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Best time trial bikes: TT and triathlon bikes to help you cheat the wind

Best time trial bikes
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The best time trial bikes are the ultimate in speed, designed to slice through the wind with minimal disturbance. Take one look at a time trial bike, and it’s clear that it has been designed to be as aerodynamic as possible but this comes at the expense of everything else.

This style of bike is also ultra-popular with athletes for the bike leg of non-draft legal events. With triathlons not governed by the UCI’s rules, some triathlon-specific frames throw traditional bike design to the wind.

Read on for Cyclingnews’ picks of the best time trial bikes you can buy today.

Best time trial bikes

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Giant Trinity Advanced Pro 2

Designed with the bike and their legs in mind

Brakes: Rim | Built in storage: Yes | Proprietary cockpit: Yes

Removable nose cone
Adjustability
Aero bottle
Non standard base bar

Giant says the goal with the latest Trinity was to make the fastest bike for real-world conditions. It's no secret that the numbers achieved in the wind tunnel aren’t totally relevant out on the road when the wind is swirling from all different directions and with the variables introduced by the rider. To optimise the frame, Giant went as far as creating a dynamic mannequin with anatomically correct articulating legs, not only measuring pressure drag and friction draft but also taking into account the pedalling rider. 

The frame is made from the brand’s premium Advanced Pro carbon fibre and sees a stiff front end that tracks exceptionally well, but the frame still manages to provide one of the softest, most vertically compliant ride qualities that’s easier on the body than most. The bike features an uber steep 77-degree seat angle, 73-degree head angle, and stack and reach figures of 539mm and 417mm in a size medium.

The Aero Drive fork features integrated ‘SpeedControl’ V-brakes that are hidden on the trailing edge of the fork, the triathlon version (pictured) features a 5:1 aerofoil on the fork as does the AeroDrive Tri Base bar which has a reversible design allowing for 40mm of height adjustment — Giant also makes a UCI legal version with a different fork and no removable nose cone.

Best time trial bikes

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Vitus Auro CRS TT

Consumer-direct stunner

Brakes: Rim | Built in storage: No | Proprietary cockpit: No

Price
Spec
Exposed cables

Vitus is one of the Wiggle/Chain Reaction Cycles brands and it has a long history of making solid bikes, so it would be silly to overlook the brand.

The frame is made from T700 Hi-Mod UD carbon with an integrated carbon aero stem and fork. At the front, there is a direct mount Tektro rim brake, which may not be as aero as some of the integrated options, but at least it works. The rear brake is also direct-mount and is hidden under the bottom bracket. 

The bike features an Ultegra R8000 11-speed build and roll on Prime Black Edition carbon clinchers, 85mm deep at the rear 60mm at the front. 

The cockpit comes from Zipp with the Vuka bars allowing heaps of reach and height adjustment. Vision Metron bar-end shifters are mounted on the end of the extensions, and the saddle is a Vitus TT specific short nose ‘power’ saddle. 

Best time trial bikes

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Specialized S-Works Shiv TT

The best of the best and the price tag to match

Brakes: Rim | Built in storage: No | Proprietary cockpit: Yes

Weight
Disc brakes
Removable Front Derailleur mount
The price
1x not for everyone

The Shiv comes in two versions; a tri-specific build with a HUGE fairing behind the saddle and a tri-specific fork that’s not even close to UCI legal, and a more conservative road TT version. This model is the UCI legal version, and Specialized says it pushes the rules to the limit while also trying to keep the frame as light as possible to better handle the more undulating time trial courses of today.

With a 75-degree seat angle and a 72-degree head angle, the Shiv isn’t a handful to pilot around corners, and Specialized incorporated years of Retul fit data updating the spaces bridge and armrests for improved fit adjustment.

As the brand was an early adopter of disc brakes, it’s no surprise to see them here and Specialized has data from its WinTunnel showing they don’t add any additional drag. The S-Works model comes with a full 1x SRAM Red eTap AXS drivetrain complete with the Aero chainring and a Quarq power meter. With all of this, don’t let the price tag take your breath away.  

