Steer clear of trouble in your first triathlon bike leg by avoiding these classic errors…

Fix your first-time race mistakes

On the day of your first triathlon race, there are plenty of things to worry about, like remembering all your kit and trying not to drown during the swim. You’re probably looking forward to the bike section as a time when you can have a bit of a breather and really get into your race. But plenty of people make simple mistakes during the second discipline that are easily avoided. Here’s how.

1. AVOID KIT CATASTROPHES

Just as it is in training, the bike is the most kit-reliant aspect of triathlon during your race, so you need to make sure you have everything in order, from your puncture repair kit to your bike bottles and – more common trouble makers – your race number and helmet. If you remember anything, it’s this: put your helmet on before you touch your bike, and get your number on.

2. DON’T DODGE THE DRAFTING RULES

Speaking of rules, the notorious no-drafting rule is something you’ll see triathletes of every ability tripping up on. Read the rules of your chosen event to be safe, but generally in the UK the drafting zone is 7m by 3m, with the front wheel of the bike at the front centre of the zone. In long-distance races it’s 10m by 3m and in ITU events it’s 12m by 3m. You can only enter someone’s drafting zone if you’re going to overtake them within 15 seconds.

3. … BUT KNOW WHEN IT’S SAFE TO GO

Some new triathletes are so worried about the no-drafting rule that they will sit at a snail’s pace, 20m back from someone, or carry on sprinting and wreck their legs once they’ve passed a cyclist. If you feel capable of overtaking someone – if you’re really struggling to stay out of their draft zone – then go for it. Once you’re past them, it’s up to them to drop back – you don’t have to create a new 7m gap. If they keep passing you back, you might be better conserving energy and staying behind after all.

4. DON’T GRIND A BIG GEAR

No matter how well you’ve drilled your pace during training, you’ll get caught up in the atmosphere on race day. When you’re in the mix with dozens of die-hards in aero helmets with whomping disc wheels, you may find yourself sticking it out in the hardest gear you can grind in a bid to go faster (or at least to look like you are). This is a mistake that will cost you dearly on the run. Aim to maintain a good high cadence of around 90 pedal revolutions per minute. This will probably mean a slightly smaller gear than you might expect to race on.

5. STOP STARING AT THE SPEEDO

It’s good to have a pacing strategy for your race but don’t be a slave to it on the bike. Speed on the bike is affected by the course elevation, the riders and other traffic around you, and the conditions on the day. You may panic about going too slowly because you don’t realise you’re going straight into a slight headwind, or up a shallow gradient. Try to gauge your race by effort level: if it feels hard, you’re doing your best.

MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU: MISS OUT THE MECHANICALS

None of your race prep will matter if you don’t have your bike properly prepared for the big day. Make sure you take it in to your local bike shop for a service (book it in a couple of weeks in advance as you may have a few days to wait to get it back). And on the day of the race, check it over to make sure it’s all working nicely: check the brakes, oil the chain, and pump the tyres up. You’re good to go.

Avoid more race mistakes by visiting our triathlon training page…