10 cycling tips from some of tri’s best cyclists and coaches

Want to improve your bike leg? Here is some advice from some of the best cyclists and coaches in triathlon, including Daniela Ryf, Jonny Brownlee, Chrissie Wellington and Sebastian Kienle

Credit: Getty Images

 01. Fuel smart for the 180km 


In an Ironman, fight the urge to fuel (especially gels or solids) straight after the swim. Let yourself settle on the bike for 5-10mins and use climbs and flatter sections to fuel, rather than when you’re going downhill or cornering. Have a bottle between your bars for water or sports drink, and practise filling this up beforehand (it doesn’t need to be 100% full, as this changes the bike handling considerably). 

Use training to practise the art of grabbing drinks bottles from aid stations, and retrieving gels, etc. from boxes on your top tube. Try to consume roughly 1g of carbs per kilo of body weight per hour. This can be a mix of liquids, gels and solids. Consume any solids in the first part of the bike rider rather than towards the end (otherwise you’ll still be trying to digest it when running).
Chrissie Wellington, 4 x Ironman world champion

02. Pedal smoothly uphill 

Ride in the hills! Try and find a hill that’s a consistent steep gradient for about 4mins. Ride up the hill with a cadence of about 70rpm. Stay in the saddle and keep your arms relaxed. Don’t pull on the handlebars. Imagine your legs are the pistons on an engine. You want to pedal in smooth circles.
Jonny Brownlee, 2 x Olympic medallist  

03. Hold the aero position 

Good aero position means nothing if you can’t hold it for the entire race. Practise it in training on your TT bike or road bike down on the drops.
Andrew Starykowicz, iron-distance bike split record holder – 4:01:14

04. Use hills for big strength gains

Hill work on the bike is a crucial part of training as it helps develop strength and endurance to be in peak fitness for races. The best time to do high-intensity hill training or regular mountainous rides is during the off-season when there’s a break from racing so you can take more time to recover. When doing hill work it’s always great to work both upwards and downwards, so take the opportunity to practise your bike-handling skills on the way down but make sure but don’t push too hard.

Stuart Hayes, 2012 Olympian

05. Train for the demands of your event

Sessions should include variety and consistency – the biggest areas you’ll find gains in. Train your weakness and build your strength, and stay mentally strong throughout. Another key tip is to improve your aerodynamics, so getting a quality bike fit will improve both efficiency and aerodynamics, to equal more speed!

Matthew Bottrill, 220’s bike coach

06. Train on the road

Turbos are great but there’s more to a fast bike split than a big engine. Cornering well, descending well and not crashing all save significant time and energy. If you’re not 100% comfortable training in race position,
why would you race in it?

Nik Cook, cycling writer and GB duathlete

07. Concentrate on effort not speed

Using speed for training, in general, can be a little misleading. I don’t believe it’s always a fair representation of your fitness levels or form. External factors (weather, course difficulty) can throw you for a loop and affect confidence and morale. My word of advice would be to concentrate more on your output of effort rather than trying to hit specific speeds.

Spencer Smith, 3 x world champion and triathlon coach

08. Break the bike down

Stay in the moment and don’t think too much ahead. I always try to break down the race into little fractions. Then I motivate myself from aid station to aid station and just set little goals. When I’m on the bike, I never think about the run.

Daniela Ryf, 4 x Ironman world champion and 5x 70.3 world champion

09. change your tyres

Always look at what you can change and where you get the most savings for your pounds. On one hand, you have to work on your power output, while on the other you have to keep the energy losses as small as possible. One of the best changes you can make is to tyres. It’s pretty easy to do and doesn’t cost a lot of money. Also think about kit – a fast suit can make a huge difference.
Sebastian Kienle, 2014 World Ironman Champion & 2 x 70.3 world champion

 20 Hit the turbo


45-60mins is enough to do some work on cadence with fast legs, and some overgearing efforts. Do some 3,2,1s, which basically means getting quicker as you descend down, as well as getting out of the saddle. I’ve started doing sessions when you sprint for 30secs before doing a 10min tempo effort straight after, which is hard because it fills your body with lactate and then you have to continue to work hard for 10mins. But it simulates a race effort, as you’re able to switch it up and get an advantage straight out of T1.
Georgia Taylor-Brown, third-place overall in 2018 ITU World Tri Series