As biking is my one true love of the three disciplines, certain aspects of biking stand out as huge opportunities for big time savings for the majority of triathletes. Here are my top 10 training and racing tips for your biking that can help you shave gobs of time off your next race.
- Stay AERO! This should go without saying but too many triathletes waste the advantage given by these amazing tri bikes by riding the brake hoods. The goal of the bike leg is to go as fast as possible with as little energy expenditure as possible. Most of your energy goes to overcoming wind resistance. So hide from the wind and stay in your bars...always.
- Learn how to descend and corner properly. The best time trialists hold speed through corners by using every bit of the road and attack downhills. If you are holding the brakes through all corners, you are bleeding speed. Only use brakes for safety. Descending and cornering take practice. It is worth it because most triathletes handle bikes horribly. It can be a major advantage with no extra fitness needed.
- Train into a headwind. In my opinion, a great deal of triathletes have muscular endurance as a limiter. This is particularly exposed when riding into a headwind or riding a false flat. Over gear/ low cadence work helps, but nothing beats actually riding into a headwind and trying to hold your best speed. Bonus- this can also help you train holding your aero position.
- Ride really really hard sometimes. To really make a break through, you need to get out of your comfort zone and bleed through your eyeballs on the bike. I've found 5-6 x 5 minute all out intervals is particularly lethal. Find someone who is faster, tell them to try to break you, and hold on like grim death. The rest interval is at least 5 minutes but doesn't particularly matter.
- Pile on the miles. I don't buy into the theory of junk miles. No mile is junk to me so I try to rack them up even if they are easy. Commuting to and from work has really helped and spinning while watching TV works well too.
- Work your pedal stroke. Smooth round circles are the name of the game. Drill yourself with high cadence work, low cadence work, and one-legged drills. Concentrate when you are riding that your upper body is still, your hips aren't rocking, and you are eliminating dead spots in your pedal stroke. A great way to work on your pedal stroke is to use a stationary trainer which allows for a controlled environmental to drill any number of aspects of your technique. My trainer preference is the Super Magneto Pro from Cycleops. Some good drill advice can be found here. Get a trainer and dive in!
- This isn't all about the man (or woman), it's also about the machine. Clean, maintain, and replace old parts on your bike. The friction in your drive train is very important and dirty, gritty, or old parts can slow you down. Pay particular attention to your chain as it tends to wear pretty quickly. I have also found bottom bracket bearings upgrades to be a good bang for your buck. Hawk Racing bearings are what I ride and I am blown away by how much of an improvement they are over stock bearings. Watch the video.
- Get fitted on your bike. Do your research and go to a fitter that knows what he/she is doing. Generally, Retul or 3-D fitting is worth the somewhat steep price tag. It will make you more efficient, possibly improve your power, and reduce potential for injury. All good things.
- Know your course. Pre-riding your course will help your know the good lines to take in the corners or descents. It will also help you understand how to attack the course in terms of pacing and holding your speed. Variable effort is a component of time trialing. Remember that the goal is not to have the highest normalized power but to have the fastest speed. At the bare minimum, drive the course but riding is better.
- Training and fitness trump any piece of gear. Ride your bike a lot. Tony Martin doesn't need a time trial bike. He can beat you on a tricycle.