A triathlon bike is specifically meant for triathlons. The seat position is perhaps the predominant difference between a tri bike and a road bike. In a tri bike, you will find the seat tube to be typically steeper than in a road bike. The difference is not too pronounced and generally, you can expect these tubes to be 6-8 degrees steeper.
Tri bikes help you achieve a faster bike-run time than road bikes. This performance improvement is largely thanks to the bicycle’s geometry.
It is extremely comfortable to ride a tri bike. The more aerodynamic aerobar position helps you sit in a position that is closer to perpendicular to the ground.
A time trial bike is meant for those who race on the clock. The core priority of a time trial bike is to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the bike. The geometry of time trial bikes is so fine-tuned to maximizing speed that it almost feels as if you are cheating the wind.
All your power is directed right at increasing the speed on the road.
Time trial bikes are perfect for flat terrains when you are on the clock. Comfort and bike weight are not priorities for a time trial bike.
The difference in geometry and the resultant aerodynamics of both types of bikes mainly causes a difference in spent energy while cycling.
Triathlon bikes are for going the distance. Cyclists prized with endurance will find tri bikes to be conducive. On the other hand, a time trial bike will make you feel spent by the time you are done. Time trial bikes only prioritize speed. You can expect both the frame weight and comfort (as in how relaxed the sitting position is) to be better in a triathlon bike than in a time trial bike.
There are also differences in the build. For example, time trial bikes are designed within the rules of UCI and these rules can cause a few differences in terms of the overall bike design. The most prominent difference is that the saddle in the time trial bikes must be 5 cm high from the center of the cycle’s bottom bracket.
It largely depends on what you are focusing on. Between triathlon bikes and time trial (or TT) bikes, you have plenty of coverage options. If you are going for triathlons, long cycling excursions, or anything that prioritizes endurance over speed then a triathlon bike will fit the bill.
On the other hand, if you are training to get into professional racing then you are highly likely to benefit from a TT bike instead of a triathlon bike. Most races and tournaments are timed and practicing on a TT bike will ensure that you are ready for the big time.
Practicing on both types of bikes is also slightly different. Getting good on a triathlon bike although takes a respectable amount of time, but to train and get well on a TT bike is a wholly different story altogether.
TT bikes are difficult to master. You will need to train for months to achieve records and speeds that will help you in races.
Time trial bikes are predominantly for individual races against the clock. The major advantage a TT bicycle has over a typical road bike is that it is more aerodynamic. The same can be said for a triathlon bike but they are not designed with speed in mind.
You should know what sets them apart before you commit to a TT or tri bike. Both types of bikes differ (endurance vs. speed essentially) but they have certain similarities that differentiate them both from road bikes and other types of bikes.
TT and tri bikes are mostly unisex. What this means is that a triathlon bike for women or a TT bike for women is as easy to get and use as one for men.
Both the bikes offer the rider respectable speed (especially TT bikes) that are hard to achieve with typical road bikes.
In terms of comfort, certain types of road bikes can be better. If you are not looking to enter the professional cycling world, there’s little reason to buy a TT bike. However, a tri bike can still be good for you.
The frame design of both bikes is highly aerodynamic. TT bikes are heavier than tri bikes regardless of their aerodynamics.
You would think that all tri bikes or TT bikes are similarly powerful, and you would be wrong. There are different TT and triathlon bikes for absolute beginners, entry-level biking, intermediate level cycling, and finally professional or tournament-grade races. The higher up you go, the more high-end and costlier these bikes become.
Hopefully, you have a good grasp of triathlon and time trial bikes by now. Both are not the same. One is meant for endurance while the other for speed. Both differ from road bikes in their geometry, aerodynamics, and usage.
Tri and TT bikes are great inventions. For example, a triathlon bike puts the rider in a position that maximizes the direct transfer of muscular power to the cranks. A typical bike does not get this much gas out of you because of the different posture you will be sitting in. On the other hand, TT bikes are so aerodynamically advance that it feels as if you are literally cheating the wind to your advantage.
Both have different uses. Depending on what your goal is, you should be able to settle down on one type. But if you are unsure about which model to go for, we have a handy product comparison and selection ready for you here at Velomio.