How to Improve Your Bike Leg

Whatever distance triathlon you choose, you spend more time on the bike than any of the other disciplines. And, when you’re new to the sport, the bike is where you can make the greatest and fastest gains. In this article, we’ll explore eight simple ways that you can shave minutes off your next event.

  1. Train smart. With any multi-discipline sport, it can be hard to find the time to train, so make sure you train smart by:

    • Keeping it relevant. If you are competing in sprint events, riding 80-100 miles on a Saturday is not going to help you that much. Ride shorter distances more frequently.

    • Building in some brick sessions. Cycling after a swim, or before a run, is different to normal riding - it places new stresses on your body. Add some short brick sessions where you combine two disciplines. Quite soon your body will adjust to the new demands multi-discipline sports place on it.

    • Throwing in some intervals. Short hard efforts during a training ride can help your overall speed by increasing power, lactate threshold, and aerobic efficiency.

  2. Practice transition. We all know that transition is the fourth discipline, but so many of us neglect it during training. Make transition - both swim to bike and bike to run - part of your regular training. Every second saved is a second off your overall time.

  3. Clip in. If you are still riding with flat pedals, invest in a clipless system that directly connects your shoe to the pedal. Once you get used to a clipless system, you’ll find that you are faster, more efficient, climb better, and you’ll have the added bonuses of increasing safety and reducing injury. Any good bike shop will advise you on shoes and pedals.

    Bonus: our post Starting Triathlon: Pedal Choice has plenty of tips on shoes and pedals.

  4. Secure clothing. When you take part in your first events, you may not have invested in a tri-suit. Whatever you wear, make sure that it’s snug fitting with no loose bits flapping in the wind - they’ll slow you down more than you might think. Even if you have a tri-suit, make sure that your race number  is securely and snugly attached to avoid creating unnecessary drag.

    Bonus: our post Starting Triathlon: What to Wear has plenty of tips on clothing including tri-suits.

  5. Setup your bike. A bike that fits well allows you to ride more efficiently and produce more power. If you’re willing to spend the money on a professional bike fit, you can make a big saving on your bike times. Of course, you can always do your own bike fit as described in Simply Road Cycling. Remember, never make changes to your position in the fortnight before an event - your body needs time to adapt.

  6. Maintain your bike. A well-maintained bike is faster than one that is not - period. Have your bike serviced two weeks before your next event to make sure that everything is in tip-top condition. Or, at the very least, make sure that your tyres are in good condition and properly inflated, the chain is oiled, and the gears and brakes operate correctly.

  7. Add some tri-bars. There’s a huge range of aero equipment that will allow you to cheat the wind and gain precious seconds. A lot of this equipment is expensive, such as wheels, or has limited use outside of an event, for example, an aero helmet. Clip on tri-bars are cheap and easy to fit to most handlebars. They’re also the one piece of equipment that can save you the most time during an event because they put your torso into a wind-cheating horizontal and narrowed position.

  8. Ride smart. It’s easy to get carried away during a race and go into the red by pushing too hard. Yes, you do need to push during a race, but make sure that you stay within your limits especially during climbs and immediately after the swim when your heart rate will be elevated.

If you start practising these tips today, you might not be the next Chrissie Wellington or Alistair Brownlee, but you will be faster on the bike and be heading towards a string of PBs. Get riding and enjoy!

Photo credit: Mike Astle