Rough W/kg to be a competitive AG(25-29M) triathlete?

Hi there, first question here on the TR forum.
I have asked this question before on a different platform and been left with the response “it’s not W/kg but W/CdA that matters” which I know is true but it ignored my initial question. I currently only have a nicer carbon road bike and clip bars on at the moment, a TT bike is something I still need to keep saving up for (I’m only 25 and don’t yet have the income to indulge n+1 yet).
I know that raw watts and aerodynamics are more important in triathlon but in my eyes what good is that superbike if I don’t build the right engine to power it.

I have a competitive background in both swimming and running and I am very familiar with the paces/times needed to be an AG podium finisher in olympic to 70.3 races but due to all the factors that go into a bike performance such as weather, CdA, etc., translating that into the FTP or W/kg of those athletes is obviously a lot trickier.

Lastly I know that the answer isn’t a single number but a general range, though I guess I don’t know what that is. I just like quantitative benchmarks to know that I’m setting attainable enough goals for myself.

Thank you guys in advance.

Because that Tri bike will make you faster and more competitive, regardless of your current engine status. And the stronger your engine gets, you will just be that much faster.

You don’t need to be at a certain level or speed to gain the benefits of a Tri bike.

As to your question, I honestly don’t know. I was ~4 w/kg in 50-54 and was FOP (occasionally with the fastest bike split). But I was also extremely aero and could ride pretty low watts to fast bike splits…IIRC, my AP for IMWI was ~190w and I went 5:21 and 3rd in my AG. So it really is about w/CdA (even on a hilly course like IMWI).


Also there is more than power when it comes to a tri.

Bike position will alter what muscles you will use… A tri bike will help you preserve the running muscles and be more ready for a run…

It’s a huge difference a off the bike run from a road bike and a tri bike, at least when we talk about longer events… For sprints and even Olympic distances the bike matter slightly less

What do you mean by “competitive”?

Have you done many races yet?

W/KG doesn’t tell the story, which is why you’ve been given other answers in the past. W/CDA is more accurate. You’ll need to be reasonably highly fit for your weight to run at the front of pack so W/kg is still relevant, but in terms of leading off the bike it won’t matter if you’re 4.5 W/kg but only weigh 50kg’s and sit bolt upright the whole time.

Currently competitive to me means AG podiums and eventually overall AG podiums.

I had previously done a few youth tri’s when I was young before high school. Summer before covid I did my first olympic with less than optimal training and an old aluminum road bike and took 2nd in the 20-24AG with a 2:44. Top 10 swim performance, still averaged 19mph in the drops on rolling terrain, and then ran out of gas on the run.

I have plenty to improve on and I am fully aware that a TT bike is needed to really be up there, but that’s a money problem not something on can I do while I save up for another bike.

I’m well aware of the usefulness of getting a TT bike everyone, but unless I get some windfall of cash or I’m graciously given one that is something that will have to wait for a while. I am more concerned about building up that engine while I continue to save up for a second bike.


Hooo, good question.

Regarding power, I think your best option would be to look at some recent race results in your AG/area and put the top few results into bestbikesplit or something similar. That’ll give you a rough idea of the kind of power you would need to put out, with your setup, to get the results you’re aiming for- because at the end of the day it’s not your power that makes you competitive, it’s how fast you go relative to the other guy.

To weigh in on the aero thing, at 24 I’m pretty familiar with the financial limitations, and while the posters have emphasized the importance of getting aero I do also think there’s so far you can go with that if you don’t have the fitness to begin with.
Given your AG tends to be one of the fastest, I think you’ll need both- but there’s a lot you can do with what you have, and personally i’d rather have a good, well-fitted road bike with clip ons and some aero wheels over a cheap TT any day. If you can, sourcing some second-hand wheels and an aero helmet will make a big difference for a way lower price point. (making friends with some old rich dudes is helpful for this.)


There’s no magic number. As you get faster so will the field.

It sounds like if you were a competitive runner and swimmer then you will have the genes/aerobic engine to develop a strong bike engine.

I’d just focus on continuing to build your FTP and more importantly get used to/conditioned to riding at a high percentage of your FTP for long periods.

Totally understand the finance thing and good for you for understanding it and not just slapping down a credit card and running up some debt.

There are things you can do to achieve a fast position on a road bike, especially if it has a round seat post. You can either rotate it 180* or get something like the Redshift seatpost which will get you in a more forward position.

I used to race tri’s on a Cervello S2 with the reversible seatpost and dedicated TT bars…and I would argue that I was not giving much up to the TT bikes in time (in fact, I set the fastest bike split in a Sprint on that bike…not just my AG, but the whole race).

It is also worth noting that if you have a background in both swimming and running, then you don’t need to be as concerned with your bike leg as many others. Tri is 3 disciplines, bundled together. If you can excel at 2 of them ( especially the run) you will do well in races.


Whatever you have in W/kg seems to be competitive already.

W/kg depends on the course. The hillier, the more important it is. If it’s pan flat, kg doesn’t matter.

