4 Types of Bicycle Drills to Help Your Bicycle Performance in Triathlons

One of my biggest weakness in triathlon is on the bicycle. I have found that there are four types of bicycle drills that I can use that will help me in my bicycle performance. These drills are intended to help you with a few factors that will include your bicycle speed whenever you’re doing a triathlon. To achieve a better bicycle performance you need to increase ability used in several areas: one of these areas is strength; one area is endurance; Another area is rotations per minute which is commonly called cadence; and a final area involves smoothness of peddling or the pedal stroke. These drills are best performed inside on a trainer where you do not have to worry about falling over or worrying about traffic and you can fully concentrate on the drill itself.

Strength:

When I first began bicycling and preparing for races, I realized that I was very weak in the bicycle stroke. I have certainly had different times in which I use my legs for specific exercises. I had run some. I had also participated in golf over the years and had determined that I had some level of leg strength. However, ever since I had really been involved in weightlifting or any other physical exercise of my legs I knew that I was relatively weak. Every time that I had attempted to strengthen my legs I either mentally was not that much accustomed to doing it or I simply ignored the responsibility to increase the strength in my legs. If you ever look at a cyclist body, especially those who do track work, you will see that their thighs are incredibly large. This is because they have spent countless hours strengthening their leg muscles. I knew that I would need to do this if I ever wanted to be faster on the bike leg of any race. In bicycling, you do have certain specific muscles that you use as opposed to other sports. Certainly any general strengthening of your legs will do well whenever you are going to get on the bicycle, but whenever you are really trying to increase your bicycle performance you need to work on drills that will work specifically on bicycle muscles.

Drills:

1. Short Burst – One of the specific drills that has helped me increase my bicycle leg strength is toget on my trainer in my garage and to apply the greatest amount of pressure on my legs for short amounts of time. I generally think of this as sort of like doing a rep of a squat. For example I might try to sit on the bike and begin to pedal smoothly in a low gear where I feel like I have relative control of my legs and then to ramp it up to the highest gear for a period of 30 seconds and then go back to a lower gear to be able to have the drill complete. I might do 7 to 8 reps of this as one set and then pedal smoothly for a couple of minutes. Because I am riding on my bike and really doing almost a weightlifting set, I am working specifically on my bicycling leg muscles.

2. Drag Race – Another exercise I do on the bike I call a drag race. The reason I call it a drag race is because it feels like someone has placed a hundred pounds on my legs whenever I finish this particular exercise on the bike. I will be sitting on the bike and peddling smoothly. I will then shift into the hardest possible gear while sitting on my trainer. I will maintain this particular gearing for a period of 60 seconds. I will do this as hard as I can. I feel my heart rate elevated and my legs are screaming by the end of this particular exercise. I will do about 3 to 4 sets of this before finishing this particular exercise. These exercises on the bike are working specifically on the muscles in your legs so that you have a better bicycle performance.

3. Step Ups – Another drill that I do often to offer the bike is where I will place a bench or a chair in front of me and then do step ups. The step up consist of raising one leg up on top of the chair placing my foot on top of the chair. And then I will lift up my entire body to where my other foot comes into contact with the top of the chair. I will then go back down and then I will go up again. I will do eight reps of this on one leg and then switch legs and that would be one set. I will complete 3 to 4 sets. I can do this exercise without weights, but I can also add weights which will supply even more strengthening of my legs.

4. Wall Squats – Another drill or exercise off of the bike is to do wall squats. This is where you would get in a seated position leaning up against the wall with no chair underneath you. You would hold this position for as long as you can and build up over time to being a minute to a minute and a half. This will give you strength with your legs and will enable you to be able to have a better bicycle performance.

Of course there are many other exercises both on and off of the bike that can aid in strengthening your bicycling leg muscles, but I have found these four to be especially key in increasing my bike performance in a triathlon.

Endurance:

When you’re attempting to do a triathlon of any distance whether it’s Sprint, Olympic, half Iron Man, or a full Iron Man distance race, you need endurance on the bike. For all the distances of triathlon, the bike portion of the race is the longest portion of the race. For the sprint distance it can range anywhere from 14 miles to 18 miles. For the Olympic or international distance it can be upwards of 26 miles. For the half Iron Man distance it’s a set 56 miles and for the full Iron Man distance it’s 112 miles. Each of these distances of the bike leg will challenge your endurance abilities. There are several drills that aid in my overall endurance for the bike leg. Remember that it is not only the endurance to finish the bike leg, but then you also have to run. One of the key factors in success in triathlon is the ability to ride as fast as possible on the bike and then leave yourself with enough energy and power to finish the run strong.

