So I am thinking of doing a triathlon in a couple of months. I've been training on a hybrid bike and have only ever ridden either hybrid or MTB.

Your probably thinking, don't do it you're mad, totally different riding position, much narrower tires etc.

So what do you think? I would have an evening with the hired road bike the day before the race, do you think I can literally jump on a road bike for the first time and for a race and pull it off or am I kidding myself?

  • Some info is missing. Is the event only for fun? Do the organizers require some form of experience or is the event welcoming of neophytes? On another note, I see this question as too open to opinion, frankly. You'll get answers saying "go for it" and others saying "don't do it".
    – Gabriel
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 17:34
  • If your time on your current bike is OK (within the race limit), then you do not need a road bike
    – Max
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 17:58
  • 5
    "Hire a bike for a race" Don't forget that would probably violate whatever contract you hire the bike under. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 18:30
  • 1
    The narrow tyres are almost completely irrelevant. Bikes don't balance by having wide tyres. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 19:50
  • 4
    Can you beg/steal/borrow a a bike from a neighbor/friend/family? Even if its the wrong size a few weeks getting used to drops/STI's would be a massive benefit. Decide from that if you want to hire for the event. If you cannot borrow - consider buying a used bike. Check the cost of hiring a few weeks ahead of the event, it may be not much more expensive..
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 23:49

5 Answers 5


In your first tri , you’ll have all sorts of new things to concentrate on, I don’t think an unusual bike should be one of them.

When I’ve seen people ride road bikes for the first time, it’s the gear shifting that’s often trickier and more distracting than anything else. I’ve seen people take more than one ride to get the muscle memory to change gear in the direction they intended. It becomes intuitive, but through practise.

For your first tri you’re also only racing against yourself. So if you know how fast you normally ride in training, you can compare how fast you race, and know if you’ve done a good job on race day.

If, afterwards, you want to do a second triathlon, put the rental fee you save towards a road bike to train and race on.

  • In your first event, your only goal is to finish, therefore setting a time to beat next year. Cos DNF is "damnit no fun"
    – Criggie
    Commented Aug 19, 2018 at 8:44

Yeah you can do this - if - your only goal is to finish the race and don't care where you place; and you don't mind being very uncomfortable and can accept a bit of danger from trying to ride a totally unfamiliar bike as fast as you can.

Actually I'll go back on that. This could be dangerous. If I were another competitor I'd not be happy about someone riding a very unfamiliar bike near me, so please don't do this.

Perhaps try renting the bike a few times before trying it a race, so you at least have a chance to get familiar with the handling and braking.

  • 4
    Most Tris drafting is not allowed, therefore close quarters racing in packs is not common, so as long as the OP can maintain a straight line lack of steady speed should not be an issue.
    – mattnz
    Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 23:46
  • 1
    @mattnz is right, though overtaking can be quite close side to side and a road bike is much more sensitive to a poor road surface than a hybrid
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 8:21

Renting a bike to ride in a race is not a good idea. Rental agreements often include specific lines forbidding racing on the rented equipment. One example, Rapha's bike hire, expressly forbids it.

All warranty and damage liability waivers will become null and void. You would be liable for the full price of the bicycle in the case of any damage.

As other answers have said, you will need practice to perform adequately on a road bike and risk crashing and serious injury.

  • That's a good point, but it's lready been discussed in the comments, and apparently the hire shop accept it.
    – Chris H
    Commented Jul 31, 2018 at 15:41

This isn't a good idea.

  • The different riding position will likely make some combination of your back, arms, legs and neck sore for the first few hours of riding. It will take much longer than that to get comfortable riding on the drops, though probably less so if you're fairly flexible.

  • It takes a while to get used to any new gear system. At least a few hours to get to the stage where you can fairly reliably translate "I want to shift up/down at the front/back" to the right hand movement and longer until you can do it basically every time without thinking about it. Having a new bag of gear ratios means that it takes a while to get back your intuition of "I need a slightly easier gear and I need to change to the small chainring – how many gears should I shift at the back?"

  • Road bike handling is significantly more responsive (complimentary term)/twitchy (pejorative term) than hybrid handling. Most of the time, this doesn't make a big difference to anything much but, for example, it took me a few weeks to be able to look over my shoulder while on the drops without moving significantly to the side; I could ride essentially arbitrary distances with my hands off the bars of my hybrid but it took a while to be confident doing it at all on my road bike.


Yes, you are kidding yourself. You know how to ride the hybrid, so you should ride it for the race. You will be faster on it than on the fastest road bike. Somebody as fit as you who is used to a road bike will beat you, but renting a road bike for the day is not the answer to that. If you want to place as well as you can, you need to get a tri bike, practice on it a lot, know the most efficient positions for each part of the course, and shift gears smoothly and appropriately. None of that happens overnight. You can jump on the road bike and ride the race without crashing-that isn't the hard part. Ride the race on your hybrid, have fun, and think about your objectives going forward.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.