Basically there are two options: convert Ruby to a tri-friendly position by adding aerobars and a different seat post, or invest in a tri-specific frame. Either way, I need to be happy and comfortable for 6-7 hours. Fast is good too :)
So I set to work understanding the advantages and limitations of my options (with the ultimate limiting factor being cost!). Depending on who you talk to, the jury is definitely out on this one. Conventional wisdom will tell you that it is the engine, and not the bike....a well-trained athlete on a road bike will beat out a lesser-trained one on a $25,000 tri bike with disc wheels and aero helmet. So recognizing that I am not looking for a band-aid solution or and excuse not to train.....the question remains: which bike is best suited to get me through the bike course at IMC in the best possible position to withstand running 26.2 miles??
Each has their pros and cons - just as there are limitations on the standard road geometry in a triathlon setting, tri bikes also have limitations for strictly road riding. For city riding, hands down my Ruby is more nimble and safer. You rarely get a chance in the city to get down into aero position and it is simply not a wise idea to get into the peloton in your aerobars. Drafting = smashy the wonder bike. Tri-frames are also not optimal for high speed cornering or on technical, hilly terrain....on these types of courses a road bike is best (i.e., the 4-loop bike course of Stanley Park at the Vancouver olympic tri).
However, a tri bike IS specifically designed to be ridden comfortably and efficiently over long distances on flat to rolling terrain and in a more aerodynamic position than a conventional road bike set-up allows. The tri position, while strictly speaking less powerful than the road position, also shifts the work off your quads and more evenly onto the rest of the muscles in your legs...as such tri-geometry bikes facilitate the transition from cycling to running better than road geometry bikes.
So why not just convert the road bike? It can be salvageable, but it is NOT the same thing. Road bikes have longer top tubes than tri-specific frames, so the increased distance from saddle to aerobars on a road bike can make you too stretched out for stable handling. This not only impacts comfort, but also is thought to restrict breathing. Road bikes are also more limited as to how low the front end can be, which impacts aerodynamic performance of the bike.
So my research (and constant badgering of everyone I know who has an opinion on these matters) got me to the following conclusions:
- If the main use of the bike is to participate in a long-course triathlon with the intention of doing solo training rides....the tri-bike is probably best.
- If the main use of the bike is to participate in group rides, shorter distance triathlons or crit-style courses....then a road bike is your ride.
- If you want all of the above....get one of each. Spending money on crossover use for a road bike is better used on getting a more appropriate tri bike.
So having hammed and hawed over my options for the last few months I have finally made a decision....Ruby is no tri-bike. And she's not going to be.
(Drum roll please......)
So with no further ado, I am pleased to introduce the newest addition to my growing IMC toy trunk and Ruby's brand new little sister...Ora. Isn't she pretty? :)