I will begin by clarifying that I am no professional bike rider; however, I do know a thing or two about riding a bike. I’m not sure if the race this weekend had more novice’s in it because it used to be a 2-day event with a specific novice day on Sunday or if I’m just not paying as close attention as I was paying this weekend at the race, but I saw lots of interesting stuff out there on the bike course. Some I had to chuckle, others my heart just went out to because these people simply didn’t know better. We’ve ALL been novice’s one day or another so I get it. Trust me. I put my wetsuit on backwards at my first triathlon and got called out by the race announcer! I get it.
So here are some general biking tips that I think can help just about any rider in their next race:
1. First and foremost…use your small chain ring people!! I think I passed no less than 40 men on the bike course absolutely grinding up hills, into the headwind, in their big ring. Suffering to death. I passed them like they were stopped…in my small chain ring spinning away. If your cadence is less than 60 rpms, chances are you’re not in the right gear. Actually, if your cadence is less than 85-95 (depending on how you ride), then you’re probably not in the right gear. I don’t know why, but I see this with men in particular…like they think it’s “weak” go to into their small ring. If you’re a super strong rider, and can power the hills in your big ring, have at it. But I’m talking the gear grinders who are hardly moving and refuse to lighten the load. You have two rings on your bike, use ’em!
2. Aero bars…this is a good one. What’s even better, coming up on a gear grinder, pushing 55-65 rpms up a monster hills, going no more than 9 mph…in their aero bars. Aero position loses its effect below about 15-16 mph (I’m sure there’s a very scientific mph to which aero position becomes ineffective, but that’s just my estimate). So crawling up a hill in your aero position is actually very ineffective. Sit up, take some gear off your bike, and spin your legs. Alternatively, get in your aerobars on the flats and downhills. I saw no less than 10 people on Saturday cruising along on a flat road, on a TT bike, in the upright position! Why have a fancy TT bike if you’re gonna ride upright?! Get comfy in those bars and stay! Practice drinking water, wiping your nose, taking each hand off, and being at ease. You will see minutes drop from your bike splits, guaranteed.
3. Drops….for those that don’t have aero bars on their road bike or a fancy TT bike, use your drops! Same rules apply as aero bars above. Get comfy in those bad boys! Using them will take minutes off your bike splits, promise!
4. Clothing…ok, I understand if it’s one of your first triathlons, you’re probably not going to spend ridiculous amounts of money on new, designer triathlon gear. However, something more snug than board shorts and a XXL t-shirt is likely your best bet. Borrower something from a friend, wear something even slightly more fitted….something. I passed a guy whose shirt kept flailing up into his face because we were riding into the wind. Poor guy, but come on!
5. Fuel…this is a good one. An apple? Really? Who eats an apple on their bike? I don’t even know if this elicits any more discussion. Advice, anything but an apple.
6. Lastly…running with your bike holding the seat. Practice this skill! Practice with your bike when walking to the race, when leaving the race, anytime when you’re walking with your bike. I got behind a gentleman running into T2 running with his bike holding his handlebars. He was weaving all over the place, tripping over his pedals, getting hit in the shin by his pedals….and most importantly, slowing me down 🙂 It’s an easy skill that can take 10-20-even 30 seconds maybe off your transition times in bigger races!
I think that’s all I can come up with. All of my “mocking” is with ALL my due respect. Trust me, I get that some people just don’t know….I was a beginner with my wetsuit on backwards at one time too!