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Best Damn Training Advice (Ever), Period!
August 12, 2010 at 4:51 pm #108137
Andrew KrzmarzickKeymasterI said:Woot! Just finished my first olympic distance triathlon on Saturday! 1,500m swim, 28 miles on the bike, 10K run. Addicted and want to improve my time (3:11.45 – want to break 3 hours!). Got tips for getting faster on the bike?Then John “Major”‘ Nelson just dropped this AMAZING knowledge on me. Wow. This should be the definitive, universal beginner’s tri reading. Thank you, Major.***********************************************************************************************
OK, Mary predicted this would happen. She knows my passion for bikes. So here goes.
First and foremost, we all congratulate you on finishing the race. More than anything now you know the “feeling”. That thing you felt when you crossed the line. The accomplishment! The mojo injection. The overwhelming emotion of knowing you are a triathlete. That will be with you always. Treasure it.
But whenever you watch the Ironman on television, watch it alone. You’ll now find that you’ll cry as you watch finishers cross the line. And you’ll feel a sensation to go do Ironman. That could be good. That could be bad.
If you do want to go do the distance, you’ll need to get faster to qualify. So first things first: Basic triathlon bike maintenance – The first thing I notice is a triathlete’s chain – it’s usually dry and rusty. Six drops of chain lube could prevent rust and increase friction. That means speed. Beginner triathletes often know little about basic bicycle maintenance. The chain should be cleaned when dirty, and lubricated. Your local bike shop can give you some great suggestions about cleaning solutions and lubricants you can use. I use Pedros brand lubricants.
A buddy of mine always had his front brake rubbing the wheel. This was mainly due to the fact that the bike was transported loose in the back of a pickup truck. The first rule is to secure your bike if you are carrying it in your vehicle (a rubber mat if it must lay flat in the car – a bike rack is better). Second, always check your brakes before you start your ride (especially if you have to take your wheels off to transport the bike). You can test this by holding the wheel off the ground and spinning it hard. If there is a problem the wheel will not spin freely – you will feel vibration in the frame or hear a rub, and the wheel will slow down. If the brake is rubbing check to see if the wheel was put on correctly (you can also adjust the brake assembly slightly by hand). If the brakes are still rubbing you want to have a bike shop check to see if your wheel rim is warped and needs to be trued. It sounds funny that this would be my second tip, but you’d be surprised how many tri-geeks and century folks do this.
For the most speed improvement, check the sidewall of your tire – it will give you the recommended pressure range. Get a nice floor pump with a pressure gauge so you can fill your tires properly before you ride. Properly filled tires create less rolling resistance – and let you ride faster with less effort. But be careful not to overfill your tire – that is another good way to get a flat. If you are going to upgrade anything first, let it be your tires. The higher the pressure, usually, the lower the rolling resistance will be. Less surface area on the ground creates less friction. Less friction, then the faster you go. But watch out for wet conditions. Drop the pressure for wet roads. No use crashing just for 1/10 of ma mile and hour faster. I use Continental 4000s for the faster rolling resistance.
Finally on bike maintenance, look, listen and feel. While riding the bike in practice, make sure to listen for creaks, pops and rubbing noises. If you hear or feel anything, pay close attention. These are clues that there is something wrong. Most of the time these are things that can be easily fixed by your local bike shop. But left unattended they could slow you down and eventually may cause something to break.
For going faster, my basic tips to my racing friends are simply:
BIKE FIT – Having your bike correctly set up will help you be the most efficient. This is vital and time well spent. Have this done before your target triathlon. In the fit, by riding a more forward position, not only are you are more aerodynamic on the bike, but you are also putting less emphasis on your quadriceps muscles. Thus you are saving your legs for the run portion of the triathlon. If you are overstretched you are using your core much more and will either fatigue earlier than normal or not be as efficient enough to hold speeds. Some athletes even will have difficulty get into their running straight after the bike if your bike position is incorrect. I have a friend near my house that does professional fits for about $200. Best money I’ve spent on my bike. I don’t get tired on long rides anymore. The fit is important because there is a difference between a cyclist and a triathlete.
AEROBARS: They are very useful, but you need to learn how to use them! It took me a long time to get really comfortable on them. If you adjust them with a slightly upwards angle, you will be a less aerodynamic, but it will make it a lot easier to control the bike. Once you feel really comfortable on them, adjust them to be horizontal.
CADENCE – Find a good cadence that helps you go fast for long periods of time without creating fatigue. The triathlon Male & Female winners often have the same gears that the rest of us have on our bikes but they just have a higher cadence for longer. Find the best gear that you can go fast in, will nearly always be not the biggest gear you can force around! Try this test. After at least 15 minute warm up. Practice covering a short circuit that takes 4-6 minutes. Spin easy for 5 minutes between each effort. Test yourself in different gears and see which one you go the fastest, and then consider can you keep this going? Once you are confident in your gear, the speed comes in time. You’ll find faster and lower gears over time. But for the beginner, quit changing gears all the time. Find a comfortable pace and cadence and stick with it. There is noting like burning your hamstrings out banging a big gear and burning yourself out just because you get 3 minutes at 21 mph. The key is to get 18-20 mph for an hour or two.
