20 Tips on How to be a Triathlete by a Cyclist.

I will admit it; I was a triathlete in the past.  It was a brief stint and I am very happy with the career path I have chosen with just me and my bicycle.  Triathlon is an enigma.  It is a sport that effectively challenges the athlete to become a master of three sports that actually combat one another’s success.  I won’t claim to be a professional in the field of triathlon, but as a professional cyclist, I have learned quite a bit about the bike, the training, and the practicality of it all.  Cycling is a beautiful sport, and I have seen many triathletes and cyclists alike struggle over finding the comfort, strength, and style of cycling.  I may not be able to help you with your wetsuit removal or a smooth transition, but I can offer you a few basic tips on just the cycling element.  Put the gel down for a second, pull those compression socks up, and hydrate with your beverage of choice while you read these tips to make you look better, gain fitness and ride more confidently on the bike!  Don’t worry, I am a professional.

Tips on how to be a Triathlete by a Cyclist.

  1. Approach hills with equal effort, not equal speed.  When going over rollers, you don’t have to maintain the same speed as you were in the flats.  This causes your power to skyrocket and then you have to find recovery going downhill.  Instead, maintain momentum by keeping consistent power over the rollers and through the flats.  Your training partners and I will thank you.
  2. Train in bibs, not shorts.  The chamois tends to be more comfortable in bibs than shorts, and if you don’t have to swim in your shorts first, you might as well go for relief and style (chamois crème also helps).  Bibs also help with that “muffin” top occurrence by keeping the unity of the fabric thus increasing form and function.  Baselayers are meant to be worn underneath the bibs.  Shorts can often gap on the back leaving a nice strip of skin to get sunburned or cold.  Take my word for it, wear bibs for comfort, and avoid the “tramp stamp” on your back.   It is worth the extra assembly and disassembly required.
  3. Nature breaks are NEVER to be done on your bicycle.  Your bike is sacred, and if you break this pivotal rule, please warn me before I touch your saddle, or your drive train (not that I would do either).  Nature breaks must be taken off the bicycle.
  4. Shifting is an art.  You do not need to stay in your big ring.  You have a little ring too.  By utilizing all the gears you have, you are able to spin your way up and down climbs in order to maintain a consistent effort, and use cadence to save your legs instead of mashing or grinding your gears.  Shifting is a valuable skill to learn, and you should utilize it to be the most efficient cyclist.  An efficient cyclist will have more energy for those other activities you have following your ride.
  5. Socks are beneficial.  Less stinky feet!  Regardless of what is quickest during transition, socks are a great article of clothing to use while riding and training.  Socks wick sweat, help prevent odor, add to warmth, and can also increase the longevity of your Velcro tri shoes.  An additional positive is that socks can be used to display yet another one of your sponsor’s logos without having to get a tattoo.  Sounds like a win-win to me.
  6. Race wheels are great for race day.  It is acceptable to have training wheels that may not have any carbon on them.  Leave the race wheels for race day and you will go faster. Believe me.
  7. Tubular wheels are meant for racing, not training.  Your cell phone is not a flat fixing device, and I would not trust riding a tire at speed that I used residual glue or tape to adhere to my wheel.  Tape or glue?  Glue.  Tape is slower anyway.  I recommend training on clincher wheels.
  8. Leave the TT bike at home for group rides.  The aerodynamic advantage that occurs while on a group ride happens by following the draft of the pack, not by riding in your aero bars.  Try to ride your road bike when riding in large groups for better handling, shifting, and safety.  You will make more cycling friends this way.  Riding in aero position isn’t social.
  9. You have a bladder. Does your bike really need one too?  I don’t think bikes should have bladders.  Then you will have two of you asking “are we there yet?”  And when is the last time you cleaned that bladder and gel flask? I pick simplicity and cleanliness.
  10. Ride a road bike.  Who wants to sit in the TT position all the time?  Invest in a road bike in order to enjoy the comfort and fun a good road bike can offer.  Better descending, more gear options, and much safer in crowded conditions.  If you are worried about not being aero or using your time trialing muscles, just ride in your drops to force yourself to adapt to this position.
  11. You have 24 hours to remove your race age/number from your leg and bike.  You have every reason to be proud of your recent Ironman accomplishment, but instead of leaving the marker on your leg, try wearing that sweet finisher t-shirt or hat they gave you in your swag bag instead.  Tea tree oil, hand sanitizer, sunscreen, or even hairspray will work wonders for removing your race age and number.  Your race number should be removed from your bike by your next group ride, but good thing you ride your road bike on those… Start scrubbing, the clock is ticking!
  12. A clean bike is a fast bike.  Yes, I have a mechanic that does that for me, but if you don’t have this luxury, treat your bicycle like the valuable possession she is.  A clean bike slips through the wind unnoticed, shifts flawlessly, and looks a whole lot better.  If you do get the dreaded chain mark tattoo, or “fred mark” on your leg, your bike probably isn’t clean enough.  Take pride in your bicycle.
  13. Aero Helmets are worn only if you are being timed.  Strava or your Garmin doesn’t count.  Unless you are in a time trial or race, and being timed, don’t wear your aero helmet.  It really isn’t cool.  Road helmets provide more ventilation and visibility, and really just look a lot better.
  14. Cycling doesn’t have to always be considered a “workout”.  I never refer to riding my bike as working out.  I may have intervals to do, or focused training, but it is just riding a bike.  You can train all you want, but don’t forget the joy that just riding your bike with friends can bring.  Don’t be afraid to take it easy and chat.  Riding slow can make you ride fast when it counts.  Have intervals.  Have coffee shop rides.  Train on your bike, don’t work out on your bike.
  15. Race your bike.  Bike racing can be scary, but it can also be a great way to get some thoughtless intensity in your training plan.  Instead of forcing yourself to do intervals, you can just hop into a local bike race and get all the intensity you so desire.  Bike racing dictates the pace for you, which will stretch your comfort zones, and also help raise your fitness level and experience.  Road bikes are required for mass start races.  Your TT bike will need to be made UCI legal in order to race any USA Cycling sanctioned time trials, however, your local free TT (PCSD by Davis Wheelworks) is fair game.
  16. Arm warmers are never to be worn with sleeveless jerseys.  Just don’t do it.
  17. Feel free to wave at other cyclists.  We all need a lesson in friendliness sometimes.  Don’t succumb to the cycling snobbery.  Wave and smile.  Bike riding is fun.  Let’s all be friends out there, it is our community.
  18. Spend time in the aero position.  Yes, this isn’t social, and you may not make any group ride friends doing so, but it is important to train in the position you are racing in.  Feel free to spend the hours by yourself in your aero bars in order to build the appropriate muscles to race to the best of your ability.  I just probably won’t join you.  Do these on safe roads and be very aware of traffic, other cyclists and possible hazards.
  19. Basic bike handling skills go a long way.  Invest time in your skills on the bike in order to capitalize on the time you spend riding.  You will ride faster, more efficiently, and safer.  Local cycling clubs often offer clinics to work on basic skills.  We all need these skills and it is good to learn to perfect them.  Practice makes perfect, makes you faster on race day, and also is better for those around you.  Bike handling skills is a constant learning possibility.
  20. Let’s admit it; the bike is the best part of a triathlon anyway.  Yes, it is.  No arguments there.  Maybe we should just all race our bikes instead.  Anyone?

 

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