Triathlon Bikes: The Steel Years

Until the end of the 1980's, the bikes used in triathlon were very similar to those rode in bike races, from local crits to the Tour de France. After that, the popularization of newer frame materials such as carbon, aluminum and titanium saw triathlon bikes, and time trial bikes in general, evolve into a separate species. This page is a quick look back at the years when everyone rode steel frames and all bikes looked basically the same.

1974: The First Triathlon

In Jack Johnstone's great account of the very first triathlon help at Mission Bay, California, he mentions that he himself rode a Volkscycle. Here's the 1973 Volkscycle Mark 100, one of their more advanced models at the time. (Source:

1980: Dave Scott Wins His First Hawaii Ironman

The Man went on to win six and was the dominant athlete during the steel years. In his first Ironman in 1980 he rode a Raleigh Professional given to him by the bike company. But, as you can see, one wasn't enough: his parents had another bike on the roof of their car as they tailed Dave around Oahu, making sure he got all the support he needed since there was none otherwise!


1985: Tinley Goes Aero

In one of the most dramatic departures from the norm, Scott Tinley won Hawaii in 1985 on the back of a great ride. His aluminum Raleigh had aero handlebars and he added an aero helmet and booties. (Source:

1987: The Aerobar Arrives

While it was used by an age grouper the year before, '87 was the year Scott's DH Aerobars really made their splash. Scott (no relation to Dave) was a ski company that was inspired by their downhilllers' aerodynamics to create an aero position for cyclists. (Source:

Aerobars evolved quickly. Clockwise in the photo below you have Scott Molina in 88 with twist shifters on the end of his DH bars, Kenny Glah with clip-on's also in '88, Erin Baker with the scary Profile 100k bars from 1990 and Tinley with Profile 1's on this bike in '88.

aerobar history

1988: The Arrival of Carbon

A lighter, stiffer material, carbon made its way to Hawaii and once it arrived it has dominated ever since. Mark Allen was very much leading the carbon charge that year when he rode one of the earliest monocoque carbon frames. Though labeled 'Schwinn' it is believed to have been produced by Kestrel, the first company to produce such frames. (Source:

mark allen

1989: The First Tri Bike

Not only was this the year of the legendary Iron War, 1989 also saw the arrival of the first bike with what is now known as tribike geometry (a steeper seat tube), the Quintana Roo Superform, pictured here rode by Ray Browning in the 1989 Ironman New Zealand. (Source: Quintana Roo)