This week I’m discussing the planning, preparation and training for the longest leg of the triathlon – the cycle.
Before I continue, with just a few weeks to go, now is a good time to check back and see what progress you are making and think about any changes you’d like to make – remember to record it in a training diary.
Are you and your bike ready?
The bike segment is the biggest part of the race. You’ll be on your bike for anything from 30 to 100 minutes depending on your chosen distance so you need to train and prepare accordingly.
If you’re using your own bike, now is a good time to get it serviced and/or cleaned. I’ve heard many bikes making strange noises. All the time this is happening, the bike’s getting damaged and you’re using up energy. There are many cycle shops offering great servicing by enthusiasts that you can chat with to ensure a smooth, noise-free ride. It’s a good investment. Those of you using hired bikes don’t need to worry as these will be set up for you. If you have any issues with your bike on the course, there are a few ‘mechanic stations’ for basic fixes. Pictured below is a course map showing you these points.
Sadly, we can’t control the weather on the day so you also need to think about what clothing you might need. If you’re doing a swim before you ride, it will be colder when you take your wetsuit off. Layers of clothing work well for riding. I find it useful to have a cycle jacket in addition to a shirt or tri-suit. I also like jackets with a full zipped front – these are easier to get on when you’re wet.
Additional layer suggestions that are easy to put on:
- Gilet with a full zip
- Gloves to keep warm and for safety
- Arm warmers (like socks for your arms)
If you’re keen to make your transition time quick, it’s worth practising getting dressed. I have a colleague who goes through a full transition at home every week. He even gets wet beforehand!
Cleats or no cleats?
You may hear conversations about cleats and you would have been asked when you registered for your hired bike. For experienced riders, these are a key part of riding efficiently. They attach your shoes to the pedals, so you can lift your leg and push. A smooth pedal stroke is essential, and this technique is important to master. A suggested riding cadence of 90 RPM is optimum; watch some cycle racing to see examples of RPM.
Whatever your pedal, the key to achieving this smoothness is making sure you’re in the right gear for any undulations and corners. Dorney Lake is a flat course so you will be able to ride in a high gear (chain furthest from the bike) most of the time. Make sure you try it now and not at the last minute.
Bike training and preventing fatigue
Triathlon bike training is different to normal cycle training. Not only do you want to get faster on the bike, but you also want to minimise the impact on the run that follows – many people find they under-perform on the run because they are fatigued.
Get on the road
If you’ve been doing most of your training in the gym, I’d suggest getting outside. Riding on roads and using gears is an added dimension. Using brakes, is important to master and can only be done outside. Training outside also helps you to anticipate changes in direction or braking, looking ahead, and spotting safety compromises sooner.
If you’re using cleats, this is also how you learn to use them. If you have any questions about this, then please ask.
A running mount or dismount?
Those more experienced might also want to consider a running mount or dismount. These are very effective if you have the space and it’s safe. If you want to discuss this, again please ask.
I talked about training approaches in a previous blog. I want to add one more: ‘negative split’ training. This means riding the first half of your ride at a slightly easier pace, and speeding up for the second half. These rides will make it easier to get into the run.
I recommend doing the full distance at least once so that you have an idea of how long you need to be comfortable for. Then get off the bike, slip on some running shoes and run about 2km. This will prepare you for the ‘wobbly leg’ feeling all triathletes live with.
The race – a few final thoughts
If you prepare and train well the race becomes a process you already know. Here are a few of my recommendations for success:
- Pace the ride: don’t start too quickly, especially if you have a run to follow. Remember the ‘negative split’ training.
- Aim to ride smoothly: a consistent RPM will stop your legs getting so tired.
- Safety is key so communicate with others when riding: talk to each other and give warning when overtaking. “On your left/right” is useful for a rider to know what is happening when being overtaken, although be mindful of those that don’t speak English.
- Race practice is key: introduce the changes you’d like to make now, don’t leave them too close to the race.
And finally, don’t give up! You can always get better as a cyclist. Relax on the bike and learn how to pedal smoothly.