Here is a list of triathlon bikes on the market. Many makers have multiple models. Please add any I’ve missed in the comment section below and I’ll add it to the list. My own interpretation of the market is at the bottom of the page.
I see three categories of tri bikes: Group A) are mass manufactured frames (often with full or partial carbon fiber material) with decent quality components. Group B) are mass manufactured frames of high quality carbon fiber, a single, seamless body, with high quality, user-specified components (top end Shimano, SRAM, Campagnolo). Group C) are completely custom builds tailored for a single rider’s body, style, performance, and component preference. Economically speaking, Group A costs between $1500-$3,500. Group B costs between $3,000-$8,500. Group C) can start at $4,500 and while the sky is the limit, it’s fair to say that $10,500 is a pretty good top end range depending on service provided (i.e. power meter and computrainer sessions to derive optimum frame geometry).
Popular brands like Cervelo, Kuota, and Trek offer many items in Group A and B, while some makers like Roark, Parkpre, and Predator cater specifically to the rider seeking a custom bike. In terms of which is the right bike for you, it depends on your level of experience. If you are new to the sport, even after only one or two seasons, a bike from Group A will serve many of your race needs until your body adapts to the tri geometry. To be blunt, the quality of a Group B or C bike may not be accessible by the new athlete. Since most new riders outgrow their bikes after 3 years, the new triathlete may be best served with a Group A bike. When bike splits begin to level off and the athlete finds their physical speed limit, then it’s time to upgrade the bike and essentially buy more speed. A solid Group B bike can be upgraded or adjusted for years without ever needing to move to a custom build. In fact, the custom build’s price point may keep it in the hands of the bike junkie or wealthy individual. But it does give us bike porn lovers something to ogle and dream about.
I suggest a twofold approach: get the best bike you can afford with a paint job like a rusty beater and then train like a mofo. When you pass the weekend warrior neurologists riding $10,000 Italian imports you can smile, lie, and tell them you’ve never done a tri before and borrowed your mom’s bike. You’ll hear the sound of air going out of their tires and brains for miles.