26 Jan 2016


Thinking about trying triathlon and from a cycling background? You’re in the right place. But before you head out and begin swimming and running to complement your riding, pinpoint the triathlon distance you’re looking to race:

Super sprint – 400m swim / 10km bike / 2.5km run
Sprint – 750m swim / 20km bike / 5km run
Olympic – 1.5km swim / 40km bike / 10km run
70.3 or middle – 1.9km swim / 90km bike / 21.1km run
Ironman or long course – 3.8km swim / 180km bike / 42.2km run

We listed some of the world’s best triathlons in our Top 10 feature but of course there are many shorter local options, and Sprint or Olympic distance are often the best place to start!

You should also be aware that you can make your move to triathlon a more gradual process by taking part in a duathlon. This is where the swim is replaced by a second run, though, as you’ll discover, a swim may be a safer option when it comes to preventing injury.

There’s a lot to learn but the good news is that some of the best long-course triathletes in the world come from a cycling background including six-time Ironman Hawaii champion Natascha Badmann. The aerobic endurance, strength and power you build from cycling have clear transfer effects to swimming and running. In fact, the highest-ever recorded VO2max was in 2012 when Norwegian Oskar Svendsen registered 97.5ml/min/kg. Still, there are a few essential training ideas to ease you into multisport.

Swimming at the start of the beautiful Alpe d’Huez Triathlon (image copyright: Laurent Salino / Alpe d’Huez Tourisme)

Swimming is the most technique-heavy discipline of the three so it’s wise to buy some swim coaching, at least to begin with. A coach will maximize your time and help you practise good technique rather than what you think is good technique.

There are many drills you can follow to improve technique but you can’t beat consistency of training, especially when it comes to training your neurological system to execute the new movement patterns. That’s why it’s much better to swim two or three times each week for a total of no more than an hour rather than just the one session of one hour or longer. Keeping balanced, learning to breathe efficiently and building upper-body strength are three key areas to work on.

Michelle Vesterby demonstrates a perfectly balanced position in the bar extensions

Handling a triathlon bike
Handling a triathlon bike is a very different proposition than a road bike. Those bar extensions might steer you into a streamlined position but they make handling a more complex affair – which is one reason you’re not allowed them in non-drafting events.

The most practical advice, to start with anyway, is to use them on flat sections and descents that aren’t winding. These provide safe environments to ease yourself into your new aero position. Do this by pedaling at a steady cadence, removing one hand from the handlebar and placing your elbow on the aerobar pad, clenching the aerobar near the front (where the bar-end shifters will be if you use these). Do the same with your other arm. Check out our guide to clip-on bars.

Maintain a nice, relaxed neck and shoulders – do this by tensing and then relaxing so you feel what ‘relaxed’ is – and tilt your eyes so that you’re not craning your neck. When looking to sit upright, remove one arm at a time, just so you have stability in case you hit a pothole or are struck by a sidewind.

Check back here next week when we’ll bring you a set of Tri Bike Fit Tips.

Pedro Gomes lengthens his stride – lots of practise goes into getting your cadence right approaching T2, to optimise your run. Lots more transition tips here

As cyclists, you’ve built huge engines and quadriceps that resemble Hercules’. Sadly, your joints, muscles and bones just aren’t used to the impact of running so are susceptible to breaking down, especially when starting off.

Go to a respected running or triathlon store so they can analyze your run gait and help you choose the right shoes for you. Then build up run distance and duration slowly, even starting with a run/walk scenario. So your first session could be 15min long, split between 2min walking, 1min running and repeated five times. You can then slowly change this ratio until you’re running for the full 15min.

You should also run off-road as much as you can because it not only reduces the forces firing through your body, but also engages core muscles that simply aren’t used on the road.

There are lots more tips throughout the Vision website for triathlons, to help you improve your technique and enjoy yourself more. Good luck – and don’t forget to let us know how you get one, via the social media links below.