Guy Hainsworth explains the differences between road cyclists and triathletes when it comes to race-day gains.

In any triathlon, you spend the largest portion of your race cycling. This bodes well for triathletes with a cycling background. But, if you’re a confident cyclist setting out to do a first triathlon this year, you’ll need to know about some fundamental differences between the road cycling you know and the triathlon we love!

Know the terrain

Generally you’ll encounter fewer hills in a triathlon which means time trial bikes are often used by more experienced triathletes.

However, there are plenty of times when a normal road bike will be more suitable.

To work out which is best, recce at least part of the course before the race. You’ll get a feel for the terrain and road surface, as well as the technical aspects of the course, such as turns and undulations.

The more complicated the route, the more likely a normal road bike will be the best option. Conversely, the faster and flatter the course, the more the aero benefits of time trial bikes will come into play.

Time trial vs Road bikes

Time trial (TT) bikes aren’t just made with more aerodynamically efficient frame profiles, their fit is technically different from average road bikes with a more upright seat-tube and forward seat position.

This changes where you sit on the bike, so you should spend a good amount of time getting used to it as you approach the race.

If you haven’t got a TT bike, make some tweaks to your road bike. Invest in clip-on aero bars and slide your saddle further forward to improve your aerodynamic profile. Think about buying a tri-specific saddle, which cuts away the nose section for more comfort in a TT-style position, and buy an aero shell that clips over the top of your current road helmet.

Focus your training

We’re all tempted to buy the latest machine but sometimes it’s best to maximise yourself and the kit you already have.

It can take a few years of training before you reach the limit of what you can achieve on the bike you already own. If you find yourself stagnating, and are considering buying a new bike, keep a record of your rides. Mix up sessions with long distance endurance and high intensity intervals for maximum speed gains.

Tackle those hills – Improve leg strength

Aim to complete at race pace.

  • Plan a 10k loop to include at least one hill, 1km in length.
  • Attack the hill(s) as hard as you can, out of the saddle. Recover on flat.
  • Repeat four times to total 40km (Olympic distance) or customise to your race distance.
  • Your heart rate should sit in Z4, peaking into Z5 on hills
  • If your race is hilly, shorten the loop and increase the laps or incorporate an additional hill.