When you first get involved in multisports such as triathlon and duathlon, there is a daunting amount of kit to spend your hard-earned cash on. If your swim is going to be warm enough, then you will not need a high quality wet suit – often you will not be allowed to wear one under the race rules. Your other gear will probably cost a few hundreds of dollars (or pounds), but then there is the not so cheap matter of getting a decent bike. This is where the costs can mount up massively, and the money you wish to spend will depend on how serious you think you are going to be. After all, there’s nothing worse than having the fitness and endurance for a great triathlon time, only to see less fit competitors gliding past you on the bike leg, riding their swish (and expensive!) Cervelo or Felt triathlon bikes. But if you are only trying out triathlon as a passing fad, you probably won’t want to spend $2000 on a bike that is going to gather dust in six months time. The best advice is probably to buy a middle range ride such as the 2010 Focus Variado Triathlon Road Bike. This will allow you to spend a little less dollar, but give yourself an excellent chance of fulfilling your potential, rather than scuppering yourself with a low quality bike that’s not up to the job.
Although it is perfectly acceptable to use a normal road bike, you will undoubtedly gain an advantage using one optimized for time trialling, and the Focus Variado tri bike offers plenty of quality with a lower sticker price than the more professional machines. The frame is shaped aerodynamically and is made of lightweight aluminum which, combined with a carbon fork and aero bars, will give you the best possible chance of dragging yourself to the finishing line faster than ever before. Of course, it is highly advisable to spend plenty of time practising if you normally ride a standard road bike, to get the right aerodynamic position to really make the aero bars pay their way. The steeper seat tube angle and wind cheating, shaped seatpost make for an extra aggressive racing configuration, and the durable derailleur set-up allows you to shift gears flawlessly while maintaining cadence.
What do you get for your money?
The Focus Variado Tria is a pretty high spec road racing bike configured for triathlon or cycling time trials. It has all-round lightweight and aerodynamic features to assist you in cutting through the air with a minimum of fuss. As for the component set, its features are:
For the frame:
- Shaped aluminum Tria alloy
- Focus Time Trial (TT) carbon fork
- Shimano 105 front and rear derailleurs
- Shimano 105 cassette (12-25T)
- Shimano Dura-Ace shifters
- FSA Omega Compact crankset
- FSA Energy brake
- Vision Aero TT brake levers
- Vision Aero handlebars plus clip on aero bars
- Vision RO170 stem
- Alloy TT seatpost
- Pro Lite Rosa P44 wheels
- Continental Grand Prix tires
A good set-up overall for doing well against the competition in leg 2 of your triathlon. What you will not get – unlike when buying a standard ‘fun’ bicycle – is pedals. You’ll need to sort out what type you need or prefer, as clipless are the norm and are, of course, matched with your shoes which are clipped on the bike for a rapid progression through T1 and onto the road.
If you are still intent on checking out other more expensive options, then there is a great side-by-side review of the Cervelo P1 versus the Felt S32 at Endurance Magazine. But these bikes can cost a pretty penny, and although very popular, along with others such as the Quintana Roo Tequilo, Jamis Comet and Specialized Transition, might be something to ponder later in your triathlon career, when you are thoroughly hooked and happy to splash the cash.
As for the Focus Variado triathlon bike, the usual sticker price is fairly hefty at around $1600, but as with many things in life, if you go hunting for last season’s model, you might find yourself some appetizing savings. Most places I have looked at are now selling the 2010 Variado Tria at discount, with Jenson USA slashing over $600 off their price (at time of writing, updated March 2012). So if this looks like the bike for you, and you are looking for a bargain, Jenson Bikes are probably the best place to look for now.
Here’s a nice walk around video for the road model.
Other Focus Variado Models
If you are not used to riding with aero bars, or you simply prefer the idea of getting a new bike that you can use for everyday road use to get your money’s worth, then Focus Bikes offers two more models in the Variado series.
Focus Variado Expert (DISCONTINUED)
The Focus Variado Expert is a road racing bike with drop handlebars (Concept), which like the Tria model has Shimano 105 gear components, and lightweight aluminum frame. The FSA Omega Compact crankset is replaced by FSA Gossamer, and a rider’s review of this more comfortable daily machine can be read here.
The prices can vary for the Variado Expert 2010, sometimes retailing at under $1000 if you can find a local supplier or one online which stocks this model.
Focus Variado Road Bike (LIMITED AVAILABILITY)
The lower end model is still a fast and classy. The Focus Variado Road Bike still comes with a very affordable sticker price. The spec is less aggressive in terms of race optimization, with Shimano Tiagra gear and brake components, and crankset, but the Variado lightweight frame remains, and this model is also the more comfortable drop handlebar version. It also features Rodo Stylus Race wheels with Continental Ultra Sport tires.
As of 2016, I have found it increasingly difficult to find the Variado models, other than in a few smaller bike suppliers. Thankfully, there are plenty of other fantastic brands out there.
Highly Rated Alternative Rides from Orbea