Best time trial bikes

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Cube Aerium

The Tron TT bike

Brakes: Rim | Built in storage: No | Proprietary cockpit: Yes

Exciting ride quality
Sliding dropouts can be fiddly
Aesthetic not for everyone
Front brake lacks power

Cube's Aerium has a funky silhouette, with sharp angles that make it look more like something that should be lining up for a light cycle match in the movie Tron rather than at your local TT. Made using the brand's Advance Twin Mould system the bike features rear-facing horizontal dropouts that allow you to snug the rear tyre right up against the seat post for the best possible aero benefit. 

All of the cables are hidden inside the frame except for the front brake - which utilizes the brands Aero TTVO1 calliper - the rear brake is a standard Shimano 105 caliper that’s placed below the bottom bracket. While the Stem is Cube’s own proprietary part, the base bar, arm pads and extensions all come from Profile Designs, and should they not be the right fit can be swapped for something that works better. 

For the money, the bike comes with a full Shimano Ultegra drivetrain R8000 and roll on a set of Mavic Cosmic elite wheels, ideal for training. 

Best time trial bikes

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Scott Plasma 10

Budget friendly time trial bike that has earned the rainbow stripes

Brakes: Rim | Built in storage: Yes | Proprietary cockpit: No

Comfort
Adjustability and fit options
Lacks the snap of other bikes

Scott's Plasma 10 is the direct benefit of trickle-down tech, with this frame design sitting at the top of the range with a massive price tag only a few years ago. Now, at a much more budget-friendly price point, the Plasma 10 is still one of the fastest bikes on the road. 

It’s one of the more forgiving time trial frames on the market but this doesn't come at the cost of power transfer or steering precision. If you look carefully, you’ll spot a few design cues from the current model Foil aero road bike, however, the aero tubing is much more exaggerated in the head and seat tubes. 

At the top of the fork is a 1 1/8in steerer tube which allows for a standard stem, base bar pads and extensions — perfect for the beginner that will need to tweak their position. You’ll also find direct mount brakes instead of proprietary integrated points and an interesting mix of components ranging from Shimano 105, all the way up to Dura-Ace. 

Best time trial bikes

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BMC TimeMachine 02 Two

Infinitely adjustable with aggressive handling

Brakes: Rim | Built in storage: Yes | Proprietary cockpit: Yes

Dual seat post locations for max adjustability
Standard parts
Aggressive handling
Storage
Not UCI legal
Exposed cables

At the Road World Championships, Rohan Dennis defended his title aboard a blacked-out version of the BMC TimeMachine frame instead of his (at the time) Merida team bike. The ‘02’ version of the frame is made from a lower grade carbon and sports a few different frame features along with a more price-friendly spec.

At the front is a Profile T2 wing bull horn bar which steers the brand’s Aero Premium carbon fork with a standard rim-brake bolted on, instead of integrated brakes. 

In BMC’s over-engineered fashion, there are two seatpost mounts which are capable of creating either a 71-degree seat angle or an ultra-steep 82-degree seat angle. With the seat post in the steeper option, to cover the extra hole in the frame, there is a removable storage box for tools and spares which complements a top tube bento box and dual-standard bottle cages. 

Best time trial bikes

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Bianchi Aquila CV

The most comfortable of the bunch, if you’re flexible enough.

Brakes: Rim | Built in storage: No | Proprietary cockpit: No

Countervail
Sizes
Aggressive geometry

With the Aquila CV explicitly designed for the likes of the Jumbo Visma team, it’s no surprise the geometry is exceptionally aggressive, but if you’re flexible enough, this celeste speed machine might just be the most comfortable bike in the category. Bianchi has incorporated its Countervail technology into the layup, which integrates a viscoelastic resin used by the likes of NASA into its carbon fibre, and is claimed to absorb 80-per cent of the vibrations coming through the frame. The Italian outfit also says it not only helps the rider stave off fatigue but also increases the stiffness of the frame. 

