Triathlon bike training and racing tips that will help you get the most out of your triathlon training and racing experience.
If you are quite new to the world of road-biking it wouldn’t hurt to learn a little about bike terminology that perhaps you are not familiar with.
This way when you are discussing your triathlon biking with other triathletes you will have a better understanding of what is being discussed.
Plus it makes you feel you are “getting more into” the biking world once you learn the lingo.
Being better informed about bike terminology is part of the learning process.
DRAFTING is when you get in behind another cyclist and have them pull you along as they do most of the work as you stay in their slipstream. This is a big no-no in most triathlons and in “all” ironman triathlons. The draft cops on motorcycles will be watching for it and will penalize you.
SPINNING is being in a gear that you can handle comfortably at fairly high RPM’s as opposed to being in a very big gear and having to bear down on the pedals because of the high resistance.
TUCK POSITION is when you get low on the handle-bars or aero-bars to allow as little wind resistance as possible. Going down steep hills is a perfect time to be in a “tuck or aero” position so you can get as much free speed as possible.
PELOTON This usually refers to a big main group of bikers and is a term most likely to be used in regard to tour cyclists as opposed to triathletes. If there is a peloton in an Ironman they are all cheating. If there is a peloton in the Olympic Triathlon they are not cheating as drafting is allowed in the Olympics.
CADENCE This is basically another word for RPM’s. Cadence is probably a better choice for biking and RPM’s a better choice for your Volkswagen Rabbit(or whatever).
CHAIN-RING These are the two gears toward the front of your bike. You will have a big chain-ring and a small chain-ring on the front and a cluster of smaller gears toward the back of the bike. If you are in your first Ironman and on a flat section of highway and in the big chain-ring in the front and one of the smallest gears in the back you will most likely be part of the Ironman Marathon death march.
You would probably be further ahead to do the majority of the 112-mile bike course in the small chain-ring unless you are going downhill. Pushing gears that are just too big is a classic mistake by triathletes doing their first Ironman. Basically you burn out all the big muscle groups and steam-roll through your glycogen supply and then get to run a marathon.
FINDING THE RIGHT BIKE FOR “YOU”
It can be very confusing trying to find that perfect triathlon bike for “you”.
Before the very first day of triathlon bike training begins there is one thing that is vitally important to keep in mind.
Just how much you get from your training and how well you will perform on competition day regardless of the length of the triathlon you are entered in can be determined by how well your bike fits you.
It is not really how much your bike costs that should be your main concern if you intend to take on an Ironman Triathlon for instance.
An $800 used road bike that fits you perfectly will serve you much better than a $6000 state-of-the-art triathlon bike that does not.
ABOUT BIKE FIT
One of the most important triathlon bike training tips to keep in mind is that if you are really stretched out at the bottom of the pedal stroke, your bike is most likely not set up properly.
The same thing applies if you are all scrunched up and are not extending your legs far enough. Something as simple as raising or lowering the bike seat can make a huge difference to your pedal stroke.
Just be sure that an experienced bike expert fits you to your bike. It’s important to make use of the big muscle groups and a proper bike fit will help this become a reality and ultimately will make your triathlon bike training and racing much more productive and enjoyable.
Something as simple as having your bike set up properly will make your transition into the run a lot less painful.
Don’t underestimate the value of proper bike-fit.
DON’T OVER-DO THE DISTANCE TRAINING
When it comes to actually getting out on the road and beginning triathlon bike training, many novice Ironmen have the wrong idea. You don’t have to go out and cycle hundreds and hundreds of miles.
Maybe one day if you decide to really go for it and try and place in your age group or turn professional you might want to look at more intensive training, however for your first attempt at an Ironman your goal should be to have an enjoyable experience.
You’re not going out to set a new record for the bike split. You want to FINISH this thing and gear your triathlon bike training with that in mind!
I would recommend doing at least one 6-8 hour ride about 8 weeks from Ironman day. Go out with a couple of people. Pack lots of food and water and plan to be gone for the day.
Don’t worry about how MANY miles. All you are doing is getting an idea of what it will be like to be on the bike and in the saddle for an extended period of time.
For the rest of the triathlon bike training year, try and bike 3 or 4 times a week. You can do 1 or 2 of those rides on a wind-trainer or at a gym on one of their exercise bikes. As your season progresses, try and plan for one longer ride of 2 or 3 hours once a week. If can’t, don’t worry about it and just fit in longer bike rides when it fits your schedule.
Don’t worry about how many miles. Pay more attention to actual time on the bike and finding a cadence and speed that you’re comfortable with.
I strongly recommend heart-monitor use on the bike.(see page on heart-monitor training). If you can’t find it just contact us at Ironstruck.com.
Try and stay at or below your target heart rate and your fitness level will continue to improve over time.
TRY DIFFERENT SUPPLEMENTS IN TRAINING TO SEE WHAT WORKS BEST
Be sure to try different liquid supplements and different types of solid nourishment until you find what agrees with you and then go with it on race day.
Remember that proper nourishment is an important part of your triathlon bike training and it’s best to try many different food and drink combinations in training and find what works best for you and then stick with it on race day.
