During a triathlon, you’ll likely spend more time on the bike than you will on any other leg. And while some might think this is the time to rest and take it easy, riding a solid bike leg can take your performance to the next level.
To get better at cycling and improve your bike leg, you’ll need to start training like a cyclist. From gear choices to training rides, here are three ways you can step up your cycling game to get faster and ride further:
1. VARY YOUR TRAINING RIDES
For beginning triathletes, it’s easy to get stuck in the zone 3 rut, riding all of your miles somewhere between easy and hard. However, the key to becoming a well-rounded cyclist is to vary your routine and training at different intensities.
Combine your long, slow days with a few high-intensity days each week for big dividends on race day. Remember: Just because there aren’t any hills in your upcoming race doesn’t mean training on hills can’t help you, too.
For interval training, aim for no more than twice per week to start. There are tons of good VO2 max intervals that will help your speed and endurance on the bike — I like Tabata intervals when you’re strapped for time. After a good 10–15 minute warm-up, sprint all-out for 20 seconds, then spin easy for 10 seconds. Aim to complete 8–10 repetitions and follow your effort with a quick 10-minute cool down.
READ MORE > 3 INDOOR FAT-BUSTING CYCLING INTERVALS
2. JOIN A CYCLING GROUP
Sure, there might be a few cyclists who give you a dirty look if you show up to a group ride on your tri rig, so consider yourself warned. While it might not be a great idea to use aerobars when cycling with others, joining a dedicated cycling group improves your bike handling, which improves your comfort and speed — particularly on technical courses when cornering and passing correctly can save you huge chunks of time.
Learning from more experienced cyclists in your group can help, too. Pay attention to when they shift, eat and drink if you’re still unsure when to do so. Watch their technique on climbs, how they pass and ask questions. With cycling, there’s a lot of little things to know, and an experienced training partner can help you bridge the learning curve a lot easier than trying to do it on your own.
3. GET THE RIGHT GEAR
While a good triathlon bike and a bike fit should definitely be at the top of your list, there are other items that will improve your comfort and speed:
- An aero helmet: While aero wheels are great, aero helmets can provide you nearly as much time-savings through aerodynamic advantages for just a fraction of the cost. Upgrade to a solid aero helmet before you start thinking about purchasing a new wheelset.
- A good saddle: If you aren’t comfortable, you aren’t going to be able to go fast. The forward, aggressive position time-trial bikes put you in can also cause numbness and pain during long-course events. If you’re having trouble with your saddle, consider a dedicated triathlon seat to improve your overall comfort in the aero position.
- Bibshorts: While probably not ideal for race day, training in bibshorts can improve your overall comfort on the bike — especially on those long, slow training rides. They’ll stay in place better than shorts, and the chamois pad will be a little thicker and provide more cushion than what you’ll find in most tri suits.
- A power meter: Warning: They’re expensive. But a power meter can help you pace yourself during your race and help to fine-tune your training. The good news is, prices have dropped considerably. More expensive units still cost north of $2K, but there are other options in the $400 range that are worth your investment if you’re strapped for cash.