Tri the bike basics

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Photo by Rianza Stofberg
Photo by Rianza Stofberg

Tri the bike basics

by: Johan Stofberg | .
Groove Korea (groovekorea.com) | .
published: September 25, 2015

Most cyclists, myself included, want to know the secrets to getting faster and stronger on your bike. After only a year’s experience, I’ve come to learn that the simple thing to do is to get out and cycle more. As with any skill, riding faster and stronger does not happen overnight. It takes time to train your strength and also to learn skills that improve your performance.

Will a better bike make me faster?

It’s unquestionable that spending more money on a better bike or the right equipment will enhance your performance. There is a reason why professionals have some of the lightest and most aero-dynamic bikes on the market – they need to be fast – really fast. So buying a full carbon fiber bike will surely give you some extra speed. The most important factor though for more power is the engine that produces that power. And that engine is you; the cyclist. Most of the increase in performance will be gained by an increase in the power you can produce. Other simple factors like seating position and pedaling can also help you gain speed.

How to sit on your bike?

Comfort, comfort, comfort. This is an element that can give you “free speed.” There’s nothing more irritating in a race than having to move around on your saddle all the time because you’re uncomfortable. It not only makes you slower, it also makes you more tired. To get comfortable on your bike, you should have a good seating position, taking into consideration the size of the bike, the type of bike, and the size of you, the cyclist. The easiest way to set your seating position is to go to a bike shop where they can do a proper bike fit for you. This will give you much bang for your buck.

Setting up your training sessions

Building endurance does not only mean that you should go for long hours of slow riding. Although doing that is important to develop saddle time, it won’t necessarily build your strength for faster races. This means some strength work on your bike including climbing hills or doing intervals with some hard resistance. You can do this while doing a long ride, or as a stand-alone, shorter session. The important thing though is to plan your ride beforehand. Know what you need to do and set yourself a training goal.

A key workout for building endurance is to do interval sessions. When doing it on a flat surface, do sets of 1 minute where you pedal at a cadence of 45 to 55 against the highest resistance. You can do this session on a hill, which might be more effective.

For most cyclists with a full time job, the longer rides – typically between two and five hours – will mostly happen on the weekends. Being out on your bike alone for so many hours might get boring. Therefore, it is great to join other cyclists or a club that regularly rides over the weekend. Not only does it add good community to your cycle training, it is also a great place to learn from others with more experience than you. Some clubs/groups in Seoul to look out for on Facebook are “Seoul Synergy – Multisports Talk” and “Han River Riders – The Premier Cycling Club of South Korea.”

Training at your race pace

During a race you will pedal your heart out to do the best you can. That’s just normal. But, to be able to know how hard you can go in a race, you need to practice riding at that pace at least once a week. Two of my sessions during the week include sections where I mimic my race pace. For example, during the middle of a session, I would ride 30mins at race pace. This builds confidence for race day by getting used to cycling at that effort for a longer time.

Pedaling

An important skill that will benefit your performance is efficient pedaling; where you use the whole rotation of the crank arm to pedal with resistance. That means, pushing forward and down when your foot is at the top, and pulling back and up against the pedal when your foot is at the bottom. The push down will work your quad muscles and the pull will work your hamstrings. Doing this produces more power for your bike to move forward faster with the same amount of effort. A good way to practice this is to do “one-leg drills.” This involves clipping one foot out and pedaling only with the foot that’s clipped in. Pedal for one minute hard and then change feet. Do this 5 times for each leg. The clipped in foot will be forced to work the whole rotation of the pedal stroke and you will get used to using the whole rotation and pedal more efficiently.

Race day tips

A key benefit on race day is to be confident on your bike from the moment you take your bike out of transition one until you rack your bike in transition two. Knowing what you have to do and when you have to do it leads to you enjoying your race much more and will most likely improve your performance. Good preparation makes it all the more easy. I have a check list for every race to make sure all the small things are in place before I start, leaving me racing with a much more focused mindset. There’s nothing more frustrating than getting into transition and finding your helmet setting is too small or your gears are set up too heavy. It might be small things, but it can throw off your focus and stop you having fun while racing.

Some things to prepare to make your race easier:

  • Know the course and how many laps you need to do. This might sound straightforward, but can easily be forgotten while racing. In one of my recent races, a friend rode an extra lap (eight kilometers), because he wasn’t sure if he had already done the needed five laps or completed only four. Another friend puts small stickers on his bike and pulls one off with each lap he completes.
  • Make sure your bike is set up in a high gear – you don’t want to get on your bike and start pedaling as if you’re climbing a hill.
  • Don’t service your bike too close to race day. When you’ve made some changes, test it out with one or two rides to make sure everything is set up correctly.
  • Cycling shoes (and socks) are set up to put on quickly; make sure your shoes are clipped in correctly.
  • Your helmet is in a place where you can grab and put it on quickly.
  • There is enough fuel – food, gels and water – for your bike leg.
  • Less is more – don’t have too many things at your transition station, only what you need.
  • Most important for being confident in your race, practice once a week what you need to do at transitions. This means doing everything from taking off your wetsuit and goggles, putting on your sunglasses and helmet, to getting on your bike. As the saying goes, “Practice makes perfect.”

Pacing yourself on race day

Remember that a triathlon is a swim-bike-run event. When you get off your bike, you still need to do the run leg. So you don’t want to give everything on the bike and then have no more energy to run afterwards. Pace yourself knowing that you still need some gas in the tank when you finish the bike leg. Don’t worry about people passing you while riding, you’ll catch them again on the run.

Now, get out on your bike and go do some riding. And most importantly, have fun!

You can find more details about the triathlon races in Korea at the following websites: www.koreatri.co.kr / www.triathlon.or.kr

I am happy to answer any questions you might have. Post them at the bottom of this article or alternatively you can contact me at stofbergtri@gmail.com.

Seoul Synergy Website – (under construction)

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Groove Korea website

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