“VARYING MY PEDAL CADENCE AND ADJUSTING MY EFFORT HELPED ME WIN MY AGE GROUP.”
THE BIKING LEG IS THE tri’s longest slog, and also the part that’s most dependent on good gear and comfortable kit. Nail it, and you can offset a flailing swim and set yourself up for a PB run. According to Cunnama, while the best bike (and accessories) you can afford are important, spending money on a good coach will net you even greater returns. “Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, it’s the best investment you can make for faster times.”
While most coaches will help you hone form and prescribe precise biking workouts, many might also suggest adding weekly spin classes, especially if you’re working a fulltime job. A spin instructor will typically push you harder than you’re able to by yourself on the road.
For an Olympic-distance tri, new triathletes should do longer weekend rides (two or more hours) at moderate effort to build endurance and acclimatise to riding on the road. Pair up with other riders, as this will prep you for the dynamics of riding with people around you – a vital skill on race day.
Just remember, cycling long distance is always going to hurt. “And it doesn’t hurt less for the pros,” adds Cunnama. “You just go faster. Take it from someone who’s gone 7h51 for an Ironman: no matter how fit and strong you are on the start line, a triathlon is tough and will hurt at some point, if not the whole way.”
If you prep your mind to expect pain, you won’t fall into the trap of thinking you’re having a bad day. “PBs hurt just as much while you’re racing; they just hurt less afterwards.”
When you’re sitting on the saddle with your feet on the pedals, your knees should bend slightly. Sitting too high makes you inefficient; sitting too low undermines your power and can eventually lead to knee pain.
Try as many saddles as you can to find one that’s comfortable; a lot of men prefer a split-nose design, for anatomical reasons. Remember, the cushioning comes from your bike shorts, not from the seat.
Make sure they’re not too narrow; that creates tension in your neck and upper back and can make you hold your head too high, killing efficiency. The bars’ pads should be set so your upper arm is about perpendicular to your torso when your back is straight.
Your handlebar or aerobars should not be so low that you don’t have full range of motion in your hips at the top of the stroke, which will kill power and efficiency.
BONUS BUY AN INDOOR TRAINER
About six weeks into your training program, consider picking up a stationary trainer for your home. It’ll allow you to use your own bike, and you’ll be able to do specific workouts, such as timed intervals, without having to worry about momentum killers like traffic lights, crazy drivers, and bad weather. Try the Tacx T2600 Blue Motion Trainer, for a basic no-nonsense set-up. R4000, cwcycles. co.za