Top 10 Triathlon Tips For Improving Your Bike Split.
In this blog we explore ways in which you can improve your bike split within Triathlon in our Top 10 Tips.
1. Aerodynamics – Optimising aerodynamics is key! It’s going to save you bags of time for the same physical effort. Firstly, we need to understand where the ‘drag’ is coming from. Around 79% of the drag whilst cycling is caused the rider (you), so reducing this drag by optimising your aerodynamic position is paramount. A professional bike fit with an aerodynamic focus is a good place to start with this. At this stage finding the right aero helmet to suit your position can make a huge difference. What you are aiming for is to find a helmet that smoothly fills in the void between your head and shoulders whilst in the full aerodynamic position. Then ultimately, to test the fastest setup options, aerodynamic testing via a wind tunnel or velodrome is the gold standard.
The rest of the aerodynamic drag comes from your equipment. There are a lot of fast equipment options out there and optimising the frame, wheel and handlebar configurations is something research/consult an aerodynamic specialist on before buying.
2. Pacing – There are lots of opinions on pacing out there (i.e. positive/negative split, constant pacing etc). At the end of the day, to get the quickest time possible It is all about average speed. To achieve the highest possible average speed, you need to pace your effort to the demands of the course and conditions. Generally, you can do this by riding harder on the climbs and headwind sections where speeds are slower (around 10% more effort, dependant upon the length of the section). You can then recover on the faster sections by doing the inverse. This is because pushing more power will not have as great of an effect at higher speeds compared to lower speeds. This is called variable pacing, whereby the effort is changed in parallel with gradients/wind – it has been proven to achieve significant time savings.
3. Clothing – The triathlon suit you choose could have a bigger impact to your aerodynamics than you might realise. Firstly, choosing one that fits well and isn’t baggy is a priority in terms of aerodynamics. Then if you want to take it further choosing a suit that has been proven to be quick in the wind tunnel will be optimal.
4. Cadence – Trying to keep your cadence relatively high will help save your legs for the run, generally I would say aim for around an average of 85-90rpm, this is especially important on the climbs, don’t grind the gears!
5. Efficiency – This applies to both you and your bike. Firstly, working on your pedalling efficiency (the fluidity of your pedal stroke) will help save energy for the run. This can be achieved by incorporating pedal efficiency drills into training focusing on pulling and pushing through the bottom/top of the pedal stroke making it more even.
Secondly the drivetrain efficiency of your bike can impact upon how much of the power you put into the pedals is converted to speed. Choosing low friction lubricants or waxing your chain can help reduce these losses.
6. Bike Handling – Having good bike handling skills can improve confidence and ultimately save a lot of time over the whole of the bike split, especially if it’s a technical course or bad weather. Just think if you could save even a couple of seconds on every corner... it adds up!
I know Zwift is great and triathletes love it but mixing it up sometimes and Practicing cornering in all conditions as well as riding the bike outdoors more can help to improve this.
7. Confidence – Having confidence in your bike setup and knowing course can help a lot. For example, choosing the right tires, and getting used to them in training will give you more confidence in the corners and technical sections. Knowing the course can be a massive factor in increasing confidence, always do a recce for those big events so you know the course and when you are approaching the major corners and climbs.
8. Comfort- This is more one for the longer distances, just being comfortable in that aerodynamic position so you can sustain it can make all the difference. You can be as aero as you like but if it’s not sustainable it won’t be beneficial as you won’t be able to hold that position for the duration and will therefore be averagely less aero.
9. Nutrition – This is again dependant upon the length of your race. But any effort over an hour race nutrition will become a factor, making sure you take in enough carbohydrates and fluids whilst on the bike will help keep energy levels up for when you hit the run. It’s important to look at race nutrition pro-actively rather than reactively, so don’t wait until you feel thirsty or low on energy to take onboard fluid/energy, do it at regular intervals. Generally taking in between 60-80g of carbs per hour and 750ml will be sufficient.
10. S&C – Having a good S&C programme in place is going to make you stronger, be able to hold that optimal position for longer and lessen the risk of injury.