The Keys to a Faster Bike Split
The saying “it’s just like riding a bike” applies to many situations, but ironically, trying to clock a faster bike split may not be as simple. The cycling segment is the longest of all three legs in triathlon, and it can contribute to a PR performance or a miserable and painful shuffle to the finish. Whether you’re trying to save precious energy for the run or you feel the need to unleash the speed, start implementing the below strategies regularly.
Focus on Technique Before Intensity
Prior to developing a training strategy, it is wise to get a proper bike fit. Visit your local bike shop and make sure you and your two-wheeled friend are a perfect fit for each other. With your fit established, become more deliberate about implementing a proper technique to optimize your effort.
Understand the pedal stroke: Cycling faster isn’t just achieved by hammering down on the pedals with more force, so break down your pedal stroke into a four-step process and execute it within each of the quadrants.
- Step one comes most naturally. Simply push down on the pedal while keeping your foot level. Pointing your toes down can add unnecessary stress to the calves.
- With the pedal in down position, simply slide your foot front to back as if wiping something off the bottom of your shoe.
- With your foot level, pull up by engaging the hip flexor.
- Just like kicking a ball, flex the quad and extend the knee moving your foot forward.
Once you understand this fundamental breakdown, combine all four segments into one smooth and continuous movement. This slight shift in awareness and implementation will help boost your overall power and speed.
The position of your torso also matters: Improper posture can make your spine more vulnerable, increasing the risk of injury. Pull your shoulders back and engage the core, creating additional space between the ribs and the front of your hip bones to generate more power. This position also keeps the spine safe and vertebrae stabilized while exerting effort.
Ride with Purpose
The most important aspect of an effective workout is to stop just riding your bike. Plan your route to avoid interruptions like excessive stop lights, stop signs, or areas that promote coasting for extended periods of time. The quality of your training dictates the performance you’ll be able to execute on the day that counts most. Each session needs to have purpose and a specific agenda. Your shorter sessions may incorporate more high intensity segments, while portions of the long rides or brick workouts could be used for race-day simulations.
Below are few examples of how to add some oomph to your rides:
Intervals: For maximum results, establish a progression within your interval sessions. Early in the program, you may complete 10 high-effort intervals of 60 seconds. In the middle of the program you’ll take on 8 high-effort intervals of 3 minutes each. Finally, towards the end of the program, you may challenge yourself with 5 high-effort intervals of 6 minutes each. Follow every high-intensity interval with an easy 2-minute recovery spin. This example will vary based on your current fitness level and the distance you’re preparing for. It will also build gradually over a period of a couple months, but it illustrates how the progression can train your body to sustain higher intensity for longer durations.
Hills: If you don’t find the traditional intervals thrilling enough, challenge your endurance by taking your bike on a hilly ride. Replace the high-effort segment with a climb and allow your legs to recover as you descend. If your access to mountains is limited, find a small hill and repeat a single climb until your quads are flooded with lactic acid and a delightful burnout is achieved.
Long rides: Do more than just survive the distance. For example, at your next 30-mile ride, cycle the first 20 miles at a moderate intensity and pick up your effort for the last 10 miles to finish the session at race pace. Training to push yourself while fatigued will prepare you for a more realistic race scenario.
Fine-Tune Your Leg Strength off the Bike
Although most of your fitness will come from hours on the road or hitting your targets riding indoors, don’t underestimate the benefits of strength training. Squats can be a cyclist’s best friend as they strengthen the quadriceps, hamstrings, and glutes. Dynamic exercises like walking lunges and step-ups are also a great addition for those seeking to accelerate their bikes and maintain a higher speed and power for longer durations. Make time for a weekly workout with this fundamental part of training and you just might be the cause of bike-split envy at your next event.