Unsolicited advice to triathletes who are reluctant cyclists

I’m thinking here of Caitlin, from Fit and Feminist (though it sounds like she’s learned to love the bike a bit at least) and this blog’s Tracy. But they’re not alone. I’ve met a few triathletes, even some very fast ones, who are at best reluctant cyclists.

I met a half iron triathlete out on the bike last week and I was doing my usual thing of raving about how much I love fall riding. In short: I’m fit, it’s cooler, no races, and pretty colours.

She whispered, “I have a secret. I kind of hate cycling.”

Uh oh.

Here are my two cents for the triathlete who is a reluctant cyclist.

Want to get faster? Want to learn to love your bike?


Ride lots.

Ride as late into the fall as your gear and temperament allows. Ride as early in the spring as you can manage. Buy cold weather cycling clothes and in the polite version of the standard cycling saying, toughen up.

Find your inner Jens.

More Jens.

And more.

(Sorry. I have a bit of a Jens crush, like most other women in the world who ride road bikes. Actually like most other people in the world with road bikes. Men love Jens too.)

Ride long and easy some of the time. Ride hard and fast other times. Learn to suffer and like it.

Ride hills, ride intervals, ride into the countryside and drink coffee with friends.

Ride with slow friends. Best of all, ride with the fastest people you know willing to have you along.

Ride your bike.

It’s that simple and that hard.

Time spent running/training volume is the biggest single predictor of marathon success , so too cycling is all about time on the bike.

Nothing beats it.

I know triathletes aren’t just cyclists. You also run and swim. I get that.

But if you’re already a fast swimmer or a fast runner, go into maintenance mode with swimming and/or running. The biggest place you can make gains and improve your overall time is on the bike.

And yes, over the worst of the winter, you can ride a trainer. You can take spin classes. You can use rollers. You can crosstrain. Here’s seven options.

But, in my experience, the best you can manage over the winter is maintaining bike fitness, not building it.

You want to end the fall on a high note. It’s downhill from there.

Just like running on a treadmill doesn’t compare to road miles, so too the trainer is always second best to riding. Yes, it’s good for intervals. Just like the treadmill. But that might be its only advantage.

I know. It’s not what you want to hear. But to get faster on your bike, you have to ride your bike. Lots.

Maybe you’ll even come to love it. I hope so.

See you out there on the road!

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