mussel-WeekendMy Profile

    • Karla Bruning

      Laura, I totally agree. I think next season I may try clipping in and adding aerobars, while I use this season to just get used to biking. Biking is so expensive compared to running that it’s nice to spread the cost around and not do it all at once!
      Karla Bruning recently posted..Friday Foto: Triathlon Training Is Done. It’s Go TimeMy Profile

  4. 7

    Best of luck in the triathlon! Since I can’t swim any kind of distance I don’t think I will ever try one but I am so impressed by the people who do. Have fun!
    Kristi Raz recently posted..Night RunningMy Profile

  5. 9

    How exciting! I’m so scared to ride a road bike. If it weren’t for the fact that I’m in Russia, I would have done my first tri by now. I was supposed to do the Musselman spring in Geneva last week.

  6. Mer #

    Great info! I’ve been floating the idea of trying a tri but I’d need the equipment. It’s all a bit overwhelming but I have a great bike shop nearby and I figure that I could start by picking their brains a bit. :)
    Mer recently posted..What an (Iron)woman!My Profile

  7. 13

    I JUST got my old bike fixed up! It’s not a triatholon worthy bike though, and they had to put mountain bike tires on it, but I enjoy it. They guy at the shop was definitely trying to get me to get a new bike though with the whole spiel that I’m too big for it and recommended some Men’s bikes for me. As someone who’s 5’9″ I feel your pain lol. Maybe someday I’ll invest in a real bike since I would like to do a tri someday…if the swimming part didn’t terrify me. Anyway, in Greek, there’s an expression “Me ya” which is kinda like an “in good health” and congratulations combo thing when you get something new. So, yeah, me ya for your bike! :)
    Kellie recently posted..Week in Training (and who can turn an oven on in this heat to cook?) 7/8-7/14My Profile

  8. 15

    Good luck at the tri! The bike is so freaking cool! Can you share (with us) some of the requirements your aunt shared with you? It would be very helpful!
    Ashley @ Running Bun recently posted..Internet trollsMy Profile

  9. 17

    Hey, congrats on that great deal! And also on working on the biking one-handed. I’ve seen a few folks biking with NO HANDS on the bars … they’re texting … I’m impressed and yet fearful for them.
    Sadye recently posted..Ignoring conventional wisdomMy Profile

  10. 19

    Wonderful post however I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this topic?
    Id be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Thank you!

  11. 20

    Yeah! Good for you and I LOVE the color!

    The biking is totally the part that intimidates me the most about doing a triathlon. I have a hybrid bike, but I really never ride it, I’m thinking of trying to start training for a spring/ summer triathlon after the WDW Marathon this year! Oh, the other thing that scares the heck out of me are wetsuits! I want nothing to do with one so I need to find/ do a race where the water is warm enough to not need one.
    Emily Brown recently posted..Schwinn Men’s Network 3.0 700c Hybrid Bicycle ReviewMy Profile


  1. Race Report: Montauk Point Lighthouse Sprint Triathlon | Run, Karla, Run! 23 07 13

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