Faking your Bike Fitness
RePost: Using Aerodynamics as your Friend
Tip #1: Bike Geek data and aerodynamics in Triathlon
Disclaimer: Cycling is one thing that I picked up with relative ease. I hate to say it but some people pick up certain things very easily and cycling happened to be that thing for me. Some people can go to the gym and squat 200+ pounds with zero training. Not me. I would have to work my butt off for months/years to be able to squat 200+ pounds. But, with cycling, I can take off 2-3 months, and lose very little fitness as long as I have stayed active with running/swimming. So take that into account as you read this post. I am in no way advocating someone to do minimal cycling and then expecting to be able to go out and crush an Ironman bike ride.
This was originally posted after my win at the 2016 Music City Triathlon.
For the data geeks, here is my bike file from the MCT bike last weekend. I did not race on "race" wheels but did buy new tires/tubes that have a better rolling resistance. About 2 weeks before the race I did my research. I know that Pro's like Cody Beals and Lionel Sanders are very particular about what tires they use on race day. This is something that I have never looked closely into. I train almost exclusively on the Gatorskin tires as they appear to be bulletproof. But I have also found out that they are one of the worst tires to race on because of their weight and "rolling resistance." So after a little research, I found that the Continental Grand Prix 4000s tires are a great choice. Yes, there are faster/lighter tires out there, but they were also more expensive and more susceptible to flat tires. I did not want to get a flat during my race. Several web sites rates these Grand prix's as one of the best overall choices for a tire. Red Kite Bikes here in Nashville has plenty of tires to choose from including the Grand Prix. I picked up two of these tires along with two "racing" tubes for the Triathlon. I did NOT use the latex tubes as these are twice the price of regular tubes and also much more susceptible to flats. Do you ever wonder why the top pro triathletes are always getting flat tires? It's because they race with the fastest tires/tubes possible, but just way riskier. These tires/tubes have the potential to save up to 5-10 minutes for these guys over a 56 mile bike course that they typically cover in just over 2 hours. Never knew that tires were such a big deal, did you?
My next step was to make sure that I was as aerodynamic as possible. You want your set up on your bike to be aerodynamic, but also comfortable enough to stay there as long as you can during a race. So it should feel comfortable on the uphills and downhills. I would rather stay in the aero position and only push 85% of my "race" power than to sit up and produce 105+% of my "race" power. Yes it's easier to produce more power when sitting up, but is that the fastest? Will that burn a match that I'll need 30-45 minutes later on the run? I like to keep my power as steady as possible so that those matches don't get burned too early in the race. I made a few small adjustments 3-4 weeks before the race to make sure that I could produce the kind of power that I needed to, but also was not overly aggressive.
I wore a very form fitting 1 piece Trisuit. It is pictured above in this post race interview. As you learn from the Tour de France, or watching any Ironman race, a skin tight suit with sleeves is fast. Hence the change over the last few years from a "normal" tri suit to the ones with sleeves. Apparently your skin is the slowest surface that is in the wind. The TdF guys were wearing long sleeves and high "aero" socks during the TT stage because of this. But you have to find a happy medium between aerodynamics and allowing your skin to breath, especially on a hot day. You might have saved 30 seconds on your bike ride at a triathlon by wearing a form fitting long sleeve cycling top, but you also might have over heated and had to walk the entire run portion. So you do what is going to work best for you. I wore a 1 piece trisuit (no sleeves) that is very form fitting from Kiwami for 2 reasons. They have been proven to be very aerodynamic in the wind tunnel. Also because they work great in the water and I have no need to wear a swim skin over it. It almost works as a swim skin itself. (And I always get over heated in swim skins so only have 1 trisuit on in warm water helps keep my core temperature down on a hot day).
I shave my legs which has been proven to help with aerodynamics. Just watch the video above. I kept my excess nutrition on my top tube of my bike and then stuffed the garbage into my trikit. I wore an Aero helmet from Rudy Project. I know there are faster helmets out there, but this happens to be my sponsor ;)
Don't try anything crazy, just stay aero and hydrate. I know tons of people that pushed too much on a course like that and then could barely run. You have to know your limits and stay below them. If you look closely at my power file, I rode the first 5 miles very conservatively. Then was able to go a little harder as I got a feel for how I was feeling.
Hope this helps!!