By far the most anticipated part of my upcoming sprint triathlon is the bike portion. As a swimmer in high school and a recent marathon runner, I am fairly comfortable with the swim and run, but the bike is foreign territory. As of six weeks ago, I had never ridden a road bike, let alone clipped into a road bike! My first time riding the bike was at the beginner triathlon put on by the San Diego Tri Club (read more about that at my blog here). The ride was 7 miles long. Since then, I have been on the bike about one time per week, riding anywhere from 9-16 miles. Luckily, the triathlon this Sunday is only 9 miles. Although I have the endurance to run for 26.2 miles at a 9:15 pace, admittedly a one hour bike ride seems nearly as difficult as a two hour run.
The most important thing for new cyclists is to spend time on the bike. I was tempted to start regularly attending spin class, but Mike encouraged me to skip spin and just get on the bike. The first few times I cycled I didn’t really feel like it was a workout – in the end, my back and butt were in much more pain than my lungs and legs. I thought that going to spin would be a better way to get a workout in. Although I definitely would burn more calories in the 60 minute sweat fest they call indoor cycling, I’d go faster on race day if I just get comfortable on the bike.
Tips for Beginner Cyclists
How do you get comfortable? The main way is to ride. But here are some other tips that can help new cyclists get into the groove on the cycle portion of swim-bike-run:
- Relax your upper body as much as possible. You will waste valuable energy by gripping the handle bars for dear life.
- Shift gears frequently. If you are riding a road with rolling hills, you should be shifting nearly constantly (lower gear for uphill, higher gear for downhill).
- Don’t pedal in high gear for long. Try to keep cadence between 70 and 90 rpms.
- When heading over bumpy road, lift your rear off the seat and put your weight in the pedals and handlebars.
- Change position frequently while riding. Move your hands around the handle bars and move your rear around in the saddle to avoid getting numb from being in one position too long.
- Follow traffic rules, including stop signs and stop lights. Never assume that a car will stop at a stop sign or stoplight – always make eye contact with drivers and/or make a signal that you are going to go.
My Cycling Improvements
I must say that in the past five weeks I have seen dramatic improvement in my bicyling. I am much more comfortable on the bike (in the beginning all I could think about was when I would stop next and have to clip out without falling). Although my longer rides (12-16 miles) have been on Fiesta Island which has a 2.5 or 4 mile loop and relatively little traffic, I have ridden on Pacific Highway near our house three times. These have all been early morning rides (before 7 a.m.) to avoid heavy traffic, but I have seen dramatic improvements with each ride. I no longer worry about emergency stops (I had to unclip unexpetedly twice this morning at stoplights), my back and bum pain is less, and I have practiced on some short, steep hills (nearly fell over going up one the other morning but rode up it again this morning successfully). Steep downhill is my far my weakness – I lay on the brakes the entire time and am wracked with fear. I’m definitely not ready for any solo rides or any bike rides to work (10 miles each way), but I can tell that I will be there soon. It’s also becoming more fun the more I ride!
Do you have any tips for me as a beginner cyclist?