Buying a Road Bike for Cross Training and Triathlons

I’m in the market for a road bicycle. I’ve been researching them for quite some time now and I think I’m getting close to making a decision. I just have started building my running mileage, so why am I looking at bicycles? You guessed it – I’m thinking about triathlons. Sprint and olympic distances at first. Baby steps.

I started with online research, but quickly became overwhelmed with all of the information out there. I have several friends that ride with groups here in town, so I began reaching out to them. I stopped into a couple of shops locally to chat with the owners and get a feel for what they offer. I like the local feel and community of the smaller shops, but they do have a major drawback. Each shop I went to carried a single different brand. While I would like to think that this is because they strongly believe in that brand and chose to focus their efforts there, sometimes it seems like a business decision. Maybe the brand they carry was the easiest to stock and sell. That’s when I decided to broaden my search a little.

Atlanta Cycling Road Bikes

Wall of road bikes at Atlanta Cycling

We live about 45 minutes outside of Atlanta. When I opened up my search to Atlanta, I found many more shops to choose from. In order to prevent overwhelm once again, I asked a few friends which shop they would recommend in the Atlanta area. Both of them said Atlanta Cycling. They also had two brands that overlapped in their “big 3” list: Trek and Cannondale. Ironically Atlanta Cycling carried both of these brands, so I decided to make a trip to the shop.

After hearing I was interested in a road bike for group rides, cross training and triathlons, the previous shops I visited wanted to show me a bike right away. Again, I sort of got the feeling that it just happened to be a bike they wanted to sell me (hopefully, I’m wrong). However, Atlanta Cycling was different. They started by going over the brand their shop carries, why they carry them and how each might fit my goals. Knowing that fit is the most important aspect of a positive cycling experience, they then offered to do a fit analysis on me to determine exactly what setups work best for my specific body. This is something that I was very interested in, especially after going through a similar process for my running shoes at Big Peach Running Company.  Atlanta Cycling uses the Guru fit system – a high tech scanning and measurement system that works in conjunction with an experienced shop employee to get a precise and customized fit on a bike. The process didn’t take that long at all. Afterwards, based in my fit data the system recommended several frames for me to test. The cool thing was that a few of the models were already on my radar during my research.

After getting the test bikes dialed in with my measurements, I was able to take each for a spin on the road. Being new to road bikes, I wasn’t exactly sure what to look for in the feel of a bike.  Brian told me to focus on the feel of the frame when comparing the rides. I took four different bikes out, both aluminum and carbon models from Trek, Cannondale and Cervelo.  After discussing each with Brian, I began narrowing down the selection and he would hang the bikes back up as we eliminated them from the discussion. Based on my limited experience and the fact that I’m just getting started, I’m not sure the $500-1,000 premium for a full carbon frame is worth it for me (at this time).

And so I think I’ve narrowed my selection down to two bikes – the Trek Emonda ALR 5 and the Cannondale CAAD12. I’m ready to start riding, so I want to make a decision soon. I’ve got my eye on a sprint distance triathlon at the end of August, so I need to start training. I’m now comparing the pros and cons of these two bikes and will likely take another test ride between only these two prior to making my decision. As Brian at Atlanta Cycling told me – “you’ll love whatever you chose, almost to a fault.” I sure hope so. I’ll keep you posted on my decision and my training as it progresses.

Trek Emonda ALR 5

Trek Emonda ALR 5

Cannondale CAAD12 105

Cannondale CAAD12 105

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