By Athlete Ambassador, Lesley Maisey
There is a lot to learn in triathlon; while being technically good in the swim saves energy and time, the biggest portion of the event is the bike. The bike is my favorite discipline of the three and something that I have spent a lot of time training. I just finished my 8th long distance triathlon in Mont Tremblant (a few pictures below) and thought I would share my thoughts on the technical aspect of the bike because riding 180km well takes more than just pedalling fast.
Tip #1: practice running with your bike. While this might seem counter-intuitive as you are supposed to be RIDING your bike, in triathlon there can be quite a distance from where your bike is racked and where you can start riding it. Transition zones are crowded with lots of people moving in and out so not only are you running with your bike (usually in cycling shoes), but you are also going through an obstacle course. The better you are at moving you and your bike in the right direction, the faster your time. Road bikes are best handled with one hand on the stem; time trial bikes tend to move well when pushed from the back of the seat.
Tip #2: the mount line…this is the line that you must cross before you can start riding. But it does not mean that you have to mount your bike 1mm over the line. People tend to cross this line in the middle of the road and then right away try and step on, swing a leg over or mount the bike in whatever their preferred style. There is a lot going on and a lot of people all excited about riding because they survived the swim and are heading out to leg 2. My suggestion, run a little further with your bike (50 to 75m), pull over to a side and then mount your bike. Much easier than trying to get on your bike in the middle of congested traffic and less risk of being accidentally taken out by another not so stable rider.
Tip #3: now that you are riding, settle in for 10 minutes or so. Then start fuelling. Know what is in your bottles and where they are on your bike – I have water between my aero bars, food in the front cage (for me this is Hammer Perpetuem), and energy/electrolyte in the back (Hammer HEED). In the bento box I have gels (lots of Hammer Nocciola, Peanut Butter, and Raspberry). As you go through the aid stations, start calling out for what you want/need. The volunteers are great at getting you what you need but you have to be loud and calling for what you want BEFORE you get there. Know what order the offerings are in – it is most often water first, then electrolyte, followed by gels and food (usually bananas) and then water and electrolyte as you exit. Each race is different so know how things are set up for your event. And practice fuelling without looking! If you swerve all over while trying to retrieve or replace your bottles, you are a hazard to yourself and others.
Tip #4: focus on improving your bike fitness before spending a lot of money on toys. I see a lot of people on beautiful time trial (TT) bikes but they are riding them like road bikes. TT bikes are ridden in the aero position most of the time, you might come out to the flight deck when climbing but these bikes are designed to be aerodynamic. If you are not comfortable in this position for 5-6 hours or more, then improving your back flexibility and core strength on a road bike might be a better use of your time and energy. In addition, you can have all the aero toys you want; but you have to maintain an average speed of 30km/hr for the aerodynamics of the bike, helmet, or wheels to have any effect on your ability to cut through the wind. I pass people riding slowly with full discs and aero helmets; discs are heavy and aero helmets don’t breathe all that well. Save these items as rewards to be purchased once you have completed a few races and worked on your bike performance and overall speed.
Tip #5: similar to traffic flow in a car, keep right except to pass. It is a penalty if you block other riders from passing, and it is a penalty for other riders if their only option is to pass you on the right. So, ride on the far right, watch for the draft zone, shoulder check before pulling out to pass, pass, and then get back right. This makes for a nice riding environment for everyone.
Your bike performance and fuelling sets you up for the marathon that comes after so it is important to get it right. Happy Hammering on the pedals. Hopefully these 5 tips help you train and race better!