Have you bought your first triathlon bike ahead of race season, but are now wondering how often you should train on it, and whether there is a technique to climbing hills? Nik Cook and Andy Blow explain all…
If you went through a good fitting process, adaptation to your new bike should be fairly quick, but you do still need to spend significant training time on it to become 100% comfortable (writes Nik Cook).
A triathlon bike handles very differently to a road bike, so you need to get used to this. Save your triathlon bike for race day only or keep it locked onto the turbo and you’ll spend the first part of the bike tense and wasting energy. Throw in some technical descents or tight corners and any time gained from improved aerodynamics will soon be lost to poor bike handling.
You’ll only know if your position is comfortable for hours in the saddle if you spend hours in the saddle. This means, especially if you’re targeting long-course races, that a proportion of your long training rides need to be on your triathlon bike. It’s on these rides that you’ll make small refinements to your position. You also need to be sure that your position leaves you fit to run so always tag at least a 15-30min run onto these rides.
Personally, throughout the summer I tend to rotate my weekly long rides: one on the triathlon bike, one on the road and one on the MTB. But I’ll always make sure I spend some time every week on the triathlon bike. And I try to make sure this isn’t just ploughing up and down a main road but purposely seeking out technically hard roads that challenge my handling skills.
How to climb hills on a TT bike
Triathlon bikes are built first and foremost for speed in a straight line, on a flat course (says Andy Blow). That doesn’t mean you can’t compete in hillier races on them – just that you may need to adjust the set-up and your riding style to accommodate the differences.
The main set-up difference between a road bike and a triathlon bike that has an effect on climbing is the seat-tube angle. Most traditional road bikes have a relaxed 72/73° seat-tube angle; in other words, leaning back behind the bottom bracket. This allows you to shift your weight backwards when climbing and push ‘forwards’ into the pedals, engaging your glutes (backside) rather than just using your quads.
A triathlon bike can have a seat-tube angle as steep as 75° or even 78°, which puts you further over the bottom bracket; great for tucking down in an aero position and putting in the power on the flat, but less effective on steep hills.
To counteract this you can try putting the seat further back on its rails and by sliding as far back on the seat as possible when climbing. You may also find you need to gear down a little and spin quicker than on a road bike (to save your quads) and to stand up more frequently on long climbs to stretch out your legs.
At the end of the day a triathlon bike will never climb quite as well as a road bike, but by adjusting your set-up and style you can make it work for all but the most mountainous occasions.
(Images: Jonny Gawler / James Mitchell Photography)
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