Drills:

1. Basic Aerobic Ride – The first drill that I do is a basic aerobic drill. This inside on the bike trainer. I complete a 15 minute warm-up of various high intensity and low intensity intervals. Then I will start an aerobic interval of about 20 to 45 minutes. All I’m doing during this time is just trying to maintain a steady heart rate and the ability to pedal this entire time without stopping. By doing this on a trainer you will find that this can be a challenging time to be able to accomplish all of the set because there is no hill to coast down of and no stop lights to pause at. I try to find that balance in this drill between increasing the time of the interval and the power of the interval so as to increase my endurance overall.

2. End it Good – The second drill I do is one that I like to do toward the end of a workout. By the time I get to this particular drill, I want to be fairly exhausted. You might equate this to the sprint at the finish line, but I also like to think of it as those last 3-5 miles of an Ironman distance 112 mile bike ride. I will be on my trainer and start to increase the resistance on the trainer along with increasing my pedal stroke. I will have a set length or distance in mind of how long I will do this. I want to see my heart rate jump quite a bit from its aerobic state. What I am looking for is my absolute last breath of exhaustion. The main purpose of this drill is to end the bike workout completely exhausted. My goal is to increase the amount of time and the power needed for this end of workout drill.

Rotations per Minute:

I was not familiar with this metric as far as an ability to go faster in triathlon races, but it makes perfect sense. One of the things that you need to increase for triathlon success is to increase the number of pedal strokes you have at a given heart rate at a given resistance. For example, if you are on a long flat area of a highway you want to see if you can have more pedal strokes per minute with your heart rate remaining the same. Many pro-cyclists will pedal at 90 rotations per minute for a majority of a race. I do not know if you have tried to do this, but I have a hard time keeping that high of an RPM. This last year, I began to train more to try and increase the speed of my turnover and toward the end of the year I saw some real benefit to this additional area of training.

Drills:

1. Short-Burst – The first drill is an all out sprint drill.You would want to warm-up for about 15 minutes. Then at a given time you will want to complete a sudden burst where you try and reach 110-120 RPM’s on your cadence meter for about 15 seconds with a rest of 30 seconds after. The first time you try this you will feel like your feet are flying off, but over time you will get better at it. You will want to do 4 of these at first and then build up to 10 or more over time. These short burst drills will help your turn over to get faster. You may bounce around a bit in the saddle, but this improve over time as well.

2. Pyramid – In this particular pyramid drill you are going to complete several variations of the same drill. The basic drill is to pedal as fast as you can, but in this drill you are going to pedal fast while increasing resistance. On your trainer begin to pedal smoothly. After a couple of minutes you will want to complete a short burst drill then the next drill you will want to increase the resistance either by changing gears on your bike or changing the dial on your trainer. You will then complete a second burst. You will go through 3-4 progressions of the drill getting harder and then returning back to an easier amount. Each time you want to keep your feet going fast.

3. Circe run – The last drill happens off the bike. Place a towel or some flat object on the ground. You will then run in a circle around the towel using sharp and fast steps. Do 30 seconds clockwise and then 30 seconds counterclockwise. After you complete one set, rest for a couple of minutes and then do another set. This action of moving your feet fast will help in your overall fast twitch muscles and with pedaling faster.

Remember that if you can pedal faster then you can go faster on the bike during any triathlon.

Smoothness of the Pedal Stroke:

Everyone knows that the bicycle pedal stroke goes in a circle, right? Unfortunately, while people hope it goes in a circle, it often goes in an oblong shape and you are losing valuable power because of this oblong shape. Also, may cyclists struggle with keeping their pedal stroke genuinely steady and smooth thus losing speed and endurance because the pedal stroke is so erratic. These drills have helped me to make my pedal stroke smoother and also to be in a circle and not oblong.

1. One leg drills – One of the biggest advantage of doing these drills on an indoor trainer is that you do not have to worry about falling down. One drill that this helps with is the one leg drill.This drill involves taking one foot out of the pedal while the other does all of the work. The one leg should pedal and do all of the work while the other foot is not even on the pedal. This will help overtime to make your pedal stroke more round and smooth. You could switch legs every 30 seconds or so for a period of 4 minutes and 30 seconds.

2. Push and Pull drill – When you ride with lipless pedals and your feet are locked in on the pedal, you can perform a drill that will help with smoothing out the pedal stroke. This drill is focusing on the push and the pull of the pedal.I would suggest a medium difficulty of power needed to pedal the bicycle. You will focus in on the feeling either in one leg or in both of pulling through the stroke and then pushing over the stroke. Many times on the road or in a race you cannot concentrate this hard on this action, so drilling this over and over will help to smooth out your pedal stroke and thus maximizing your speed and power on the bike.

Each of these drill swill help you in getting faster on the triathlon bike discipline of any race.