On the outside, every detail of the Aquila TT is sculpted to cheat the wind; the front brake sits inside the carbon fork, the rear brake is found beneath the BB, and the frame has an adjustable rear dropout which allows you to snug the rear wheel up against the seat tube to maximize aero gains. 

At the front, the Aquila features a proprietary integrated bar and stem system, which does limit adjustability to a certain degree.

Best time trial bikes

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Cervelo P-Series Disc

The latest in the of the iconic P time trial bikes

Brakes: Disc | Built in storage: Yes | Proprietary cockpit: No

Geometry will fit a wider range of people
Plenty of built in storage
Disc brakes
Non-proprietary cockpit

Cervelo’s P3 and P5 TT and tri bikes have been a staple of the brand's range, with many considering them to be the gold standard in this arena. With the new P-Series frame, the brand is aiming to bring the same level of performance with a lower price tag. Cervelo has also made the geometry slightly less aggressive than the angles of the P5, making it possible for a broader range of riders to find a comfortable fit — 506mm stack and 398mm reach with a 72.5-degree head angle in size 51cm.

In typical bike industry form, Cervelo says it’s lighter, stiffer and more aero than its predecessor, even with the disc brakes. It comes equipped with provisions for a bento box, an integrated aero water bottle and a re-hydration mount.

Cervelo has opted for a non-proprietary cockpit so you can use the base bar, pads and extension that work best for you; this also means spares will be readily available. 

What to look for in a time trial bike?

Wait, can’t I just use my road bike?

You sure can, and with a set of clip-on aero bars, you can get a feel for the TT position and some aero advantage. That said, not only will the time trial bike itself be more aero, the geometry also differs quite a bit to help you minimize your body's front-on profile — which is what creates the majority of the drag. 

To start, the seat tube will be extremely steep (76-78-degrees), placing your derriere directly above the bottom bracket to tilt you forward. The head tube will also be almost non-existent with the armrests and extensions mount on the top of the bull horns being used to dictate the stack

Frame differences

As we mentioned, TT and triathlon bikes are designed with the sole purpose of minimizing wind resistance and maximising efficiency. This comes at the expense of comfort — don’t expect to find flex zones or compliance built-in — and with the deep section tubing, the frames are weighty and that's before you begin to bolt on any components. 

At the front, a TT bike will have a base bar where the brake levers are mounted. This also provides the support for the arm pads and extensions with the gear shifters at the end. 

The bike will definitely have a proprietary aero seatpost, and may even have an integrated stem, with some bikes using brand-specific cockpits too. 

When it comes time to drop the anchors, you’ll find everything from standard rim brakes, to hidden integrated calipers and even discs — more on that later. 

What are you racing?

When you’re looking into a TT (or Time Trial) bike, it’s crucial to take into consideration what you’re going to be racing, and more importantly, if the UCI has jurisdiction over the event. If it does, you will need to make sure you opt for a frame that has been UCI approved. 

If not, the world is your oyster, and you can take full advantage of the engineering prowess of your chosen brand’s R and D department for the fastest bike possible. Here you'll find fairing's, frames with no seatpost and all kinds of wind-cheating features that aren’t available on UCI legal frames.

Bottles, nutrition and spares

Depending on the events you’ll be racing, it’s also essential to take into account if the frame has mounts for a bento box or integrated bottles.

Wheel tax

Often TT bikes are sold with cheap alloy rims. The thinking here is that if you're shopping for a TT bike, you more than likely already have a set of race wheels and don’t need another set; this helps to lower the price a bit. 

If you don’t have a set of deep-section carbon hoops and are looking to maximize the performance of your new TT bike, you should budget for a set of race wheels.

Disc or rim brakes?

The disc or rim debate has made its way to the TT and triathlon world too. With the aero-at-all-costs mentality used for this category of bikes, we have seen quite a few proprietary integrated rim brakes that are about as useful as a road tyre is to a downhill bike. 

Not only do discs offer more power and modulation in all weather conditions, but wind tunnel testing also shows the aerodynamic impact is minimal to none.