Triathlon bikes are squirrelly aerodynamic beasts. They are great for speed, but frame geometry, riding down on aerobars and weight distribution (especially with bento boxes and bar-mounted hydration systems) can make tri bikes especially difficult to handle as compared to road bikes.
However, if you improve your own bike skills, you will become more comfortable and capable maneuvering your triathlon bike.
Here are bike handling tips that you can practice:
- Focus on where you want to go. If you are taking a corner, look ahead to where you want to be exiting the corner. This helps you move in that direction. Have you ever looked off to the side of the road and found yourself on the very edge of the pavement? Same principle, but instead of using your eyesight to go where you want to, it was a distraction that probably caused some anxiety as you nearly left the road surface!
- Avoid braking in the corner. Think about how you drive a car. If you see a corner coming up and you have too much speed, you brake right before the corner. The concept is exactly the same while riding. If you feel you have a bit too much speed, brake in advance of the corner and release the brakes through the turn if possible. Braking hard in a corner can lead to sliding out.
- Take the apex through a corner. This means to take the straightest line through the corner, which keeps you more upright through the turn and allows you to ride through it faster. As an example of how to take a sharp left corner: as you approach the corner, start the turn on the far right side of the road. As you enter the turn, move left towards the yellow line (without crossing), then as you head out of the turn allow the bike to drift back over to the right.
- Loosen up your grip and your body will follow. If you are going over uneven surfaces, keep your hands loose and allow the bike to come up to your body as it bounces. Practice keeping your grip loose by checking in on yourself throughout your ride and consciously release any tension. Keep your grip controlled but somewhat loose when your nerves start to get the better of you, such as on a descent or during a strong crosswind.
Other Ways to Pick Up Bike Handling Skills
- Take a bike clinic. Local bikes shops and coaches often collaborate to put on various clinics throughout the season. They might not have a clinic specific to triathlon – that’s okay. You can still learn skills from a cyclocross clinic or a mountain bike clinic.
- Ride a different type of bike. This goes back to the same point – the skills you learn on one bike will translate to other bikes. You may actually be more comfortable learning on a different type of bike until your ability level progresses.
- Ride behind people who are more skilled than you. Watch their lines and how their body reacts. This is especially helpful when it comes to learning how to descend and take corners.
- Watch cyclists on TV. The Tour de France is the most popular bike race to watch, but there are many others you can find on video. In addition to watching how they ride, listen to what the commentators say when they hit challenging road conditions.
Ultimately, the more you ride the better you will be at handling your triathlon bike and the more comfortable you will be at high speeds. So get out and ride!