Cheating on your bike.
How many bikes do you own? How often do you ride them? It seems like I am constantly reminding roadies that they need to dust off their time trial bikes and actually ride them if they want to perform well in an upcoming time trial. But if roadies don’t ride their timed-race bikes frequently enough, triathletes ride them too frequently.
Let me be as clear as I know how: you need a road bike, and you need to ride it frequently!
But, I hear you protesting, I’m a triathlete, not a roadie. My training needs to be specific, you said so yourself. Yes, your training should be specific, but you should also use the right tool for the job.
A bike is a tool, plain and simple. A timed-race bike is meant to go really fast in a straight line. And, you are, or should be, set up in one position and one position only – nose of the saddle, in the aerobars, full tuck. Any time you are not riding in that position you are better off on a road bike. You’ve just brought a butcher knife to the dinner table to cut your spaghetti with. Sure it will work, but it will be awkward, uncomfortable, and dangerous.
Yes, dangerous. Triathlon bikes don’t steer, brake, or handle uneven surfaces well. If you are riding where there are other cyclists, cars, pedestrians, or frequent stops, you’d be better off on a different bike. This means city streets, multi-use paths, and super-popular training areas.
Having the right tool for the job will allow you to ride more comfortably and more safely, as well as open up new training routes and opportunities. A supported bike rally is a great way to knock out a 100-mile ride, but a tri bike is a dumb thing to ride with several hundred of your cycling brethren. The Saturday morning shop ride is an excellent training opportunity, but you will be persona non grata on your tri bike.
Believing that you should only own, and ride, a tri bike is nonsense. This is like the triathletes that tell me that swimming any stroke other than freestyle is a waste of time. Actually no, it’s not, and in fact you would benefit from it.
Does it have to be a road bike? No, it can also be a mountain or cyclocross bike. Ideally you’ve have tri, road, and either mountain or cyclocross, but let’s start small: a tri bike plus one other.
When do you ride it? Any time your tri bike is in the shop, or in transit to or from a race. Any time riding a tri bike would be unsafe or uncomfortable, like around town or in busy and populated areas, any time you’ll be drafting.
Okay, so when do I ride my tri bike? Interval sessions indoors should be in the aerobars; long interval sessions outdoors, when it’s safe to do so; long, race-prep rides out in the country solo or with a small group (just no drafting).
One final bonus on having a road bike – spare wheels that you can train with on your timed-race bike. Rocking the 808s on every ride is lame, seriously. Have the right tool for the job; a road bike for about ½ your riding, and training wheels for about 95% of your riding.
Steen Rose is the owner and Head Coach of Athletes On Track and an Elite Coach for Training Bible Coaching. He has been competing in cycling and multisport events for 16 years with 13 state titles and 3 national medals to his name. He has been coaching since 2003 and works with all ages and abilities of athletes locally, nationally, and abroad. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org