Ironman bike pace impacts the marathon and final race result.

The 112-mile bike is the pivotal leg of the Ironman Triathlon. How your Ironman bike turns out begins with the way you manage your energy expenditure in the 2.4-mile swim before you even get on your bike. The energy you expend in the swim and bike combined directly impacts the marathon.

If you find yourself out of energy early on in the marathon and become part of the Ironman death march it will also be reflected in your final result when you cross the finish line.

Here are five ways to get the most out of your Ironman bike pace.

  • Remaining emotionally composed and swimming with a sustainable, relaxed swim stroke sets up the bike leg.
  • How you leave transition one is crucial.
  • Don’t compare your training rides to the 112-mile Ironman bike.
  • Stay out of the big chain-ring for most of the bike.
  • Pace is the key.

***The Ironman swim directly impacts the bike leg and in most cases, dictates the direction your entire race will eventually turn out. If you get caught up in the adrenaline-charged emotion of the race start you will raise your heart-rate and begin burning off much-needed energy right at the beginning of the race.

It’s crucial to have the mindset that you will remain as calm as possible during the swim. That means controlling fear, excitement, and anger.

People are often new to open water swimming and as a result tend to fear it and for months they dread what race morning will bring. It’s important to realize that in pretty much every Ironman race about 99% of the starters finish the swim. So why all the worrying?

ironman bike pace

Swim calm and controlled. Burning valuable energy to swim a few minutes faster is a common error.


Probably 40% of those people who finished were dreading the Ironman swim for weeks or months. Let’s face it. You’ll be in the best shape of your life and fully rested. You’ll most likely be wearing a wetsuit for added buoyancy, and there will be plenty of people on the course looking out for you.

Relax, keep your heart-rate steady and lock into a smooth, energy-saving stroke and you will be well on your way to setting up the upcoming bike leg.

***It’s easy to get excited when you see everyone running to get their bike transition gear, change, and get on their bikes. This is a recipe for disaster. Especially if your heart-rate was out of control in the swim because you pushed too hard in order to swim a few minutes faster.

Take your time in that first transition. Gather yourself and get used to being on two feet again. Let your heart-rate settle. Change into your bike gear, find your bike, and walk it to the loading area. You’ll notice others running all around you. They’re eager to get on their bikes and start pedaling like Hell.

Anyone can go out faster than a speeding bullet in the early stages of a race. You have plenty of energy from all that resting and tapering and the adrenaline-charged atmosphere makes it even easier to overextend oneself early in the race.

ironman bike pace

Most Ironman bike accidents happen in the first 100 meters.


You’ll notice that most Ironman accidents happen in first 100 meters of the bike. People are unsteady and trying to hurry and lose control.

Many will have left their bikes in the big chain-ring before the race. It makes much more sense to have it in the easiest gear. It makes it easier to lock your cycling shoes in and to maintain control of your bike.

Being in a big gear leaving transition is what causes people to lose control and swerve and run into others. They have trouble building their forward momentum. They’re still dizzy from the swim and standing on the pedals. Your ideal Ironman bike pace begins in that first 100 meters of the race.

***Some people end up being disappointed in their bike split time. They pretty much trained at that same speed months ago. The thinking seems to be that you will be way faster on race day.

However that’s not usually true. People forget to factor in the impact of the energy loss they endure in the 2.4-mile swim. If you want to post a faster bike time it’s crucial to minimize the energy loss in the swim.

Unfortunately most age-group triathletes lose control in the swim. They go all out to save five minutes in the swim and end up walking in the marathon and lose two hours. It doesn’t compute.

***If you can stay in the small chain-ring for most of the Ironman bike you have a better chance at having a successful result. If you look at other bikes in the early stages of the Ironman bike course you will see dozens and dozens of people in the big chain-ring.

They are already taxing their big muscle groups and often their cadence is lower than average because of the degree of resistance. You can easily tell if someone is pushing a gear that’s just too big. They don’t have a smooth spin and they almost have to lean with their upper body with every downward stroke because of the effort it takes. The upper body should be quite and relaxed if you have the spin right.

If on the other hand you’re in the small chain-ring and encountering a lot less resistance, chances are you will eventually end up passing all those people blowing by you. Their Ironman bike pace was unsustainable and they ran out of gas. Oh yeah. They still have a marathon to run.

ironman bike pace

Save the big chain-ring for strong tailwinds and downhills.


Try using the small chain-ring in training at about 160 RPM’s and see how it feels. Find the right gear that you can easily sustain a steady pace for 112-miles. Everyone has a sweet spot when they bike. There’s that spot where your spin rate feels effortless and yet you’re going at a good steady pace.

Yes, you could most likely go faster if you threw it into the big chain-ring, but for how long? You might get away with it in the Olympic Distance, but it’s usually a painful result in the Ironman if you have to force those pedals around. You’ll look great for about 40 miles and then all those people you left in your dust will pass you. If they don’t get you on the bike course, they’ll get you in the marathon because their Ironman bike pace was more realistic.

The time to use your big ring is if you have a very strong tail wind or are going downhill. Otherwise you really shouldn’t be there.

[bctt tweet=”In pretty much every endurance race pace is the key.
via Ironstruck”]
***In pretty much every endurance race of any type PACE IS THE KEY. This is one of the hardest concepts for people new to the Ironman Triathlon to grasp.

Thing of your energy for an endurance race contained in a single glass of water. It you finish the swim and the glass is half empty, you’re already in big trouble.

If you get halfway through the bike and three quarters of the glass is empty the hand-writing is on the wall. You paced yourself all wrong. Like pretty much every triathlete new to the Ironman your Ironman bike pace was way beyond your level of ability to be able to sustain and still have energy for the marathon.

Your fast pace caused you to overextend yourself and burn off your glycogen stores far too early. At this point there is really no way around it. You have messed up your Ironman bike pace and chances are you will be part of the marathon Ironman Death March before the day is done.

It’s really not hard to prevent this from happening. Stay calm through-out the day and keep your heart-rate under control. Keep in mind that a poorly managed swim will impact your bike result. You might want to read my Ironman swim strategy especially if you are new to the Ironman. It will help you have your best possible swim result and will take much of the stress of the swim away.

Most importantly, try to bike at a pace that you have the ability to sustain for 112-miles without depleting energy you’ll need for the run. The Ironman Triathlon Negative-Split Strategy I wrote might help you understand the benefits of always competing within your ability level.

I’m not a pro triathlete and I’m not a coach. All the information I pass on is from my own experiences as an age-grouper during my Ironman career that began in 1984 in Kona. Over the years I pretty much made all the mistakes I discuss and it took many years to figure it out.

Hopefully I can help cut some years off your learning curve.

If you enjoy my post on Ironman bike pace or some of the others you will find on the IronStruck website you might also enjoy the books I wrote that are full of inspiration and insights into the Ironman. Ironstruck…The Ironman Triathlon Journey is a book that people read over and over again right up until Ironman race day. For many people who doubt themselves IronStruck makes the Ironman doable. TESTIMONIALS

Visit my IronStruck Book Store and begin your very own amazing journey.

RELATED: Ironman Death March
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