For me the bike is the most fun. Your head isn’t stuck in the water, like on the swim, and you’re not trying to push through discomfort, like on the run. You can take in the views and coast if you need to shake out your legs. Let’s talk about getting started on the bike.
The bike seems to be the least technical. If you want to go faster, hammer. If you want to recover, spin and coast. There are, of course, technical details like choosing the right gear to get up a hill or how fast your feet should rotate through the pedal stroke: known as “cadence.” With a high cadence, you utilize your cardiovascular system more than the major muscle groups of the legs. Using the major leg muscle groups requires more energy. Depending on how you train, you can train your legs to keep a higher wattage when you need to spin out your legs.
Training for the bike has gotten much easier with the availability of at-home trainers or turbos. Wheel-on or drivetrain driven trainers allow the athlete to specify a wattage during a workout and achieve a desired outcome. If you want to increase your FTP (Functional Threshold Power, defined as the wattage you can sustain for an hour), then your training should be targeted for the one hour effort. To learn more about trainers, check out DC Rainmaker’s breakdown.
The bike is probably the most expensive discipline in triathlon. A used bike can relieve some of the pain on a budget, but new tri-bikes or even road bikes with aero bars can still be very expensive. I have seen everything from beach cruisers to state-of-the-art time trial bikes at every race. If you’re looking to start out in triathlon, it doesn’t take five figures. The bike has to be roadworthy, but the engine is the most important part.
The most important element of your time on the bike is how quickly you push the pedals. Note: not how hard, but how fast. You have to keep in mind that the bike is the first discipline in a triathlon that uses the legs…not the last. You have to have enough strength and enough endurance to complete the run. Start out with Fast Cadence drills: after a good warmup, go 30 seconds on and 30-60 seconds off for 6 reps and then cool down. Since the bike has less impact than running, you can complete this workout several times a week and improve quickly. Once the cadence gets higher, increase the effort. Push a little bit more at the same RPMs.
Interested in getting started on the bike? Visit the coaching services link and choose one of the packages.