How to improve bike leg of triathlon with simple tweaks to your cycling technique

You’ll be surprised how easy it is to source bike speed gains and limit the chances of injury with just a few, small form adjustments, from minimising the dead spot when pedalling to changing body position on the climbs. Dermott Hayes explains his top 8 technique adjustments for a better ride

Credit: James Mitchell

01 MASTER CORNERING

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To hold max speed through a corner safely, it’s vital that you hold good body position. Keep your outside leg extended, applying pressure into that pedal while having your inside knee raised and relaxed, this’ll help stabilise the bike. 

Watch the video below for how to corner with confidence. 

02 CHANGE BODY POSITION  

A great way to prevent excess energy waste and fatigue when climbing is to change your body position slightly. If the climb is long enough that you can’t simply sprint using raw power, then shift your body weight towards the back of the saddle, push your chest out and shoulders back. This helps to open your chest for better breathing. Finally, move your hands to the flat horizontal area of the bars to make you sit more upright. Keep your hands loose and relaxed.

03. PRACTISE WITH AEROBARS

Practise. Practise. Practise. It takes time to get comfortable riding your aerobars for long periods of time so practise both indoors on the turbo and on the road. To steer the bike while staying in the aero position, apply more pressure through the elbows and forearms, meaning that your body weight is over the front end of the bike. Keep your hands relaxed to prevent any excess tension. Steer the bike by using your upper-body strength, pointing your head and shoulders in the direction you want to travel. When cornering be prepared to reduce speed into the turn, approaching slightly wider and then reapply the pressure when exiting the corner.

  

04 TREAT YOUR GEARS WITH CARE

If you expect to get optimal performance from your equipment you need to treat it with care and use it properly. When changing gears think about reducing the pressure applied to the pedals momentarily, hit the gear shifters, let the chain jump into gears and then put the power back on the pedals. This is even more critical if shifting gears when standing up, and will also help to preserve the life of your drivetrain.

05 CHOOSE YOUR OPTIMAL CADENCE

A common observation among newbies is that they ride with a low cadence (revs per min) in the belief that grinding a bigger gear will generate more speed. It will, but only for a short period of time. Choosing your optimal cadence is very much a personal thing, but I’d encourage one between 75-90rpm. Longer-distance triathletes may even be higher than 90rpm. Start by doing 2-3mins where you increase your cadence by 10%, then gradually increase the length of time you can hold a higher cadence until it becomes your default.

06 HOLD FORM ON DESCENTS

Being able to swoop downhill is largely dictated by your confidence, but holding good technique will breed confidence and therefore speed. You want a ‘small’ body position, so tuck in your head and elbows. Keep your bodyweight firmly on the saddle to keep the rear wheel in contact with the road. If cornering on a descent use your brakes to reduce speed prior to the corner, then use your improved cornering technique (tip 9). To return to racing speed out of the corner get out of the saddle for 10-20 powerful, fast pedal strokes. 

07 DROP THE DEAD SPOTS

By focusing on and improving your pedal stroke you’ll save energy and, in long-distance triathlons, actually help to generate more speed. A dead spot is where there’s no force being applied to the pedals. Consider the pedal revolution as a clock face and needing to apply pressure from 12 o’clock all the way back to 12. Ensuring you pull the pedal up as well as pushing down will distribute the use of muscles more effectively. Including lower-body strength exercises is also another way to balance out any dead spots.  

08 BECOME AN OUT-OF-SADDLE, HILL-CLIMBING BOSS 

To prevent a drop in riding speed when hitting the hills you need to optimise your ability to ride out of the saddle. Firstly, make sure you’re in the correct gear for the hill you’re about to ride. Then come to an upright position with your shoulders positioned over the top of the handlebars. Next, keep the bike flowing underneath you in a lateral movement by moving the handlebars and front wheel from side to side. Finally, keep your head up, stay tall, hips forward and have your hands relaxed.

 Drop your inside elbow in towards the corner while holding the handlebars firmly. Always keep your head up watching the centre line in the road. If the lines disappear quickly then it’s a tight corner, so back off the pace and move towards the centre of the road.

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 Finally choose a gear that allows you to accelerate out of the corner and back up to race speed.