It’s fair to say that Holly’s triathlon learning curve has been steeper than most people’s experience in the world of swim, bike and run. So in this next Rookie’s Road piece, she shares some great tips and the valuable lessons that she learnt when getting herself set up on her new set of wheels.

Text by Holly Ransom | Images by Witsup

 

About 2.5 seconds after registering for my first iron-distance triathlon, I was flooded with a moment of panic, “Oh my God this means I need to cycle 180kms … how is that even possible?!”

Cycling definitely had the greatest intimidation factor of any of the three elements for me. Bikes were expensive, and lycra-clad people seemed to both talk their own language and be unnervingly competent. In sharp contrast, I’d never cycled more than 25kms in my life before and the last time I’d been on my bike I’d been collected by a car. So my experience and confidence with this leg were rock bottom levels of low.

As is well chronicled now, for my first iron-distance, I trained all my kilometres on a stationary gym bike – which is really like a self-imposed form or torture! I hired a bike two days before the race and had ridden it for half an hour before taking on Ironman Western Australia in 2015 … Feel free to slow clap my worst practice efforts.

Fortunately, I’m changing my form- fast! Since since joining the Witsup family I’ve been connected to the legends at Liv and the amazing team at Giant South Yarra, who’ve helped demystify the world of cycling for me and have gotten me on to the amazing Liv Envie – which did a stellar job of helping me power around the hills of Napa Valley in my second iron-distance last year.

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So, for those starting out, here are the three big bike lessons I’ve learnt thus far:

 

 1. One size does not fit all – Get a bike fit

I had no idea how many little intricacies there were to getting the proper bike setup but fortunately that’s what bike shop gurus like the team at Giant South Yarra are for! When I visited the store they put me on this awesome machine that replicates a bike setup but then they can manipulate and move it to all sorts of different heights and positioning via a great digital setup. They’ll watch how your knees track and how your body positioning moves and make a recommendation for the optimal fit – then they’ll build your bike accordingly.

I learnt a big lesson during my bike fit: it’s important they fit the bike to the person not the other way round. That might sound straightforward but I probably would have been guilty of thinking you were just meant to take a bike of the rack and (maybe with minor seat adjustment) and just get out there, but that’s a quick way to give yourself an injury. In my case, my lack of riding experience meant the team decided it’d be too aggressive for my body for me to jump straight onto a specific time-trial/triathlon bike like the Liv Avow…

 

After our initial conversation with Holly we gained a valuable understanding of her triathlon and cycling background i.e. that her training had mainly involved the indoor gym bike and treadmill running. We decided to see how Holly looked on our Guru Bike Fit System and after setting the machine to the new Liv Avow dimensions, it was really clear that her pedal stroke and general body stability needed some work. This is really common when you combine a fairly new cyclist who has done the majority of their cycling on a gym bike indoors.

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Our major concern was not that Holly wouldn’t adapt to the bike, but that she could potentially damage herself longer term from learning bad habits in a brand new position, plus it effecting her ability to run off the bike efficiently – and running off the bike is hard enough as it is!

So we reset the system and changed the geometry to a traditional women’s road bike set up by raising the bar height to a road setup and increased the width of the bars. Soon enough we saw that her pedal stroke improved.

The time frame from bike fit to her race in the US last year was tight enough without having to totally retrain the body in both form and posture…” – Giant South Yarra

 

… So we kicked me off on a road bike – the Liv Envie – with time trial bars (you might have seen them – they’re the ones that sit in the middle of your handle bars and allow you to rest on your forearms while cycling). We picked a bike for where my body is at right now and through working with my strength and conditioning guru (the awesome Amber of First Wave Fitness), in time I’ll be able to move to different bike setups and ultimately to different bikes.

 

“Our process in helping any athlete get the most out of their triathlon and cycling endeavours involves sourcing the correct product for their chosen event, getting the correct fit and then understanding what steps are involved in getting the most out of the athlete themselves – after all, the athlete is the engine!

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“When we identify a technique that can’t be corrected with fit alone, having a strength and conditioning expert is ideal. We have been able to develop a dialogue between Amber at First Wave Fitness, ourselves and the client to identify the possible corrective measures required to improve. Amber has the experience and the expertise to not only assess an athlete, but then help improve their mobility, strength and functionality. She then communicates with us about whatever action needs attention, and once improvements are being made, we discuss how we can then improve their position on the bike. A bike fit isn’t a once off – you’ll find that with gains in things like strength and flexibility, the positioning on the bike will change. Team work is key in making sure the client gets the best out of their bike.” – Giant South Yarra

 

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2. You don’t have to spend top dollar to get a great bike, but budget for extra

A great bike store, like the team at Giant South Yarra, will work to your budget, to your fitness goals and help you maximise for both. While you can drop an absolute packet if you like, don’t get me wrong there are a lot of fancy two wheels out there. But I was encouraged to learn that there are entry points at all price levels and degrees of cycling experience.

Heads up though: budget for the extras you need as part of the overall spend you’re prepared to make on your bike. I had no idea how many additional things you needed before you could actually take your bike out on the road. These extras have their own price range (and you can definitely secure them all at really affordable prices) but just make sure you factor them in so you’re not caught off guard. Important extras include:

¨ pedals (which I’m still surprised don’t actually come with a bike … go figure!)

¨ a helmet

¨ bike shoes

¨ lights for your bike – if you’re planning on riding in the early morning or in the evening

¨ Bike puncture/tyre repair kit

Plus, you’re probably going to want some lycra (never thought I’d type those words … I’m a changed person!), including some gear that can withstand the cold morning temps if you’re cycling somewhere

 

3. Comfort builds confidence – rack up the kilometres on your own bike

Practise does make perfect and the more you can get familiar with your own bike the more your confidence will build. For me that involved finding friends to go ride with, and getting a wind trainer so if the Melbourne weather brought its fury I was still doing my training time on my own wheels. A good wind trainer is worth the investment if you’re one of those people who won’t get on their bike unless the conditions are “perfect” or (as in my case) where the hours you train will likely mean that you won’t be able to constantly get in road time.

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Also, lean on the cycling and triathlon community to help you build your confidence. Cycling and triathlon, as I’ve come to learn, is not a community full of intimidating lycra-clad people who don’t have time for anyone who can’t talk “bike” or chew over the Tour de France with them. It’s actually one of most welcoming and enthusiastic communities I’ve been exposed to. It seems cyclists and triathletes love nothing more than welcoming another member into the their fraternity, so all it takes is an expression of your interest to get involved. Stores like Giant South Yarra have regular rides that you can join in on that can help you build your confidence on the road and get comfortable with cycling in groups and it’s a great place to start, and a great way to make new friends!

 

Yours in tri,

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About The Author

Stef Hanson. Chief.

Chief and founder of WITSUP

Serious about what I do, but don’t take myself too seriously

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