It’s a good idea to try several of the many gel products available. Try and find a particular product that agrees with you.
They come in a variety of flavors and with different mixes of ingredients and are not all created equal.
They are handy in the event you need a quick pick-up in your energy levels during your training or racing.
They are also convenient to carry due to their small size and often are available at bike aid stations as well.
Just remember gels are basically a “simple” carbohydrate and best for a quick energy boost.
In a long race like an Ironman be sure to include complex carbohydrate(like my all-time favorite whole wheat bagels with peanut butter and a bit of honey) as part of your nutrition choice.
INCORPORATE TRANSITION BIKE/RUNS IN YOUR TRAINING
As your season progresses, you should try and do one transition ride every week. The best day for this is the day you’re on your wind-trainer. Ride for at least an hour and then run IMMEDIATELY after for at least half an hour.
This will help you get used to the bike-run transition. Its not necessary to bike 4 or 5 hours and then run 15 miles in order to see what it feels like. Trust me, after an hour on the bike, you’ll get the idea after about 4 strides into the run.
I won’t kid you. There’s nothing on earth that will ‘truly’ prepare you for what you will experience when you leave the bike transition tent and head out on your first Ironman marathon. Often it’s just a matter of getting through the first mile or so and then much of the stiffness begins to disappear.
AN IRONMAN STORY
On a lighter note, I’d like to take you back to my first ever Ironman in Kona 1984 and tell you a bit about my first Ironman bike experience.
It’s one hour before swim start. Someone had suggested that it wasn’t a good idea to put too much air pressure in our tires because they may burst overnight with the humidity as the bike sits in the transition zone. So here I am pumping up my tires on race morning.
Being clever I had put brand new tubes in the tires the night before. I pumped and pumped and just like a gunshot the first tire I was pumping exploded. Like EVERYONE looked and went “oh-oh”. I hadn’t noticed, but the tube had come right out of the tire and exploded.
IT WAS THE WRONG SIZE! No problem I thought(sort of). I had a spare(one spare). I put it on. Being as I bought it at the same time as the other one, it was also THE WRONG SIZE and this time I saw it begin to bulge out of the tire.
I did the only thing I could. I let air out until the tube went back into the tire and pumped the other tire up to about the same air pressure. Most likely I had about 65-70 lbs of air pressure in both my tires.
It’s 4 hours later. Here I am on the Queen K. Highway. The heat waves are massive. Its just over 100 degrees in the lava fields. Every pedal stroke I hear my tires squish into the soft asphalt. I have no spare left.
My Ironman dream pretty well rests on those squishy tires. Each torrid mile merges into the next. It was truly a miracle that I made it to the end of that bike course on those tires.
It was such a relief when I finally reached the bike-run transition. Words can’t express how the first few dozen strides into the marathon felt.
I told you a bit about my first Ironman bike for a reason….
Consider this. The furthest I had ever biked in training was about 40 miles. I didn’t really know how to train, how far to go, or how fast I should be going. I just went until I felt tired and turned around.
I didn’t really know what to eat or drink.
My bike was impossibly heavy. I had a rear tire that was missing about 40 pounds of air. I had no triathlon profile-bars, no clip-less pedals. I hadn’t even been on a bike for 20 years until I started training for the Ironman. My triathlon bike training was pretty well non-existent.
Yet, my bike time was 7 hours and 39 minutes. That’s all you need! 7-8 hours on the bike and you are left with enough time to beat the cut-off and finish the marathon
My point is. If I could do that ride, under those circumstances than YOU CAN CERTAINLY DO THIS!! It is well within the physical limits of many people to accomplish the same feat without having to be a super athlete.
If you are willing to put in the time it takes to get the most out of your triathlon bike training, and ensure that you bike is properly set up for you, most likely your first Ironman bike ride will go “way” smoother than mine did.
Don’t think for a moment you need hundreds and hundreds of miles of triathlon bike training, because that’s not true at all if your primary goal is to reach the Ironman finish line without worrying too much about time. There will be plenty of opportunities for that later if you decide to extend your Ironman career.
Get yourself into overall good condition and learn the basics of triathlon bike training and you will be well on your way to having a successful Ironman experience.
–Try and bike at least two or if possible, three times a week as you start out.
–Try and do a bit longer as you get in better shape. Try one long day about 8 weeks before Ironman day. –Get used to what you want to eat and drink on race day.
–Make sure your bike is set up properly for “you”.
–Do transition bike-runs once a week.
–Keep your bike properly maintained and clean and sparkling. Just like your car it will run smoother when it’s clean and you lovingly cared for it. Don’t ask my why. It just does.
These are all quite easy to accomplish and extremely valuable triathlon training tips to keep in mind. These are just some suggestions for you, but if you have a coach who has you on a training program that you are happy with then just go with it.
It’s really important that you enjoy the training part of the triathlon experience so whatever works best for you is what you should stick with.
I’m just trying to convey that the spirit of the Ironman—that amazing race day—will make you capable of more than you ever dreamed possible. Just being in the event, being cheered on, having prepared for this day and realizing your dream is within your grasp will more than compensate for any lack of natural ability.