We test four aero triathlon bikes for Ironman racing to see which will stop you hitting the wall in your long-course race.
The latest of our triathlon bike reviews focuses on aero bikes suitable for Ironman races
Finishing your Ironman bike leg fast is fine, but only if you’re still in good shape to run your marathon. Unless you’re a mahogany-bodied masochist, the race is going to be tough enough without having a bike that batters you brutally over every one of the 112 miles. It’s not just a case of stiffness versus comfort, either – even if you’ve got £2,300 to £3,000 to spend, you’re still going to be working out your ideal bike balance from a range of different compromises.
The bikes tested here range from adequately equipped, advanced carbon aero frames right through to value bikes with fancy wheels. That immediately opens up a world of different ride characters and upgrade potential. Do you want a buy-it-and-forget-it bike that’s as fast as it can get, or one that’s fizzing with latent speed to be unleashed with a bit more spending? We’ve got four bikes here that offer very different ways to take you from your wetsuit waddle to the first stumbling steps of your marathon, but which is the best one for you?
Jamis’s smooth-riding Xenith aero frame is topped with a Cobb saddle and carbon kit to create a and lightweight Ironman triathlon option. It’s more of a Rolls-Royce steady cruiser rather than a Ferrari-style combative speed demon though.
Read the full Jamis Xenith T1 review
+ Smoothly comfortable, with size-specific geometry
+ Plenty of carbon parts keep weight to a minimum
– Soft frame means loss of acceleration and climbing potential
– Flexy wheels don’t help hustling or handling
Smooth and easily adjustable. A lightweight package, but not for those who like to push the pace on descents or climbs
Argon 18’s entry-level E-80 really impressed us, so now we’ve moved up the range to the race-proven E-112 which provides an even more cost-effective steed for Ironman triathlon with excellent potential for upgrading at a later date.
Read the full Argon 18 E-112 105 review
+ Naturally fast and clean ride, with excellent position and handling
+ Surprisingly forgiving for such a precise and power-friendly frame
– Crying out for an aero wheel upgrade to unleash its full potential
– Expensive for this spec – but the frame is worth it
Not cheap for the kit but a fast, aero machine. Surprisingly forgiving thanks to construction and great ergonomics
Boardman AiR TT 9.2
The same frame ridden by Ironman World Champion Pete Jacobs, the new AiR TT will take some beating with its great drive stiffness, comfortable ride and the stable handling that add an element of relaxation that you’ll welcome as you stride out into the run with looser shoulders than normal.
Read the full Boardman AiR TT 9.2 review
+ Light, fast and comfy aero frame with excellent cockpit
+ Composed and balanced handling, and excellent aero efficiency
– Needs deeper-section wheels to fully realise its potential
– We’d love to see a Di2 electric shift version in the range
Superbly composed and responsive aero ride that’ll handle mixed UK courses
Derbyshire-based Forme is new on the Ironman bike scene, but its two ATT bikes are an intriguing prospect for those wanting to go fast without breaking the bank. The ATT Carbon is light and comfortable bike good for long-course racing.
Read the full Forme ATT Carbon review
+ Efficient position and comfy, responsive ride character
+ Good price, particularly if you go for the conventional wheel option
– Front-end flex can be unsettling when ridden hard or in high winds
– Limp, inconsistent braking and limited frame sizing
Some definite issues, but a naturally fast and efficiently comfortable long-haul aero bike at a good price
While some people think you need to throw £10,000 at an Ironman ride, £3,000 is still a hell of a lot of money and we’ve kept our expectations high to reflect that. Jamis’s Xenith looks promising in terms of spec and weight, and its smooth, relaxing character felt fast enough until the best bikes here left it floundering in their wake. In contrast the deep-wheeled Forme turned in surprisingly decent times despite its comfort on long and steady sessions, but winding descents and tight corners revealed its weaknesses.
That leaves two very impressive rides that are fast in stock form, and potentially really fast with the right wheels. The BMC is cheaper, but sharper and more instantly engaging, and more forgiving than we expected – but still takes a toll over long rides. In contrast, the Boardman is so well balanced and composed it’s almost boring. The fun comes when you see what this can do to your split times, while still leaving you fresh for the run. If you can’t afford the 9.2, the 9.1 comes with the same chassis and cockpit for £1,999.99.