We love it when you send us questions; from cooking to fitness, your inquiries are always welcomed. We recently received a question regarding triathlons, cycling in particular. A reader asked, “What do you know about triathlons & cycling? Is it hard to train for? I’m comfortable with the running but the swim & bike portion of it intimidate me.” Though Katie & I haven’t done much biking (my only encounter with cycling was this weekend when I was glued to the TV watching Tour de France — amazing!) we have a friend who has, so we asked him to write a guest post. Meet Luke. Luke is a cyclist, marathoner & superhero. We hope you enjoy this post as much as we do.
After watching those skinny guys race around France gave you velocipede lustus (aka bike fever) but you haven’t ridden since you were maybe 12 and that was just around the neighborhood with your friend Alex. And now you want to get back into cycling/start cycling for the first time.
Good news – the whole cliché about “You never forget how to ride a bike” is actually true.
Bad news – you probably don’t want to ride the same bike that you had when you were 12.
I was a cyclist before I was a runner. And I had parents who were cyclists which meant that I had their support (read: money) to put money towards bikes and bike parts. Because OMG there are a lot of bike parts.
Let’s make a list of things that you need to get into running:
So yeah that’s one item, and even that is optional if you’re going to do barefoot running.
Let’s make a list for cycling:
- Bike (well duh)
- Helmet (you could ride without it, but you could also staple scorpions to your tongue)
- Bike pump and spare tube (unless you like riding on flat tires)
And that’s just the start. It’s a gateway drug to a world of carbon fiber seatposts and unobtanium flibberty-gibbits. Some bits are incredibly useful (padded shorts are almost a necessity and clipless pedals and shoes attach your feet to the bike), some not so much (the previously mentioned carbon fiber seatpost). For those of you who are runners, this is going to seem somewhat bizarre – in running, it’s just (wo)man against (wo)man. In cycling, you may be a better rider, but someone on a better bike might still be faster. Lance was right when he said “It’s all about the bike.”
But that doesn’t mean that you have to rush out and drop $2000 on a bike. If you have an old mountain bike gathering dust in your garage, then ride that. I’ve seen people do triathlons on pretty much every type of bike imaginable.
So let’s move on to training. Here’s a sample training plan:
- Ride some more.
- Keep riding.
Unlike training for a 5k or a marathon where you can Google hundreds of different training plans, there’s not nearly as much information on cycling or triathlon training plans. You should do a mix of easy rides, fast rides, intervals, hills (unless you’re Carolina in which case you’re out of luck living in Florida).
But a lot of cycling is about building up a good base and putting in miles, especially if your goal race is about distance, like a charity ride such as Tour de Cure. Start out easy to allow your body to get used to being on a bike (and if you haven’t already, go buy padded shorts). If you’re running already, keep in mind cycling uses different muscle groups that are going to hurt in different ways.
And if you’re training for a triathlon, you’re going to have to use those muscles back to back. So train that way (the technical name for this is called a “brick” because…uh…you’re mighty mighty letting it all hang out? Wait no, that would be if it was a brick house). As you get closer to race day, take one day a week where you set out your running stuff and head out on a moderate bike ride. When you get back, practice your transition where you take off your helmet and any other bike specific items and get your running stuff on. Then head out for a run feeling the Jell-o in your legs those first few wobbly steps. (If you’re training for a duathlon, you’ll want to practice both the run/bike and the bike/run transitions).
There’s a ton of other information – how to ride in a pack, tips on bike maintenance, ways to ride faster with less effort – so feel free to leave questions in the comments section and I’ll do my best to answer them.
Luke is an avid runner and cyclist having competed in everything from
duathlons to 6-hour adventure races to 50 mile time trials. He has
spent 6 months living in Ireland, a year living in New Zealand, and a
3 month road trip across the Western US. He’s currently planning a
wedding and a marriage proposal (in that order) and building an
addition with only minor injuries suffered (so far). He can be found
on twitter and blogger, but neither has been updated in forever, so
it’s probably not worth the effort. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have any other questions we can help you answer (or even the ones we can’t…we’ll find someone, like Luke, who can) shoot us an email at email@example.com. We’d love to hear from you!