Last weekend, I did 3 things that either scare me or that I have never done before: I biked farther than ever before (30 miles), I rode in a group and didn’t crash into anyone, and I rode on a busy road without having a panic attack.
Out of all 3 of the sports of a triathlon, biking scares me the most. I’d say I’m a decent biker, but I’m definitely lacking in the confidence department. Sometimes, I won’t even shift gears when I’m going up a hill because I don’t remember which ones to shift.
I once tried out clipless pedals and even though I didn’t fall, I was so afraid that I might fall, that I changed my pedals back to the regular ones.
I’ve come a long way since then and after practicing these 4 things, I have more cycling confidence, shifting gears is now like second nature and I think I’m finally ready to try out my clipless pedals again.
So if you can relate and you want become more confident on the bike, practice these 4 simple things in your triathlon bike training and you’ll see BIG improvements in your cycling.
As you can see in the video, it used to take me 30 seconds to get started. I would sit on my seat and try to touch the ground on my tip toes and then attempt to get speed by pushing off. I was not very balanced and it was especially difficult and scary for me to get going when I was stopped at a traffic light.
One day in particular, Davey and I were biking and I noticed how effortlessly he was able to start, and so I had him teach me how to gain momentum and start in one smooth, quick motion. After practicing this for a few days, I feel like a new woman. I am more confident and I feel like I have better control of my bike.
To practice this, start by clipping in one foot and bring it up to the top of your pedal stroke. Give yourself a good strong push with your free foot while you use your body weight to press down on the pedal . This will give you enough momentum to help you maintain your balance as you sit back in your seat and clip in your other foot.
Even though you will most likely prefer pushing off with your dominant foot, try and practice this on both sides so that you’ll be comfortable starting no matter what foot you unclip when you stop.
2. Stopping & Dismounting
The main reason that you want to practice stopping and dismounting is because there will be a designated dismount area at your triathlon and it’s usually crowded with other triathletes. Being able to stop quickly and dismount smoothly will help you avoid colliding into other cyclists as you hop off your bike.
A few seconds before you stop, unclip one foot and get ready to set it down on the ground. When I know that I have to stop, I like to unclip as early as possible because I feel like it gives me more control and I am less likely to panic about not being able to unclip my foot.
After you’re unclipped, in one smooth motion, swing your leg over the bike and practice running with your bike, as if you were running to the transition area. I like to hold the handle bars with my outside hand and the seat with my other hand, but do whatever is easiest for you.
Like I mentioned earlier, I used to forget which gears to shift when going up a hill. I would end up having to stop mid-hill and walk my bike up the rest of the way because it was too hard to pedal. If only I had down shifted, I would’ve been able to make it up the hill without stopping.
Shifting is one of those things that once you get the hang of, it becomes like second nature. I was nervous to practice shifting because the few times I actually shifted my front gears, I pressed the lever so hard that my chain fell off. But after a bit of repetition and practice, I’m much more comfortable shifting gears and I am also very good at putting my chain back on too. (see picture)
Take some time and get to know your gears. To start, I put my bike on my car rack and had Davey “pedal” as I shifted the gears and got used to which levers did what. Then, I biked in a deserted parking lot to get comfortable shifting while riding. And finally, when I became confident with that, I graduated to the road.
For me, being able to shift gears has improved my cycling and it has made my rides a lot more enjoyable! No more stopping in the middle of a big hill for me!
It’s easy to break when you anticipate a stop or when you have a few feet to slow down. But breaking to avoid another biker, when you’re going fast or when a traffic light suddenly turns red is another story.
Test the responsiveness of your breaks and practice breaking in various conditions. What you want to avoid is breaking too hard too fast and flying over your handles. I practiced breaking by picking a point ahead of me and trying to stop as close to it as I could. But the tip that has helped me the most when it comes to breaking is to lean back in my seat to counter balance and avoid flying over the handles.
I used to be a very timid and nervous cyclist. But after incorporating these 4 things into my triathlon bike training, my biking has improved so much and I find that I am also a stronger and more confident cyclist.
Now I just need to practice clipping in and out. More on that later 🙂
Another great thing to practice in preparation for your triathlon is changing a flat tire! That way, if you get a flat during the race, you won’t be anxious about it because you’ve done it before and you already know how to change it like a pro!
What are some of your biking tips?
What things have helped you gain confidence on your bike?