Bike Strength for New Triathletes

Bike Strength for New Triathletes

Bike Strength for New Triathletes

by Shem Leong

Bike strength is one of the most overlooked areas in a new triathlete’s training programme. Everyone is afraid of the rough swim start and lack the confidence to make it around the open water course so they get worried and work diligently on their swim.  They also fear not being able to complete the race because of a poor run fitness so they run lots.

As for the bike it is often a case of, “how hard can it be?’  You are sat comfortably on your bottom enjoying the wind in your hair.  As long as you keep pedalling, you are moving forward. And if you get tired, you can simply stop pedalling and catch your breathas you coast along for a bit. The bike is often viewed as the middle bit where you can rest between the 2 tough bits right? Wrong!

Assuming you are able to complete the swim with no dramas, the bike portion of a triathlon is the core of the race.  It doesn’t matter how good a runner you are, if the bike portion takes it out of your legs, you’re not going to be able to run off the bike anyway. However, if you are a strong biker, you’ll complete the bike leg with no problems and your legs will be fresher for the run. This is why bike strength is one of the 1st issues that I tackle with all new triathletes that I work with.

With the heavy traffic and limited roads in Singapore, getting strong on the bike is always going to be a challenge.  With the exception of Mt Faber and a few other hard to reach stretches of low traffic scattered throughout the island, it is impossible to do hard strength building intervals on the roads here.

The best solution to this is to do your bike strength work on a stationary trainer.   Jumping on the trainer once or twice a week during the week is simply the best way to improve your bike strength. A solid session on the trainer can be completed in an hour. This is a lot more convenient than a ‘short’ 2 hour training ride that will vary in quality due to traffic and weather conditions.  So go out and buy a trainer. If you use it regularly as instructed below, it will be the best investment into your development as a strong biker and triathlete.

  1. Training in the big gear (heavy resistance) is an open ‘secret’ to building bike strength. Roadies will tell you that pedalling at 90 – 100 cadence is a hallmark of efficient cycling. While this may be true if you are a pure cyclist, triathletes have the challenge of running off the bike as well. If you are able to turn a bigger gear at a lower cadence of 70 – 80, not only does your heart rate stay relatively lower, but you will also keep your legs fresh for the run.  In order to produce the kind of strength needed to turn the big gears, I recommend all new triathletes to start on this session on the trainer once a week. It’s designed to build cycling specific strength.

10 min warm up

20 x 1 min ALL OUT in the big gear at 45 – 55 cadence/ 1 min easy spin recovery

10 min easy cool down

  • Each effort is done against as a high resistance that you can turn smoothly.
  • We are training at a heavier resistance than you would normally ride on the road.
  • Don’t hold back, go as hard as you can on the efforts and recovery as easy as you need.
  • Repeat this session once a week for 2 months and you’ll be amazed at the difference it will make to your regular rides on the road.

  1. Breaking up your rides on the road is also a good way to build structure into your riding. For example, instead of heading out for a 2 hour ride break it down like I have outlined below  – you don’t need to worry about the terrain, just go according to how your route dictates.

20 mins easy warm up  – cadence 70 – 80

40 mins easy in the big gear ( heavy resistance) at cadence 45 – 60

2 x 15 mins hard / 10 mins easy

  • 1st effort at cadence 70 -80
  • 2nd effort with a higher resistance at cadence 45 – 55

10 mins easy cool down

You will see how breaking your long ride into smaller sections will help you to stay focused and motivated to push hard on the efforts while also teaching you how to pace yourself throughout the ride – starting easy and building into it at the end. This is the perfect way to practice how you should be aiming to ride on race day.

In summary, the 2 best ways to build bike strength is to

1)      Repeat a bike strength interval session on the trainer at least once a week.

2)      Structure your longer bike ride on the road to include some hard ‘time trial’ sections with adequate recovery.

Happy riding every one! If you would like to find out more about bike training, pls feel free to email me at shem@metasport.com



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