I have yet to meet someone who has tried out triathlons and has not adopted the sport. It's a great sport, one that I have been involved in for the last 8 years and I can't see the day when I'll stop...
You are right to be concerned about your bike because the outcome of the race largely depends on the bike split. First, you spend proportionately more time on the bike than in the water or running. The average triathlete will spend 25 minutes in the water, one hour ten on the bike and forty minutes or so on the run.
Second, if you toil on the bike your run split will be pretty much destroyed...
As to bike size, you don't need a rule of thumb, you need a friend, and you'll find one in any good (serious) bike shop, one that carries performance bikes (you want a rule of thumb? When you walk into a bike shop take a look at the repairs area: if it's messy, walk out). Before choosing a bike, choose a dealer, because you will be seeing a lot of him/her in the following months and years.
A good dealer will fix you up with a bike that will fit properly (many people think only of frame size and seat tube when they consider bike size. There's more to it than that.) not only for your legs but your arms, etc.
There are certain "recipes" in magazines such as Inside triathlon and Triathlete. These will only help you to ask the right questions; the answers will come from a professional...
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