Correct Bike Set Up

The correct bike set up is of vital importance to an Ironman or Triathlon athlete. If your bike is set up incorrectly you will not get the required muscle power and be cycling inefficiently. Injuries can also affect you if your bike is not set up correctly.

Be prepared to change your bike set up to perform at your best for different types of triathlon courses.
12 weeks is the minimum that you need to get use to these changes although the more time you give yourself will mean you have time to make minor adjustments and still be able to feel comfortable.

FLAT CYCLE COURSES
Aim for the tip of your saddle to be between 0-35mm behind the bottom bracket.

This will allow you to sit forward or towards the front of the saddle to optimize aerodynamics as faster bike times are more dependant on being aero.

To improve this use a double mounted bottle cage behind the saddle or aero bottle between tri bars. Staying in the saddle and being more aerodynamic not moving hands to change gears is helped by having bar end shifters.

Crank arm length.

The standard crank arm length is 170 mm but this is based on cyclist from 5’5” TO 6’0”. It is suggested that shorter cyclist 5’0”-5’5” use 165-167.5 mm cranks riders 5’5”-6’0” use Cyclist 6’0”-6’2” use a crank length of 172.5 mm, 6’2”-6’4” use 175 mm and taller riders use 180 or 185 mm.

Two individuals may be the same height but their leg measurements may be different use this to help you decide or speak to a qualified frame builder as they have the best expertise. Having the optimum crank length will make you efficient. Long cranks are helpful for pushing big hard gears and cycling up hills at powerful slow revolutions per minute. Short crank lengths are best for low easy gears and high revolutions per minute.

If changing your cranks take measurements first as this can alter your saddle height, also check knee and foot position for the best power position (see correct bike set up)

Mix up riding in the easy gears 80-100 revs per minute with harder gears 55-80 revs per minute especially if training for an Ironman Triathlon on a hilly course.

Hilly triathlon routes- To be an all round effective rider and not lose too much time on the climbs it is recommended to aim for a power position where aerodynamics are less critical and powerful climbing is more important.

The following suggested set up for improved climbing has been used successfully.

Aim for the tip of the saddle to be further back (vertical) between 45-85mm behind the bottom bracket. A word of caution though as this will alter the new length from peddles to saddle (often making the gap between the two points of contact further apart so you may need to drop saddle height).
Flat riding position speed can be achieved to generate more power on the flat by sitting on the tip of the saddle.Undulating routes.

You almost need a bit of each position to be most effective so set up your position (tip of saddle needs to be 30-60mm (whatever feels best) behind vertical line above bottom bracket as this will help you with climbing, make sure you are not too far back as this will make you less aero.Sit on the tip on the flats and sit further back when climbing.

HILLY ROUTES
Hill climbing riding a bike.

Saving weight helps you climb; the cheapest option is losing body weight not buying lighter bike components. Your enemy is gravity when climbing by riding hills in the saddle will give you cycle specific strength that will also translate to on the flat roads. Pace yourself up the hills and you will be able to push over the top and hammer safely down the other side.

Some riders prefer to keep up their speed by climbing out of the saddle occasionally or all the way up, often your speed and time taken will be the same but often your heartbeat will be higher climbing this way.

Ride hills regularly do not avoid them you may never become the best climber in the world but you will personally become much better.

Use all the gears you have in training do not always use your lowest (easiest) on every climb. When out training that is the time to practice, find a hill not too steep that takes between 2-4 minutes Your heart rate should be at 85-90% of your heart rate hard but so hard that you can not do another one.

Experiment in either different gear either the same all the way up; hitting the start hard to build up speed or just riding steady everyone has an optimum way to efficiently get to the top. It is rare that anyone can attack the hill at top speed because even the best climbers cannot sustain it over the top.When you get fitter your cadence can be kept high to enable you to recover quickly when you get to the top.

Conditions change each time you ride even the same hill you may feel more tired or great one time it can be a tail wind and the hill feels easy another time it feels like your breaks are rubbing when it is a head wind. And you labor up the hill.Consider how your fitness is developing and use these subtle changes of adaptation to look inside. Going fast on the flat is more about aerodynamics and power, to go twice as fast on the flat can require up to eight times as much power.

HANDLE BARS
Correct handlebar reach is the distance from the handlebars and the tip of the saddle.

To work out your own individual distance carry out the following. Place your elbow at the front of the saddle and forearm and hands towards the handlebars. Your fingers out stretched should be 2-5 cm short of touching the handlebars. If your fingers touch the bars then you may find yourself too cramped up, or if you are over stretched you could end up with neck ache and your core muscles will be used a lot more. You can also compromise your balance. Aim for 2cm gap between the tips of your fingers and the drop bars if you use triathlon bars and up to 5cm if you ride mostly on the handlebars.

RUN AFTER THE TRIATHLON
If you fail to have the correct bike set up you will not be able to run to the best of your ability afterwards.