How to improve your speed on the bike

4 speed enhancing triathlon tips

Cycling is a sport that really rewards a hard working and intelligent rider. It’s well known that often it’s not the strongest athlete that wins a bike race, rather the most well prepared and intelligent. With that in mind there are many things you can do as a triathlete to improve your bike speed.

Will Clarke

Written by Will Clarke

Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion.  He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.

Train for speed

Hard training is still the most obvious and important factor for improving your overall speed and something you can’t ever shy away from, you won’t be a strong rider unless you’ve done the work. To be quick you need the whole package, you have to have a solid endurance base developed in the off-season, you have to have well developed threshold powers, and you have to have put the cherry on top of your form with the max power work. This needs to be repeated consistently week in week out, year after year.

Get out your comfort zone

Everyone likes to put in the easy, comfort zone miles with their friends but unfortunately once you’ve ticked that box the major improvements come from doing the hard yards. In the winter time try to build up as many base miles as you can manage around the other things in your life, but also start to build up the amount of hours you can spend in you other training zones before really putting in the maximal threshold work and speed as the first races approach.

Racing frequently is also great for your form, so have patience and focus on getting a little bit better each race. Each race you finish you’ll gain a little more experience and that all counts towards getting faster on the bike.  

Work on your aero position

Your body position when sitting on the bike is also vital when trying to improve your speed. It’s all about limiting the drag on your body as much as possible whilst still able to put as much power through the pedals as you can. There is no point in holding a super aerodynamic position if you’re struggling to put force through the pedals, but at the same time, it’s ok to lose 10 watts of power if you’re gliding through the air with a very fast position.

Really it’s a balance you have to work out for yourself and be warned it’s a never ending process and something you should constantly strive to improve throughout your cycling career. The body adapts over time and if you work hard enough on it you will be able to increase your mobility and hold more aggressive positions. If you aim to look like a missile then you’re heading in the right direction so your position should be quite compact, arm pads and bars should be set quite low, arms are brought in towards each other with your head tucked into your body out of the wind.

Make smart equipment choices

Making smart equipment choices is also crucial to going fast on a bike, and again, there are many things you can do. Most important in my eyes is the frame, not only for the weight, strength and aerodynamics of the frame but more so the position that you can get into. Bikes these days are very adaptable, but the frame you ride does needs to suit your body and be adaptable enough to accommodate your position. After that wheel choice is very important. On most courses you should ride a disc wheel if you have one and a deep front wheel on the calmer days. It’s also amazing the difference an aero helmet and skin suit makes, so that is definitely something worth considering strongly if you are after some free speed.

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