The bike leg comes in the middle of a triathlon and is generally the bit people look forward to most. There is none of the stress of getting dunked during the swim or the worry about completing the run - just jump on the bike and you’ll be off and running before you know it – what could be easier?
The reality is that there are a lot of pitfalls to the bike leg of a triathlon. For newcomers to the sport the first worry is that their bike will be the cheapest, oldest, heaviest and dirtiest bike in transition. This may turn out to be the case but it is very rare - several shopping baskets are spotted at the Virgin Active London Triathlon where every year.
Whatever bike you decide to ride it’s worth getting it serviced beforehand to make sure it won’t fall apart during the race. Check the bolts are tightened, the tyres are clean and free from flints or glass, the chain oiled and the brakes are working.
It is also worth considering getting your position on the bike checked over. An incorrect posture during training and racing can lead to injuries and poor performance. Make sure the bike is the right size for you and consider whether your seat height is correct and you have a comfortable reach to the handlebars. If necessary ask an experienced cyclist to help with some pointers or consider investing in a professional bike fit.
Once you are all set up on the bike it’s time to get some training under your belt. Spin classes at the gym are a good option - you’ll get a good cardio workout and build some cycle specific leg strength. When possible try and also ride outside to get a better feel for cornering, descending and climbing – good bike skills count for a lot on race day and need to be practiced.
As you progress introduce a longer ride into your schedule – 2-3 hours is perfect to build the endurance you’ll need to really make the bike leg a strength during the race. Try and join together with a regular group of friends or clubmates with similar goals, and make it a social occasion as much as a fitness session.
The long ride together with a couple of short, hard, fast sessions during the week will give you the perfect base from which to cycle to a personal best on race day. Just make sure you beat the guy on the Boris Bike.