Triathlon Bike Basics
Riding for leisure in a park is a bit different than riding a bicycle in a triathlon. Read tips and tricks on gear, biking in traffic and riding with other cyclists
- Type of Bike: We believe that finding the right bike is the key to a successful ride. We get lots of questions asking which bike is the "best" bike to buy. The answer is that there are many great options in every price range.
Find an experienced bike salesman who can help you find the right bike that fits in your budget. Remember, you're a beginner triathlete and you're just testing the waters at this point. You don't need a top-of-the-line bike; you need a stable, safe bike that fits you and will carry you through your beginner stage, which could be one or several seasons.
Finding a bike shop where you trust the sales person is also key. We always recommend that you go with YOUR local bike shop (not walmart or target) for a number of reasons:
- They specialize in bikes (you wouldn't buy a car at Walmart, so why would you buy a bike?)
- They will pick the proper bike for you and adjust it to fit YOU.
- They really care about your happiness because they are a small business and want you to keep coming back.
- They offer used models, off the rack models and custom models.
- They can hook you up with local cycling groups for training because they are in the cycling loop.
- They normally participate in the sport of cycling, so they can give you some great advice based on actual experience.
- They will be available for future maintenance and upgrades.
It's really a win-win for everyone!
Bikes come in so many shapes, sizes and specifications, so be sure to tell the sales person what type of training you plan to do, what surface (on-road/off-road) you'll be training on and how often you plan to train. Road bikes and mountain bikes differ in terms of weight and tire-size, so it's really important to give the sales person as much information about your training/racing plans as possible. A good sales person will size you and then help you find a nice bike in your price range. He/She should tell you the options for pedals (regular, Pedal/Toe basket clips or Clip-in pedals)
and help you pick out a comfortable seat. Seats also come in a variety of shapes and sizes depending on the size and shape of your "natural" seat. A good seat is comfortable to sit on and supplies enough cushion when riding over rough surfaces. Be careful not to confuse a sore butt with the performance of the seat. First time users will have a sore butt the first two weeks of riding, so you might want to try this gel cover. If you have lower back or hip problems, let the sales person know as there are seats made that will ease the stress on those areas. When you get the bike, the sales person will make small adjustments with the seat to make sure that it fits you properly and then off you go!
- Bike Maintenance: Once you've found a local bike shop that you trust, be sure to maintain your bike. For seasonal riders who logs minimal miles, you can get away with bringing your bike in for a tune up once a year. For more hard core riders, you may want to learn how to maintain your own bike or bring it in to the shop more often. The shop will make sure your gears, tires and brakes are working properly and are safe. Beginner or expert rider, it's always a good idea to know how to fix a chain that falls off and change a flat tire. Both of these will happen at some point in your biking life and it may save you a long walk home or back to you car if you know how to fix them.
- Drafting - Do not draft off of another biker or ride too close to another biker. As a beginner and even an intermediate level, it's dangerous. Leave it to the professionals. PLUS, it's a disqualifying offense if you do it during a race.
Riding with Traffic
Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on the road as cars and trucks. Be prepared for your street training by first riding on a bike path. Once you can cycle in a straight line without weaving, move onto a side road and then a road with traffic. Remember to ride defensively and always wear your helmet. Cars sometimes forget that they have to share the road with us two-wheelers.
- Stretching, Cramps and Fatigue: Stretch out a bit before you get onto the bike, do a short warm up and then do a second round of stretching. Loose, warm muscles respond much better to exercise than those that have been sitting stiffly behind a computer all day. The main reason for cramps, headaches and general fatigue while you're training is normally dehydration, so drink lots of water. If you're still feeling bad after you've redydrated and got some rest, check with your doctor.
- Best Beginner Training Advice from TriathaNewbie.com: Do not start with a workout that is too hard or you will be disappointed at the end of every practice -- you should feel a sense of accomplishment, not discouragement. See Triathlon Training Resource Guides for training guides.
- Training indoors - You can join a gym and take spin classes. Spin is not an equal alternative for training on a real bike, but it's a nice option for winter months if you live in snow-infested country. Be sure that you get some time on the road when the sun comes out because you will need to learn to deal with road conditions, weather conditions, your bike quirks and riding with other people/road traffic. You can also invest in a Indoor Bicycle Trainer. It's a stand that you can put your bike on and ride in your own house in front of your own TV or stereo. It's very cool!
- Terrain: Training for the terrain of your intended race is the best strategy. Try to also include straight roads, rolling hills and steep hills for a even greater challenge. See Triathlon Training Resource Guides for suggestions.
- Sunscreen is a must! Apply this to your face and body before your training or event to prevent a sunburn. The sunblock we recommend won't make your face break out!
Triathlon Bike Questions - Archived questions and answers sent to us by YOU! (NEW)
Cell Phone: If you have a cell phone, you should bring it with you while you are training. You can buy a small pouch that fits on the underside of the seat of your bike and put it in there along with your patch kit and ID. Having a cell phone for emergencies can be a life saver when you break down or you run into a problem.
H20: Did you know about 80% of your body is made of water? When you work out, you sweat out some of that much-needed water, which is why it is so important to keep a water bottle or a sports drink available either during or after your training. The difference between water and sports drinks is that sports drinks have sugar, salt, carbs and electrolytes. Nothing will ever replace water, but sometimes an added sports drink is the key after a huge workout.
Biking Etiquette: If you're riding with other bikers, remember to ride in a straight line. Weaving can cause crashes. Stay to the right until you want to pass. Warn the biker in front of you that you are about to pass them on the left. Then pass quickly and get in front of that biker. When being passed, stay to the right and let the biker pass you.
Music: TriathaNewbie.com discourages bikers from wearing any type of headphones for music while training or racing on a bicycle. It impairs a biker's senses and ability to detect potentially dangerous situations. There are too many crazy car-drivers on the road -- Leave the headphones at home! ALL triathlon races forbid music during the biking portion of the race.
Brick Training: Brick training is incorporating two disciplines in one workout. For instance, you complete a bike workout and immediately start a run workout. Learn why this will prepare you both mentally and physically for your race.