I guess I get caught up in the cycling portion a lot because it’s the newest discipline to me in terms of racing. I just want to make sure I’m well rounded. While I have a strong competitive background I’m more like just above average in the two instead of exceptional in either, and with that I want to focus on making sure I’m well rounded and not too behind in one and I guess I am just trying to figure out that baseline for cycling relative to my goals.

W/kg really doesn’t matter all that much in most triathlons.

W/CDA does. But I’m a bike nerd and have NO idea what my W/CDA is. It takes lots of time (and maybe some money) to test CDA. So I don’t test it.

Focus on increasing absolute watts (ie. just watts, not watts per anything) if triathlon is the primary focus of your riding.

Fun anecdote from 3 years ago:
My wife had a 20min power of 4.2W/kg
I had a 20min power of 2.9W/kg

We rode the same speed in a sprint triathlon bike leg. 25mph.

Reason: I was 95kg at the time, she was 62kg. I kept my head out of the wind. She did not.

Context: I rode her 2018 Cervelo S5 (aero road bike) with 2013 Firecrest 808’s. She rode her 2014 Cervelo P5 (TT bike) with Zipp Disc rear, 808 front. Both on GP5000 tires w/latex tubes.

Moral of the story: get more powerful and keep your head out of the wind.


A few pieces of information that would be useful to know, in order to help us make a better assessment of your situation:

  • What distance are you looking to be competitive in? Are you planning to keep competing in Olympic/half-distance triathlons, or are you eventually looking to be competitive at the full race distance?
  • What kind of results are you aiming for? Does ‘competitive’ mean that you’re taking podiums, or is being in the top 25% of the pack (but not necessarily on the podium) sufficient for your definition of ‘competitive’?
  • What are your current weight and height? This is helpful to get a rough idea of how aero you would probably be on the bike.
  • What are your current FTP and FTP/kg? How long have you been doing structured cycling training? I suspect you’re already quite strong on the bike, but an exact number would give us more perspective on how much space you still have to grow your engine.
  • Currently Olympic distance this summer with plans to take on a half next year

  • A this current time my goals to finish on top 3 in my AG 25-29M (Specifically Chicago this year)

  • I’m 5’10" and 160lbs (72.6kg) currently have my FTP at 262W (3.6W/kg) with a peak last August of 285W @ 71.6kg (3.98W/kg)

  • Volume wise on the bike I peaked at roughly 5hrs of biking per week and right now haven’t been doing more than 3-4hr/wk as I didn’t do much of anything over late fall and winter

If it makes you feel any better, there’s a guy who shows up to local races, and he absolutely destroys people on his road bike. Always 1st overall, and by a pretty healthy margin.

Your w/kg seems pretty solid. Optimize your position, don’t give away speed by doing things like riding gatorskins. With your background and power now, you could be competitive IF you put together a good race day plan and stick to it.

Pacing, fueling, cooling, transitions, preparation, etc.

Right on the head with where my first line of improvements are focused on before buying more speed.

In that first olympic tri alone I can cut minutes from my time by:

  • more than 1 month in the pool before the race
  • practicing sighting
  • fixing my T1 (wasted at least 4min struggling with my wetsuit stuck on my timing chip),
  • even just now having a carbon road bike with clip on TT bars and GP5000s with latex tubes
  • a short sleeved tri suit
  • taking gels on the bike
  • injury prevention
  • just overall better prep going into the race

These are the main areas of improvement I’m focused on right now that will make me faster while saving up for a TT bike.

As people have posted, W/Cda is obviously important. Reason, I (and many others) beat guys on lower W/kg since we hold a good position. However, running off the bike is just as important so you need to focus on training the entire thing.

To answer your question, if you want to win your AG in a large race, you are legit against guys/gals who may be basically pros that don’t take their pro cards. So its a real “who shows up” rather than how good you are; some people will just mop the floor and if you are in those larger races, its luck of the draw.

If you want to be competitive in your AG at most events, you basically need at minimum a 4.2 W/kg FTP imo. Larger races I think thats more in line with a 4.5W/kg. I know guys showing up to races at 5W/kg+. Monsters.

I think a very competitive W/kg is 4.5+. Anything north of that will land you in a top bike split, assuming you can hold position. That’s blind FTP only. My experience at least.

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Maybe I will rephrase this with some general experience I have had.

With a 4.2W/kg FTP in a very good position (IMO) I was able to get top bike splits overall in smaller racer (2-300) and top AG splits in larger races. At the time I was an okay swimmer and a sub 3H open marathoner for reference. I have won/podiumed smaller races.

I do not think I would be in contention for overall win/top in AG with those numbers at larger races.

Right now I am north of 4.6W/kg and my run is improved quite a bit. Swimming is a wild card but assuming I can pull a mediocre swim, I think I would be very competitive for a top AG placement in larger races now. I think I could top my AG bike split with my current power. I ride a “superbike” and am very meticulous about my setup. I think if you are sloppy with your setup in any way, you need to claw it back with a bigger FTP. If you are competing against guys like me, we are hammering the bike. And I know I am not the fastest guy out there. So you have a long way to go, but if you keep at it and train consistently, you can swing with the big boys.

Taking all the notes from above on TT bike and position, here’s a simple answer in my opinion:

4W/kg if you’re generally a bit heavier and 4.5W/kg if you’re on the lighter side.

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