100 Tips for a Successful Triathlon


Biking is a wonderful way to stay fit for life. It is easy on the joints, can be social if you bike with a friend and gives you an opportunity for rapidly changing scenery. You can cover a lot of ground, quite possibly faster than in a car during the rush hour in many cities.

To be comfortable riding, you need to master three skills: First, the mechanics of shifting, getting your feet in and out of the pedals and braking (during wet weather, especially); second, fast downhills and cornering; and third, basic repairs, such as changing a flat, putting your chain on when it comes off and adjusting the shifting.

                                                    Patriot Half 2015

For very useful information on urban biking and commuting, see Mrbike.com

Bike three or four days a week with one long bike and one with fast or hill intervals

Buy a good. light bike; it will last a long time

Nowadays, you can buy a relatively inexpensive foreign -made carbon fiber bike. Best for triathletes to buy one with geometry made for triathlons or time trials (which is what the bike portion of a triathlon is for most competitors). Buy good components, but remember that there is little difference in performance or weight between good parts (e.g. Shimano Ultegra), and much more expensive top of the line parts. A good source of bikes and advice on bikes can be found from Bonzai Sports at http://tribonzai.com and other high end bike stores.

Aero bars, step-in pedals,  and personal weight loss are low cost ways to increase speed

Next most cost-effective are good aerodynamic racing wheels.  Most other upgrades such as slightly lighter hardware are of little value except to the top racers.

Practice getting in and out of the pedals many times before you do much serious bike riding; it will avoid falls which plague most new riders

Repair and adjust your own bike. Bike manuals help a lot (see for example, Zinn & the Art of Triathlon Bikes by Lennard Zinn); you will normally be able to take care of your needs in less time than it takes to haul your bike to the bike shop

 I found that bike shops almost never adjust the shifting perfectly on a modern 9-11 speed bike. You need a bike stand to help you make fine adjustments to avoid frustration from poor shifting.

Carry on your bike in a seat pack what you need for simple repairs

Small portable toolkit with allen wrenches, screw drivers, chain breaker

two tire levers

Spare innertube

CO2 pump and two refills (or small hand pump attached to the bike)

 I also recommend you obtain a good bike stand, and several good  lights for your bike (see last tip in this section on commuting by bike)

Use thorn resistant inner tubes and Kevlar lined tires to greatly reduce your chances of flatting

      Find out what caused a flat tire and then fix it before installing or repairing a tube; there is always a reason for a flat and that reason is almost never a faulty inner tube or valve

      I carry a spare tube; patching a tube on the road is very difficult because it is hard to find the leak and patches sometimes don't hold. CO2 cartridges are a fast way to inflate a tire.

      If you have a flat you cannot fix, you have several options: call a friend or taxi, fill the tire with grass, beg help from another bicyclist, or walk or run home or to a bike shop. If the tire is badly damaged (e.g. has a wide cut), you can temporarily cover the hole with cardboard or aluminum foil (e.g. from a Powerbar wrapper) and then put in a new tube.

      Flats can be caused by nails, screws, sharp stones, improperly applied tape on the rim, sharp edges on the rim and worn tires. I once had a slit in a tire near the rim where the tube would work its way out and eventually form a bubble that was popped by the brake. After the tire went flat, the tube retreated inside the tire, making it impossible to see the slit. After three flat tires and a crash on a fast downhill after a blowout, I figured it out.

Listen to Your Bike, a break may be imminent.

  I have broken a frame, two seat posts, two seats, three handlebars and  the neck holding handlebars, in addition to many spokes. In most cases a warning sound occurred before the break. If you hear a new squeak, check your bike carefully.

You can keep riding with a broken spoke.

Remove the broken spoke or bend it around another spoke. If the wheel is out of true, open the brake. Ride carefully because riding with one brake at speed can be dangerous.

Get fit for your bike at a bike shop.

After being fit, you probably will need to make adjustments to the height for your seat and handlebars by trial and error until you feel comfortable while riding.

      Use a level to make sure your seat is level to the ground. If it is tilted up, you will get very sore. If it is tilted down, your weight will be pressed forward on your arms with some discomfort. You also may feel you are going over the handlebars on a fast downhill.

Your handlebars should be as low as you can set them without getting too sore a neck from holding your head up. They can be lower for short rides than long ones.

When using aero bars, your elbows should rest on the bars such that your upper arms are at the same angle to the ground as the front wheel fork.

Generally, your seat should be far enough forward so that the front of your knee is even with the pedal's axle when you drop a string with a weight from the front of  the knee

Work on cadence, which should be maintained during a race at 85-95 RPMs on flat ground, and at least 70 on hills

Practice pedaling with steady force throughout each revolution, using flex of the ankles as well as front and back muscles of legs for power.

Pedal sometimes with toes initially pointed up slightly and sometimes pointed down to vary way muscles are applied

Look well ahead of the bike all through a turn; it seems counter intuitive but helps to get thru sharp turns

Lean the bike toward the turn, keeping your body more vertical than the bike (like the upper body of a slalom skier).

Grip the top tube with your knees on a  fast downhill to avoid or cope with severe vibrations of your bike.

I have had this vibration problem on three different bikes on fast   downhills.  It is scary because you think you might lose control (indeed, I have heard from people who said they ended up in the woods when this happened to them).  Check with a bike shop to see if they can make some adjustments to the headset, tighten the wheel axles, or make other changes if you have this problem.

 For a long race, carry a bottle in your jersey with the equivalent of five or six packs of gel and water in addition to two full water bottles with sports drink on the bike itself.  I also have learned to supplement sports drinks with salt tablets on warm or hot days.

Always wear a fastened helmet; bike accidents are inevitable and come at most unexpected times, often while traveling very slowly

My worst accident came when I was riding a few hundred yards to rack my bike at a race. I was going downhill slowly when the running shoes I was carrying got caught in the front spokes. I was dumped over the handlebars head first into the pavement  (thus any errors in this website).

Liberally apply a large amount of Bodyglide, Chamois Butt'r or equivalent under biking shorts

 I have found A+D Ointment  works better than these products.  Also you can   use sunblock (SPF50).  It works as well as commercial anti-chafing products.            

Commute on your bike

You'll need lots of good bright LED lights (they're cheap now). I carry three blinking red lights in back, two attached to the bike and one to the backpack. Blinking white headlights are far more noticeable than steady lights, but I carry both, one to be seen, and one to see better. See my earlier advice on clothing. You should have a good backpack (Zoot and Cannondale have great packs for commuters). You'll need a pack cover for rain and special protection for a cell phone or computer during wet weather (I drowned two phones in water collected in my backpack).  I keep suits and shoes at work and carry a clean towel, underwear and a clean shirt to work each day. Towel off or shower and apply deodorant at work  I ride a road bike in good weather and an all terrain bike in bad weather. Lock your bike in a safe location, preferably indoors where no one will lift parts from it.

Check for leg length discrepancy by putting a level across the top of hip bones; add extra insole or orthotic to biking shoe for short leg

 Almost everyone has one leg shorter than the other. The discrepancy is a common  cause of knee, back and muscle injuries, especially in runners, but also for bicyclists.

You can also add material between the  cleat and the bicycle shoe.  Bike Fit Systems (www.bikefit.com) sells "The Wedge" which I have found increases comfort and power when added to the shoe on my short leg.