Riding a bike is not what you thought it is

It’s a sticky, slightly breezy day today, like it has been most days here, with a pretty good chance of thunderstorms. Last night, our neurotic dog woke up needing to potty twice, which is bizarre for him, but…what do you do? You pull on your outside clothes; grab your keys and let him out, down the hallway to the elevator, and then stand out there while he moseys about, looking for an appropriate place.
I swear, he never did this when we had our own backyard. It’s like he’s checking to see how far he can push us. Then again, I’m not willing to rish an accident on the carpet. It would make him feel terrible, anyway.
Consequently, I’m feeling far less than well rested today. That might explain the terrible lateness of this post, or it might not. Whatevs.
Today is the day we discuss the longest leg in the triathlon for many people, the bike leg. There are a few things you should know.

You, too, can look this happy on a bicycle

The few things you should know
-The faster you pedal, the less quickly your legs will tire.
-You are more stable moving forward, pedaling, than you are moving forward, without pedaling.
-Bicycling is an all-body sport.

Why those things are important
The bicycling leg is your best chance to refuel. It’s also where you will spend the bulk of your time on race day, and where you will spend the bulk of your time training. It’s where you stand the most chance of improving your time, so you do *not* want to do like I did this season and willy-nilly skip bicycle workouts all over the place and then pay no attention to things like heart rate and cadence when you do finally get to your bike workout.
Although the advantages of training by heart rate are well documented, some folks still overlook the importance of cadence. It’s really important to keep your cadence somewhere between 80 and 90 rotations a minute. It’ll mean easier pedaling, and you’ll get stronger, faster.
You’ll be able to sustain a longer ride if you can keep your legs from tiring, and cadence is the key to that. Remember, you still have a run to do after your ride, so ride smart, maintaining a good speed, and let it carry you up hills where you can.
Learn to ride smart on the downhills. Know which speeds you can maintain without feeling unstable; a crash at a high speed wouldn’t be much fun at all.
Be sure to spend a fair amount of time on your bike, practicing things like eating and drinking. You won’t be able to stop every time you want to take a drink or eat something, so learn how to do that on the fly, and get comfortable doing it.
You are going to experience a few uncomfortable things your first couple of weeks on your bike. First, there’s a little spot between the shoulder blades that’s bound to cramp from holding yourself up (c.f. “all-body sport” above). And, your butt will hurt. Don’t worry; these things will go away with time, but there are things you can do to immediately alleviate some of the pain.

Things to buy
Triathlon is an expensive sort, and while there are things you don’t need to spend money on, I do think that buying a good pair of cycling shoes and pedals is one of the best things I’ve ever done in my cycling career. A proper cycling stroke means that you use the muscles in your legs on the upstroke as well as the downstroke (think of the motion you make with your foot when scraping a piece of gum off the sole of your shoe). Being clipped in to your pedals means you can use that stroke without worrying that you’ll lose contact with your pedal. If you’re worried about getting your money’s worth, don’t: I’ve had the pair I’m using in this weekend’s triathlon for 13 years, and they’re my only pair of road riding shoes.

Beat up, ratty shoes. These are SIDI Genius 2s. For reference, SIDI is now making Genius 6s.

Beat up, ratty shoes. These are SIDI Genius 2s. For reference, SIDI is now making Genius 6s.

Cleats are the key to staying attached to your bike, and uber-efficient

Cleats are the key to staying attached to your bike, and uber-efficient

Buy a couple pairs of cycling shorts. These are padded in all the right places, for all the important reasons.

I’d also invest in a Bento Box for your top tube. It velcroes right to your bike frame and allows you to access things like…food. It’s likely the best $14 you’ll ever spend.
bentobox
Get a computer that will measure your cadence and speed for you. Some of the fancier models will connect wirelessly to a heart rate monitor so you can keep track of everyone right on your bike, but…I’m not that cool.
catseye_
Also, spend the money and get some Body Glide. It’s an allatonin-based product that will keep your clothes rubbing from rubbing against your skin, and prevent chafing. Put it on your butt, and anywhere your skin meets fabric. Do it. It’ll help.
Finally, *do* get a road bike, even an inexpensive one. There’s nothing quite like flying over the course on one of these sleek, silent machines. I’ve hit a top speed of 38 miles an hour on my road bike, and although that’s not nearly as fast as the pros on a good downhill, it is really an unbeatable, unmatchable feeling.
More important, though, you’ll be on a machine that’s engineered to go long distance over an asphalt surface. If you ride a triathlon course on a mountain or a hybrid bike, you run the risk of wasting a lot of energy for no good reason.
Right, that’s it for now. Tomorrow, the run course.

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Writer, editor, general crazy-pants.

One Response to Riding a bike is not what you thought it is
  1. Kara says:

    I was working mile 19 in the Pittsburgh Marathon this year, and I’d advise dudes especially to invest in some Body Glide or some Band-Aids even just for the run. I saw quite a few bloody shirts where their nipples had rubbed raw.

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