2 Minutes to a Better Bike Split!

Photo of a triathlete taking a break after a run interval
December 13, 2016

Mike Ricci


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We all know that improvements on the bike can yield huge gains in your next race. Regardless of what distance your racing, a solid bike is right around the corner.

Let’s discuss a few ways to make improvements on the bike for the upcoming race season. Notice that the time of year is the fall, and we are in November.  This a great time to develop something new, without any rush.  Improvements on the bike may take time, months, and miles. As most of us have family and job time commitments, we need to be efficient with how we approach these improvements. Following are a few ways to kill your old personal bests and make new ones!

Before we get into that killer list, you have to commit to wanting a better bike – more than ever before!  This will be a big challenge if you prefer to do a half marathon or marathon in the spring because that means you will be committing to your run. Which is great, if you want to improve your run.   I’m here to share that you don’t have to sacrifice one discipline for another discipline. What I mean is, don’t trade. You don’t have to make one a weakness to gain improvements in another.  You can have a good balance between all of the tri-disciplines, but commit to the bike, love the bike! Embrace it and know you will be a whole different animal.
Here we go!

Get to the weight room. The priority in the gym is GOOD technique and form. I recommend a once a week core and stability session with another day per week of body weight exercises. Get your plank on.  Planks will strengthen your hips, glutes, hamstrings, abs, and lower back.  All that strengthening will lead to increased stability, and flexibility. I also recommend at least one day a week focused on strength.  Classics such as squats, weighted lunges, single leg exercises, etc. are easy go-to exercises.  A weight program that is a bit leg heavy will translate as much as the planks. I also recommend changing the routine every 3-5 weeks – rotating between a basic traditional transition period to hypertrophy and strength periods throughout the winter months.  Send me an email if you’d like more information on those three.

Make the time. Plan on two workouts for most days with most days having a bike workout. For example, swim and then bike, run and then bike, bike and then run, weight room and then bike. Then, using your weekends for long rides (2-3 hours). Assign a purpose/a focus to one workout each day.  Either a priority of effort, or a certain intensity.  You might decide that your bike/run day that your priority is really the run that day, or vice versa.  Focus on that objective as you move through the workout. Priority number 1. Get on the Bike. The objective i the purpose and intensity of the workout.
Frequency. If you want serious gains, plan on a minimum of four days a week, but 5-6 days a week should be a consideration for at least one training week per month. I suggest most of those days riding for an hour (either trainer or outside), and one day each week should be an endurance ride.

Be mindful of good pedal technique. Practice cycling drills: single leg pedaling, pushing over the top and scrapping the bottom of the pedal are two drill examples. Are your legs pistons simply moving up and down, or do they have a flow, a bit of round flexion at the ankle?  Be a little heal driven especially if your a toe-down pedaler. Be mindful and practice coming over the top of the pedal stroke, engaging in a flatter foot and sweeping the heel back through at the bottom.

Intensity.  For the most part, all your rides and all your workouts dont necessarily need to have a detailed structure of time, intervals, specific numbers to watch out for. Its simply about getting some miles in on the bike, If you start riding too hard you’ll be forced to go easy at some point, or you’ll be sick of going hard when its really time to go hard in the spring or summer.  Now that doesnt mean its simply easy and fluff. I would recommend most of the riding you do, commute to work, lunch time rides, trainer rides long rides, should be about enjoying the time on the bike, getting in the miles. I would say that maybe 1-3 workouts per week could have some form of intensity. Especially if they are on the trainer and it keeps the boredom at bay. I usually recommend short bursts right now and not a lot of long threshold stuff. If it plays out that your riding with a friend, or your feeling good and want to push it, have fun, Go with your body feeling go take advantage of that. But most of your miles will be fairly comfortable Z1-2.Have fun, and try to ride with others.

Zones. Remember the race you did last summer, you had your PowerMeter on, or you averaged an incredible speed, well that was your summer fitness. Your training now, should revolve around your current fitness. It’s November, and a few months have passed since your last race.  In fact, your not racing, and your intensity is not the same.  Therefore your zones will not be the same as they were in the summer. You need to test to see where your fitness is at the current time of year your training in. I might be 30 watts lower in the winter for my threshold, but if I pretend to train at my summer threshold during the winter months, I will most like not have any fun.  Make sure that you train at your current fitness.  You will most likely regain that summer threshold with the goal of surpassing it – at the right time of the season.

Bike fit. Comfort, power and efficiency yield better endurance. If your having pain or problems or discomfort, this is NOT normal. D3 has a great partnership with ReTul Bike Fits and they will help you gain comfort and power.

Handling. Lets admit it, bike handling is probably the number one reason cyclists don’t like riding with a triathlete. We break too hard in the corners, and some of us get a bit tense and wiggly when we are enclosed in a pack. Here’s a suggestion to fix those jitters: get to a closed parking lot and use the islands and really practice coming through corners. Get your center of gravity nice and low and keep the speed up. Stand on your outside pedal. Push on it. Take a skills clinic and then practice it. Be part of the machine your are spending so much time on. Get comfortable in every condition that you’ll be exposed to during a race.  That way, the next race you are in, you won’t have to be accelerating back up to speed from all that was lost from breaking in the corners. You can lose anywhere from 8-20 seconds per corner, depending on your cornering confidence (or lack there of).  This applies to both a road bike and TT bike.

Long rides. Call me crazy but I create little micro vacations. I make them for myself, for my wife and I, and then for the family as a whole.  In the spring and maybe again in the early summer, plan a 3-5 day bike focus, where that is all you have to do!  The time in the saddle will be well spent.  Perhaps you can go with friends, or through a supported bike tour, anyhow you get out there – know that putting in 65 miles a day will add up to incredible gains. Bike focused distance days will solidify all focused effort and will boost your confidence.

Be the animal, that is the most efficient animal to ever live on the most efficient land machine ever created – a bike!

Coach Mike Ricci is the Founder and Head Coach for D3 Multisport.  His coaching style is ‘process-focused’ vs. ‘results-focused.’ When working with an athlete, their understanding of how and why they are improving is always going to take precedence over any race result. Yes, there is an end goal, but in over 2 decades of coaching, experience has shown him that if you do the right work, and for the right reasons, the results will follow.

Coach Mike is a USAT Level III Elite Certified Coach, Ironman University Certified Coach, and Training Peaks Level II Certified Coach. He was honored as the USAT Coach of the Year.

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