We review the fastest and most aerodynamic triathlon bikes on the market
The latest of our triathlon bike reviews focuses on how to get the most speed for your money.
With triathlon still exploding in terms of popularity, most manufacturers are now devoting a lot of time to developing the fastest, most aerodynamic bike possible. Triathlon also lets designers take their ideas to extremes that conforming to the more conservative bike regulations of the UCI pro cycling circuit doesn’t allow. Cue brake fairings, nose cones and water bottles that are more about dropping drag coefficient than delivering drink.
Their aim is to use every watt your legs can generate to get you as far as possible, as fast as possible – and that’s fine if you’re a pro athlete, but how hard are these bikes to live with if you’re a mere mortal in terms of riding and wrenching skills? We blasted four of the fastest bikes in the world round flat-out Strava loops, hilly routes and winding descents on windy days through a freezing late winter to see how these speed freaks coped with life in the real world.
Cervélo P5 Three
Cervélo has been the undisputed champion of the Kona bike count for years, and its ‘fastest bike ever’ is high on the must-have list of many triathletes. The P5 is a stripped-out, ‘bucket seat and big-bore exhaust’ rally-car-style ride, with no sense of any filter between you and the road. It’ll leave you aching, but the reward for gritting your teeth and grabbing it by the horns is probably the most ferociously focused speed we’ve ever experienced.
+ Aerodynamic, brutally stiff frame that’s just jaw droppingly fast
+ Excellent conventional component and storage option versatility
– Frame stiffness means only hardcore speed freaks need apply
– Flexy fork means climbing brake rub and soft cornering
The P5 is one of the fastest bikes we’ve ever ridden, but at a significant comfort and confident cornering cost.
Wilier Twin Blade
This Italian wind-cheater uses a unique Twin Blade fork and smoothly flowing lines to create possibly the most charismatic but still rapaciously rapid aero bike we’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. Despite ‘primitive’-feeling bar shifters and last-generation wheels, it oozes the kind of decorum, class and sheer quality that most aero bikes could only dream of. Every test rider who rode the Twin Blade was positively rapturous, and the longer we rode it, the more the forgiving ride left us fresh and ready to take the fight to the clock in the final furlongs, making it an ideal Ironman partner.
+ Distinctive but effective aerodynamics with powerful drive
+ Extremely poised ride feel that gets better the longer you ride
– Gear configuration isn’t as neat as the other bikes here
– Cockpit adjustment options are relatively limited
The Wilier offers sublime ride quality and is a properly pleasurable experience, however hard you’re pushing your PB.
Dutch firm Isaac has delivered a distinctive looking and focused aero alternative to the established elite. Light, responsive and precise-feeling DT Swiss Dicut wheels help offset the Muon’s heavy frame weight, and the excellent handling helps to keep mental fatigue in check over longer rides, but that’s tempered by a decidedly firm ride quality that becomes more and more intrusive as the miles increase.
+ Distinctive looks, excellent handling, powerful feel
+ Great for riding low and aero; easily maintained brakes
– Heavier than expected frame that is also a bit too firm riding
– Frame is not as aggressively aero as some of the others on test
The powerful feel and excellent handling of the Muon make it a great ride for skillful riders, but it’s not as light or as fast as some of its rivals.
BMC Timemachine TM01
One of the world’s fastest frames matched with arguably the fastest wheels and the most efficient aero transmission makes the BMC Timemachine a genuine time traveller. Stiffness, steering and set-up awkwardness mean it’s not a smart option for the fainthearted, though it’s nowhere near as brutal as the P5, making it more suitable for longer-haul Ironman use.
+ Efficient speed with a responsive, powerful and confident character
+ Adjustable cockpit adds optimum positioning to serious aerodynamics
– Definitely on the stiff and unforgiving side
– Limited steering lock, time-consuming stem and brake set-up
The TM01 suits more experienced riders but this flagship version is one of the fastest off-the-peg aero bikes available.
The Cervélo P5 put the test team in a real quandary. It’s phenomenal in terms of sheer short-course speed, but the frame is heavy and left us feeling broken even on short rides. Component versatility of the standard UCI-legal version is also offset by fork flex, meaning that – in our view – the tri-specific P5 Six is worth the extra investment over the Three we tested.
Isaac’s Muon is a muscular yet very easy-handling machine that powerful riders of all abilities will enjoy, but it didn’t quite deliver the ultimate speed feel of the fastest bikes here.
That certainly isn’t the case with the blisteringly quick BMC TM01 with its cutting-edge aerodynamics, custom cockpit and excellent components making it a true time machine. Extremely restricted steering lock and some awkward set-up issues mean it’s not a straightforward speedster though.
That leaves us with the unanimous favourite, Wilier’s distinctive Twin Blade. The fast yet refined ride left us fresh and ready to run even after our longest sessions.