Fix these five simple faults and you’ll shave seconds off your bike split in no time at all…
It can be frustrating when you’ve put in lots of miles on the bike but end up with a slower bike split than someone not as fit as you. A fast bike time not only requires riding miles but also good technique and preparation.
A few mistakes can cost you valuable time and effort, but with a bit of practice these can be easily corrected, resulting in more confidence, less energy consumption and a faster time.
The bike leg is the longest part of triathlon and so where the most time can be lost or gained. As a rough guide, the bike section makes up half of your total finish time, so it’s important to avoid these common mistakes.
1 Poor Cornering Technique
If the race profile has the description ‘technical’ then the chances are that it has many corners. You want to be able to take the corners smoothly and without losing too much pace, so adjust your speed as you approach the corner – do not brake while cornering. Make sure your inside pedal is up and press down on the outside pedal. Lean the bike, as opposed to steering it, keeping your body weight centred over the bike. If the road is closed to traffic then use the whole road and drift across both lanes to reach the apex of the corner, and then accelerate out of the turn. Always look where you’re heading.
2 Sharp Braking On Hill Descents
Applying light gradual pressure on both brakes at the same time is more effective than slamming them on. Braking too sharply on a descent can make you lose control. Try the on/off technique to prevent brakes overheating. Try sitting up instead of braking, as this increases wind resistance and will slow you down. Practise on hills you’re familiar with, each time applying the brakes a little less. Also practise with experienced riders and try to follow their line of travel.
3 Wrong Gears On Hill Climbs
You must be in the correct gear approaching a climb. Don’t leave it too late. If you have to switch from a high gear to a low one once you start climbing then you risk dropping the chain. Cycling up a hill in a high gear means your muscles recruit more fast-twitch muscle fibres. Fast-twitch fibres fatigue quickly, and take a long time to recover. If you change to an easier gear and higher cadence, you conserve energy and save your fast-twitch fibres for the run.
4 Saddle Too High Or Too Low
The correct saddle height is crucial. You risk injury if it’s too high or too low, and reduce the power you can generate. Here’s a simple test. Sit on the bike with shoes unclipped. At the bottom of the pedal-stroke, the leg should be almost straight but the heel should stay on the pedal without stretching. When your feet are clipped in (or on pedals in trainers) there should be a 25-35 degree of flexion of the extended leg with the pedal at the bottom.
5 Bike Isn’t Prepared Or Maintained
Now that you’ve done all the training, don’t mess it up with poor race day preparation. Ensure you’ve checked your bike over before a race – that all bolts are tight (ie handlebars, tri bars) and pedals are secure, chain is oiled and saddle is at correct angle. Check tyres are free from cuts or glass and tyres are pumped up. Ensure brakes are not touching the wheel and that it spins freely. Finally, brakes can get knocked in transport so check before leaving transition.