With many (triathlon) events now re-appearing onto the calendar across the globe, we have recently received several questions which basically come down to one: Can I convert my road bike into a triathlon bike?

The answer is yes, if you are willing to accept some compromises. Of course, a full-blown triathlon rig is always going to be superior in terms of comfort, speed and looks. But not everyone can or wants to spend a fortune on such a bike if they are new to the sport and unsure as to whether they will commit to it in the long run.

So, we have listed out five changes which you can make to your road bike to get ready for your first triathlon. Although you might need to invest in a bike with a triathlon specific geometry for the perfect triathlon position, these changes will enable you to optimize your normal road bike for the (triathlon) job at hand at a fraction of the costs.

Step 1: Put extensions on your drop handlebars.

This first step will help you to reduce your frontal surface by a significant amount. Please make sure that the extensions of your choice will give you a stable and sustainable position. Make sure the length of the extensions (as measured from the arm pads) matches with the length of your fore arms. A good range of handlebars can be found at our friends from Pro Bikegear.

Step 2: Move your saddle forwards.

To be able to generate sufficient power on your extensions, you will need to move your saddle forwards and up. This will open your hip angle, release pressure and tension from your hamstrings and gluteus muscles and will help you to relax your lower back. To get your saddle in the right place, you will need a seat post without setback (like this one for example) or even one with a forwards position (basically a ‘negative’ setback). This is because most road bikes will have a seat tube angle of around 73.5 degrees as opposed to at least 78 degrees for most triathlon bikes. Please note that your saddle also should go up slightly to compensate for the forwards movement of the saddle.

Step 3: Mount a short-nosed saddle.

In recent years, short-nosed saddles have increased in popularity. These saddles have less material at the front, a bigger anatomical cut out and generally are most comfortable to sit on when you are riding in a very aerodynamic position. A good example of these saddles is the Pro Stealth. This type of saddle can make the difference between riding comfortably in your upgraded position for hours, or not being able to exit your driveway without saddle sores.

Step 4: Move your cleats forwards.

When you take step 3 above, you will also have to move your shoe cleats forwards a little. You can do so on a set of triathlon specific shoes, like the SH-TR901 from Shimano Road. These will enable you to go through T1 and T2 in a much quicker time and will allow you to keep your old and comfortable cleat position on your ‘normal’ road shoes!

Step 5: Stretch!

Ok, this is a bit of an odd one out. But to adapt to the above changes, and still run comfortably once of the bike, you will need to ensure that your body can handle the position you have chosen. The only way to do so is to spend time stretching those glutes and hamstrings! Visit your local physiotherapist in case you need some advice.

All these changes to a comfortable position that you might have gotten used to over the years on your road bike should of course be considered carefully and ‘time in the saddle’ in this new position will be required to ensure the optimum outcome in both comfort and performance. Your local dealer can of course provide you with any advice you might need to review any of the above points. You can find a list of dealers near you at