Improve Triathlon Cycling Performance

by Ivan

I have been a decent runner (40-42 mins for 10k) for many years, but just cycle for fun. I recently started doing triathlon after learning to swim. In a recent triathlon I was bottom 20% on the bike and top 20% on the run. Why am I finding the bike so difficult? What can I do to improve speed?

Intelligent Triathlon Training replies:


To run a decent 10k you need a reasonable cardiovascular fitness which with the right training is transferable to other sports - within reason. However you need the specific training to really allow this to come through.

Your position on the bike should be checked first. Being set up poorly can mean you overload (usually) your quads and under use your glutes. This will cause premature fatigue and will limit how much power you can apply. Aerodynamics will also play a part in bike performance.

Experienced athletes will have become accustomed to a more aero position that enables them to go faster for less energy. You don’t need to look like one of the Olympic team pursuiters as this is very extreme and not sustainable for long, however the principles are roughly similar.

The first area of training you need to do is ride your bike; simple.

Ride regularly rather than one big hit a week as this will help to condition your muscles to the actions of cycling. This in turn makes you more efficient and you will go faster for less energy expenditure. But you could also say that to go faster you need to first go slower.

If you are in this for the long game then take your time, don’t ride too hard (~70% heart rate max or less) and build up the duration you ride for. Once you are comfortable with regular riding over distances that are up to double race duration you are ready to start some more specific riding.

At this time I would start to introduce some intervals, you can get some idea of these from our bike speed pages - focus on the LT2 area of training.

If you want a more immediate return, then you will have to be satisfied with a lower potential. This is because you won’t be able to build a good foundation as in the above example, and will go straight to the speed. This will be more reversible, so if you miss training or stop for even a few days you will begin to reverse your training effects. The same thing applies though, the more regularly you can ride the better.

Riding in the hills will help to develop cardiovascular fitness, whilst also building strength endurance. But unless you have no option where you live use mixed terrain, as in most races you need to be able to ride fast on the flat.

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