We review four of the best Ironman triathlon bikes from Kona.

The latest of our triathlon bike reviews focuses on bikes you’ll be seeing at the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii.

The original and most iconic Ironman, the World Championships in Kona, Hawaii, not only tests the world’s best athletes to the limit, it also hosts the Kona bike count – a chart of the most popular brands. It’s a great indicator of the rise and fall of brand popularity among real-world users and seen by many as a real recommendation of what to ride in pursuit of the ultimate Ironman prize.

While few of us can hope to ride one of the flagship bikes ridden by the pros, there are now loads of top quality frame options that are ideal for subsequent upgrading.

They usually have the same aerodynamic performance as the top bikes, but in a slightly heavier carbon lay-up. High-quality frame and component collections on relatively cheap training wheels lets riders choose their own preferred race wheels to upgrade too. We tested three established contenders against the newcomer BMC, Andreas Raelert’s ride


Felt DA4
£2,899
www.saddleback.co.uk

Third in the Kona count last year, Felt’s DA4 is the cheapest way to get onto the top level frame shape

A long-time triathlon bike manufacturer, Felt have maintained a loyal fan base reflected in the Kona count. If it’s comfortable, smooth, aero efficient and user-friendly flat-line-speed that you’re after, the entry-level Felt DA4 bike proves their popularity is well deserved.

Read the full Felt DA4 review.

Pros
+ Outstandingly comfortable and relaxing ride for stress-free speed
+ Own-brand parts and Vision shifters make a good value kit selection

Cons
– Heavy wheels and high overall weight reduce snap responsiveness
– Flexy frame means noticeable twist when climbing

Verdict
Weight and frame flex reduce responsiveness but Felt’s DA4 package is comfortable and aero efficient for flat-course speed

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5


Specialized Shiv Pro
£3,600
www.specialized.com

The expansion of the Shiv family for 2012 is likely to see Specialized reclaim their place on the bike count podium at Kona

Specialized’s Shiv has been around for a while and now that Specialized have revealed this triathlon-specific version free from compliance with UCI regulations, the gloves are off in terms of aero profiling. The Shiv Pro isn’t just impressively aerodynamic, but amazingly comfortable too.

Read the full Specialized Shiv review

Pros
+ Very comfortable, position adjustable long-haul cruiser
+ Smooth aero speed yet confident handling in all conditions

Cons
– Ride height and soft power delivery make it more cruiser than sprinter
– You need to budget for proper aero wheels when you’re pricing it up

Verdict
If you want a comfortable and relaxed handling long-haul cruiser and can upgrade the wheels, this has to be on your shortlist.

Performance 3/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5


BMC Timemachine TM01 SRAM Red
£3,999.99
www.evanscycles.com

BMC’s stunning looking TimeMachine is an increasingly common sight at races and Hawaii is likely to be no different

BMC’s TimeMachine TM01 is a truly uncompromising aerodynamic machine that’s not for the faint-hearted or financially limited.

Read the full BMC Timemachine TM01 review

Pros
+ Aerodynamics and positional tuning mean superbike speed potential
+ Very light, but dramatically powerful and precise under power or braking

Cons
– Aggressive position and firm ride mean it’s not for the faint-hearted
– A full aero wheel upgrade needs factoring into the overall cost

Verdict
The TimeMachine has the potential to be a really fast aero ride for athletes who can capitalise on its aerodynamics and precision control.

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 3/5


Cervélo P2
£3,999.99 (as tested)
www.madison.co.uk

There are more Cervélos racked in Hawaii than the next three brands combined and many of them are the classic P2

The biggest name in the Kona bike count, Cervélo bikes have accompanied more athletes to Ironman Hawaii than any other brand. A lot of the bikes on that roster are based on the evergreen P2 frameset. While the Canadian manufacturers have developed several upgrades since the P2C first appeared, its user friendly, confident and naturally rapid ride mean its classic status is still very much intact.

Read the full Cervelo P2 review

Pros
+ Lightweight frame with good handing and a comfortable ride
+ Standard brakes, BB and fork allow a range of upgrade options

Cons
– Aerodynamics are good but lack the latest integrated component tweaks
– Decent rather than dramatic power delivery and steering precision

Verdict
The P2 is still an engaging, naturally rapid and user-friendly all-round ride that doesn’t restrict potential component choice.

Performance 4/5
Value 3/5
Overall 4/5


OVERALL VERDICT

If you’re after a comfortable cruiser then either the Shiv or the DA4 are well worth a look. They’re both very easy for less experienced (or flexible) riders to find an aero fit on. They both give a very smooth ride at the expense of a sharp power kick. The Shiv isn’t light but it’s a lot lighter than the DA4, but the Felt is a lot cheaper and includes a set of semi-aero wheels.

If you’re after a more aggressive ride position and a matching attitude when it comes to pressing on the pedals then the Cervélo P2 and BMC’s TimeMachine TM01 both fit the bill. The TM01 is a particularly focused performance machine with an inspiringly precise and blisteringly fast ride. Its ride feel and steering don’t take any prisoners though and its potential won’t be fully realised until you’ve upgraded the wheels.

If we had to call out the most versatile, easy to live with mix of natural, responsive speed, confident handling and broad component compatibility then there’s a good reason why Cervelo’s P2 is still one of the most popular bikes at Hawaii.