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I am a experienced marathon runner who is looking to get into Triathlons (long course and half -- ~50 mile bike), hoping to work up to an Ironman.

I have an older, but working, road bike that gets me around very well (to which I could attach Tri-style handlebars), so my question is: how essential is having a purpose built triathlon bike if the goal is just to complete the race? Can I get away with a standard road bike?

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The only question that matters here is what the regulations say for the competition(s) you're going to be entering. If your bike meets the regulations and you can complete the distance on it, then that's all that's essential to complete the race.

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There is absolutely nothing wrong with riding the best bike you have in your events. In beginner classifications it is not unknown to see rigid mountain bikes fitted with road tyres and clip-on aerobars.

Sure its not ideal, but if you're getting into a sport, there's no need to go silly buying gear. On the other hand if you can find someone who did go a bit bonkers buying stuff and then left the sport, that's where you can gear up for cheap.

And the best feeling EVER is completing the cycling bit faster than someone on a better bike! I've did a road race on my ~19 year old aluminium road bike, and while I was in the bottom 20% of finishers, I still managed to keep up with some better bikes.

Just remember, if you finish dead-last, you're still doing better than everyone who didn't try.

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