One of the key items in any triathlon is the Bike. The bike leg of any triathlon race is always the longest portion. You will either be able to gain on the field or you will fall back in the field depending on your bike leg. You can recover from a bad swim, but it is hard to recover from a bad bike leg even if you are a good runner. There are several aspects to the bike in triathlon that are important to consider. First, what kind of bike are you going to purchase and how much are you willing to spend? Second, are you willing to learn the art of bike mechanics so as to better learn your bike or are you going to pay for someone to do the servicing on your bike? Third, how hard are you willing to train to achieve an excellent result on the bike.
The bike purchase and all of its accessories is the most expensive part of triathlon training and racing. You can find triathlon specific bikes that are well north of $10,000. You may have the ability to cut that kind of check, but the vast majority of those who are getting into the sport don't. Although, it is always interesting to me to look into the Craigslist sales on bikes and see how many of them have a description that says "I purchased this bike thinking I was going to do a triathlon, but I decided I am not doing that anymore and it has low mileage." You can actually get some pretty good deals this way. One of my friends was able to purchase a $7,000 bike for about half the price because of one of these types of sales. The bike was practically brand new.
In my humble opinion, you do not need to go out and purchase a several thousand dollar bike. In fact, if you are deciding whether you are going to get into this sport or not, then start off with an old 10 speed borrowed from your neighbor before buying into the expensive bike. You may save yourself a trip to Craigslist.
I do think you want to get a bike that is the right size for you. Yes, bikes have sizes. I did not know this when I first started out. Just like as shoe size, bikes can have varying sizes. It is best to try and determine your bike size which can be done by measuring your inseam or going to a bike shop to get their opinion. Secondly, make the wise choice of bike. If you are primarily going to ride for triathlons then get a triathlon specific bike, but if not a good road bike will do just fine. I do have a bike that could pass for a road bike or a Tri bike and I do just fine. The difference is that my handlebars are Tri specific handlebars for aerodynamics.
The main thing you want to be as comfortable on your bike as possible. You do not want to be riding for an 18, 24, 56, or 112-mile bike ride and be absolutely uncomfortable. Also, train on your bike to get better by doing drills and not just slogging along riding. The bike leg of the race is critical, work on specific exercises and drills for biking and you will improve.
Learn Bike Mechanics:
I am an amateur bike mechanic, but I can hold my own in adjusting my bike. I have learned through trial and error that being your own bike mechanic can pay dividends when it comes to race day. I know how to change my chain which I do every 1,000 miles or so, lube my drivetrain, calibrate my brakes, change tires, and adjust my derailleurs. All of these are important to not only maintaining your bike but also having a bike leg that is free of breakdowns. I have seen many guys out on the course walking their bike because they had a breakdown, These breakdowns are probably because they did not take the time to do proper maintenance and it is expensive at a bike shop. They chose to come to the race without the proper maintenance on the bike and they are paying for it now.
Last year on one of my races, I saw a racer running an incredibly fast run. They were absolutely flying on the course in the half marathon of a half ironman. Unfortunately, their bike leg was so bad that they are behind. This was not because of a breakdown but had that much difficulty on that leg of the race. That person needs to work on his biking skills and he would be an excellent triathlon racer. Training on the bike is different than the swim and run. The bike is meant to be the middle leg of a three-leg race. You can make up a lot of ground on the bike but you can also set your run up for failure if you push too hard. The bike is the leg that you can maintain a lower heart rate yet still, attain a high rate of speed.
I have found that the harder I work at my biking fitness the better my run becomes. This only makes sense because I am not absolutely exhausted when I finish the bike leg of the race.
I practice biking drills with Individual Leg drills and Variable Gearing Drills to help me. I also do long aerobic sets of 30 minutes or more to maintain a good heart rate. I have seen my heart rate stay low but my speed increase already. I also spent some time during the offseason doing leg squats, wall squats, and other leg workouts to come back stronger on the bike. I have found that these workouts have truly helped me be better on the bike.
The bike leg is really important in a triathlon. Make sure you are well prepared to tackle the various aspects of the Bike in Triathlon.