HYDRATION – Drink enough during the bike and know your sweat rates. Expect to need to drink a bottle every 40 minutes during the ride. Fluid requirements depend on temperature and your own perspiration rates. But you’d be surprised how fast you can go for longer periods if you are well hydrated. Water is the key to muscle production. Potassium and minerals fire the contractions too. The more water you have, the easier the muscle fires and flushes lactic acid. Learn how much you need to drink. You’ll stay fast longer.
CORE FITNESS – It is vital to train your core because no matter how much endurance you have your core is often the weakest link between your legs and arms. Core often fatigues long before your arms and legs. It also allows you to stay aero longer and push bigger gears. To get faster on the bike, train your core, not your legs. Your legs will follow your core. No matter how many lunges you can do, it wont’ make you faster on the bike unless the rest of your body follows suit. You’ll gain aero advantage; stronger pushes and pulls with the legs, and a more consistent flow of energy, and a lower back position. The lower your back, for the longest period of time, the faster your time will be.
TRAINING – Get use to your bike and train for at least 15 times the distance of your bike ride within the last 8-10 weeks. So if you are training for a Olympic triathlon 40km (25 miles) you need to train 600km (375 miles) or average per week 60-75km (37-47 miles) to be able to complete the distance. Train slower in your build up then 15-20% of each week at race effort for the last 12-14 weeks. Train on a heavier bike during the winter for added sport specific strength.
If you really want to increase your bike times, improve your position and get an aero helmet. In other words, if you want to go faster on the bike without investing in a TT bike, buy an aero helmet (and learn to live with the ridicule of wearing one) and refine your body position. I say this because 80% of all the power a cyclist outputs goes into overcoming air resistance (the other 20% goes into rolling resistance, accelerating the rider and bike, etc.). Roughly 75-80% of aerodynamic drag is due to the rider and only 20-25% is due to the equipment (bike, wheels, helmet, etc.).
A common mistake about equipment is that of the order of aerodynamic importance for aero-gear. Most think that the frame matters the most (like carbon or titanium), wheels next, and helmet last. Some even think that the components (like SRAM over Shimano) come before the helmet. In reality, a well designed aero-helmet will save you more time (power) than anything else. The drag difference between a vented road helmet and an aero-helmet is 2-4 times larger than the difference between a good, bladed, 20-spoked aero-wheel set and a 32-spoked wheel set.
If you do get the new bike (fingers crossed), you don’t need the lightest bike out there. You need the best bike for you. A buddy of mine put it this way: it’s cheaper to lose 1 or 2 pounds yourself than to lose 1 to 2 pounds on your bike. All carbon is great and looks cool, but for some beginners, this isn’t what they should use. For one, on a triathlon course there usually aren’t that many hills. The lighter bikes are meant for climbing. They are meant for standing up and pulling with your back and shifting weight side to side.
A triathlon bike, no matter the weight, is meant to go straight at a very fast speed, cutting though the wind. For example, you don’t’ see the top triathletes riding Lance Armstrong’s bike that he used to climb Alp d’Huez. You’ll see the triathlon bikes, pounds heavier, but it you look at them from the front, they seem to disappear; Nothing for the wind to buffer against. Weight won’t matter unless you are on a hilly course or train on hills to do intervals. Consider a bike that is fit for you in terms of saddle height, stem length, and even your aero bar length. You don’t have to be stretched out flat to go fast.
Why is an 18lb pro triathlon bike faster than a 14lb uber light roadie on the triathlon course? The answer is aerodynamics. The single biggest factor in aero drag is rider position. The rider position the triathlon bike gives you is 95% of the advantage of a triathlon frame–the aero frame shape is the other 5%. On a standard bike, if you stay in the drops and keep a relatively flat back, you’ll go faster than if you’re on the tops.
If you want spend some money for lightweight bike parts: the most important thing seems to be to reduce the rotating mass (and improve aerodynamics). That’s why smaller wheels seem to be better than larger ones (650s vs 700s). That’s why light (and aerodynamic) wheels are good. But one of the cheapest ways to speed up your bike is to get narrower, lighter racing tires (and lighter tubes), and to inflate them to 120 psi or even higher. Of course, simply maintaining, cleaning, and lubricating your bike helps a lot too. Most important though: make sure your bike fits you and your saddle etc. is adjusted right. That may gain you more than all those titanium / carbon parts together.
If you must buy a bike, check out this article:http://www.bicycling.com/gear/topic/1,7987,s1-16-100-0,00.html
Hope this helps
August 12, 2010 at 4:53 pm #108141
Its only the best training advice if you get two miles an hour faster LOL!
September 21, 2010 at 1:28 am #108139
Hi Andrew, John has some good info and bike fit is huge. In addition to geometry, comfort = power. Some more quicks ideas to add about getting faster on the bike in triathlon. First, make sure you are an efficient swimmer. Where a wetsuit is its legal. Not so much how fast you are, just that you aren’t sapping energy you could use on the bike. For long course, nutrition becomes huge. Ironman is a whole other discussion. Re: training, I think power meters are a great tool. Also, spinning efficiency is good- try the old standard 1 legged drills. Of course, time on the bike and intervals/hills are the bread and butter. -Rich
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