This Runner's Trials
17Apr/119

Try to Tri: Biking for runners

Believe it or not, the thought of biking held me back from doing a triathlon more than my inability to swim well. In theory, I love biking. I've been taking spin classes since college and I find biking on a path quite enjoyable. But there are no bike paths in Charlotte. To train for a triathlon, I had to "share the road" with cars and trucks, which was terrifying.

Even though I have two tris under my belt, I'm still not completely over this fear. (I sobbed hysterically on my bike during my Olympic tri.)

That being said, I am not a good person to give you tips on biking. But this crazy cyclist who I married is :)

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Jeff here. Or maybe you know me better as "Hubby" or "Ironman". I've been cycling competitively for 11 years… and shaving my legs for 6 years. If you crash, having less hair on your legs minimizes risk for infection.

Cycling is my favorite part of triathlons. It also happens to be the sport I'm best at so maybe that's why. I just love the feeling of going fast and seeing so much in such a short amount of time. You see a lot more than you do while running. Just saying…

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I hope these steps will help you on the road to training for the bike portion of the triathlon:

1. Get a bike. If you're just starting out triathlon-ing, don't invest in a pricey bike. I've seen plenty folks use mountain bikes for sprint tris and that's fine. You'll be much slower than if you used a road bike, but it's still fine. If you are using a mountain bike, I suggest changing the tires to "slicks" or tires without knobs.

You also don't want a triathlon-specific bike. They're harder to ride and less stable and comfortable for biking novices.

If you're buying a bike, first you need to find out what size frame you need. You can go to a local cycling shop and get measured or you can figure it out on your own by following these directions.

Then, checkout Craig's List or Ebay for a road bike. Road bikes can be really pricey so I highly suggest getting a used one at first. I don't want to get into the specifics of how I tell if a bike is good (I build my own bikes) because I know I'll lose you. Instead, send any listings to Jen, and I'd be happy to look at them and give you my opinion. And if you're local, I'd be delighted to check out a bike in person for you.

2. Get proper gear. You need padded bike shorts. Trust me. Always wear a helmet. My helmet saved my life. If you're ever in a crash and hit your head, replace your helmet stat. Helmets are only meant to protect your noggin for one crash.

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3. Pump up your tires properly. Invest in a bike-specific pump. They're cheap and necessary. On the sidewall of bike tires, there's a PSI number. Make sure your tires are pumped to this number. If you over-pump, they'll explode. If you under-pump, you're more likely to get a flat while out on the road.

4. Be smart, not scared. Whatever bike you have, make sure you practice on it. I know a girl who wanted to train for her first triathlon only by taking spinning classes. Luckily, I talked her out of it.

Yeah it can be scary biking next to cars especially if your area is like mine and doesn't have bike lanes. But it's the car's job to get out of your way.

I've been hit by a car before and it sucked. It didn't scare me away from biking though. Being constantly on edge will probably make you more likely to crash. Just be sure to follow the rules of the road and bike smart:

  • Bike with traffic. A bike is a vehicle. Follow all the same laws you do when driving a car. This means stopping at stop signs and traffic lights.
  • Don't assume cars see you. Make eye contact with drivers and always use your "turn signals", your arms.
  • Practice using clip-in shoes before you go on the road. You don't need clip-in shoes for your first tri. You'll go faster but they're not necessary. If you choose to use them, practice clipping in to them and out of them on a soft, grassy area. You will fall at first.
  • Wear sunglasses. You have a windshield on your car for a reason: to keep bugs, dust, and dirt kicked up from cars out of your face. Sunglasses work the same way.
  • Always carry an ID on you. And preferably a cell phone. I wear a Road ID bracelet. Always be sure to tell someone where you're going.

5. Learn with a group. Look for a bike club in your area (ask local bike shops about these) and go on group rides. You'll learn how to bike easier, there's safety in numbers, and you'll make friends. Try to find a beginner ride. If there aren't any, don't be shy about being the new guy. Just tell people you're a beginner so you don't get left behind.

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6. Train like you would for a running race. I know all of you runners have your long runs, easy runs, and speed workouts. Train the same way on the bike. Definitely add in hill work if hills are in your area. Climbing will make you a much stronger rider. And if you're like Jen, you may freak out when you go "way too fast" down hill. It's much better to freak out on a training ride than during the race.

7. Take breaks. When you first started running, I bet you took walk breaks. Do the same on the bike, even if you're in shape. Biking uses different muscles than running. Pull off in a parking lot or neighborhood and get off your bike and stretch.

Thanks hubby :) I have one more triathlon tips post coming up: the stuff I wish people told me before I crossed the start line.

Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. This is a great post! So sweet of your hubs to offer his advice. Thanks for the tips!!

  2. Thank you so much for all the tips. It scares me when you say you’ve been hit by a car… I think I’d be done with cycling after that. I’m thinking about doing a half ironman, but all the bike training is what is keeping me from going right for it. There’s not many bike friendly roads in my area.

    • Are there any safe roads nearby? If so, maybe just bike on the road once every week or two and invest in a trainer to use indoors. This tool lets you use your road bike as a stationary bike, instead of a spin bike. Much better for training!

  3. Loved this post! I just got my 1st road bike and I was so scared the 1st time I went really fast on it.

  4. great tips pirate!
    Bobby would love to get a road bike and all the required “gear”, but def. not in the budget right now, but hopefully eventually! I know a tri is something he would like to do. He can do that, and then I can run goofy with Jen. :)

  5. Great post Ironman!
    Cycling is also my favorite leg of triathlon & really, my favorite workout in general! I couldn’t agree more with your statement that being scared on the road is no good. Vigilant, yes. Scared, no. It’s definitely nerve wracking out there but knowing the rules of the road and biking confidently is the way to go! Now if I could just get myself to start doing intervals & hill workouts on the bike I’d be OK!

    p.s. “…and shaving my legs for 6 years” just might be one of the best (and silliest) introductory statements I’ve ever seen!

  6. So informative! I have a Trek bike. I don’t know anything about it, but I’m pretty sure it’s some sort of mountain bike/hybrid. It has the clip-in pedals and I’ve had my share of falls. I’m still petrified to ride in the street. I always go to a bike path nearby. My aunt and uncle just got new bikes, so I’m hoping the group dynamic helps me stay on the bike.

  7. Another great post! Thanks for sharing your tips (I’ll take advice from an Ironman any day!)

    I’m actually hoping to get a bike this summer and want to start training! The part that scares me the most is clipping in. I’ve never tried it and the thought of being attached to the bike if it crashes sort of freaks me out. But Jen – if you can face your fears and do it then I can too! :)

  8. Great post – I am about to register for my first sprint triathlon, as a former competitive swimmer and current runner, the bike leg has me nervous, particularly as I don’t own a bike. In the post you said you’d be happy to give bike newbies advice on bike buying. As I don’t even own a bike I was gonna second-hand one off of craig’s list, and was hoping you could take a look at this listing and tell me what you think: http://vancouver.en.craigslist.ca/van/bik/2341090132.html if you don’t have time I understand, but if you do I would really appreciate it as no one around me knows bikes…


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