Back from a nice ride earlier today through the Sussex countryside with up and coming triathlete and GB Age Group Qualifier, Beth on a special ZigZag Alive ride.
Beth had won a free ZigZag swim session in a recent prize draw. When we chatted through what might be of most interest, we quickly came to the conclusion that some time together on the bike rather than in the pool would be better as she is already a very strong swimmer but is less confident on the bike. So braving a rather chilly wind and ominous grey skies, we set off to use some of the quieter lanes near her home to see what might help most and particularly to get her more confident in taking corners and descents.
With our very first Mallorca Experience Tri Camp at the end of next week it also gave me a chance to remind myself of some of the key things to look for and a few tips to share. The following gives a brief run down of some of these, which apply whether in chilly Sussex or balmy Mallorca:
- position and feel: safety checks done, the starting point for me is to look at how someone is seated on their bike and to ask how they feel when riding and at the end. We're aiming for maximum comfort, relaxed shoulders and a lightness of touch. No overreaching or tension or swaying around. A few tweaks to the bike set up can make an enormous difference. Getting a proper professional bike fit is one of the very best investments any rider can make. Then keep the body still, letting all your energy go into the legs to do their work;
- pedal action and cadence: cycling is often thought of as all about getting in the miles and nothing like as technical as swimming. For sure there’s no escaping the need for consistent training and time in the saddle, but there's also enormous value in developing a smooth, continuous flowing pedal action. I also believe in using the small ring and going for a higher cadence rather than attempting to grind out a big heavy, thigh busting gear (as some macho men seem to think they should). Here's where one legged drills and high cadence sets on the turbo can bring real benefits;
- seeing round corners: one of the things Beth particularly wanted was developing the confidence and technique to take corners at a faster pace. I've found taking corners at a pace and keeping the momentum up is, first, all about looking: looking ahead before the corner to judge its safety, to brake before if needed and to be aware of any obstacles (or other wayward riders) and then looking ahead to the exit. As soon as you can see the way out apply some extra force to power out of the corner. If it’s safe to, swinging out a little wider before the corner, then coming in sharper at the corner’s inside edge again all helps. And I find dropping the shoulder just slightly into the corner and lifting the inside foot up, outside leg straight down, helps keep some speed up whilst still being safe and in control;
- the low down on descents: here’s where mountain bike experience can be really great. Going back to our first point, keeping relaxed and not letting yourself tense up is key. Looking that bit further ahead, given your greater speed, is also essential. Mountain bikers are also familiar with shifting their weight a little to the back and ‘feathering’ the brakes with a light touch so as to always feel in control while enjoying the speed and letting the bike do what it does best – rolling fast and freely.
This time next week Santi and I will be out in Mallorca, doing a final check on our selection of rides for the first Tri Camp the following week. Lots of rides along the seafront, steady climbs into the mountains and swooping descents to come where these and other tips will come into their own for our guests.
In the meantime, many thanks to Beth for a really enjoyable, if at times cold and windy, ride together and look forward to seeing you riding with even greater confidence.