Triathlons are for ChampionsTriathlons are for Champions by Kevin G. Saunders
Triathlon is the fastest growing sport in cycling. In fact, the triathlon sport grew 15% last year when the bike business as a whole did not. I think there are some good reasons for this. I started out cycling for transportation, wound up racing, and now ride fast for fun. I get to see from a different perspective how steep the learning curve is for bike racing as opposed to triathlon. What is funny, I think the learning curve for mastering three sports exceeds that of cycling, but there is one word that trumps learning curve when it comes to gaining new entrants to the sport and that word is, inclusiveness.
Competitive cycling is a brutally tough sport. By design, you figure out a way to make your competitor do all the work and then you sprint around and beat him. Every part of a bike race one is on the lookout for an attack, or one is preparing to mount one. It takes a lot of rejection by peers, people who are better at the sport and of course, the feeling of hopelessness that occurs at the moment one is "dropped" to get over the hump and start to "hang". This is an exclusive environment and no wonder people describe bike racers as elitist. The mental games that go on in a peloton are tough when you know what is going on and even tougher when you are learning.
Triathletes, on the other hand, are quite gregarious and want to get everyone on the "swim, bike, run" bandwagon. They somehow manage their schedules and train untold hours but still seem to keep inviting and encouraging others to join them. Where a Category 5 bike race has a mix of people who don't know how to race or even ride well, mixed with fine athletes who are coming into the sport, a triathlon is much better at supporting all levels of athletes at the same time. One only races themselves and the clock. Everybody wins. All the "character building" elements of a grueling sport exist but they are made palatable and people anticipate the challenge.
When I raced bicycles, the sport of Triathlon was in its infancy. I didn't know much about it and over the years have gained a tremendous respect for the folks that are up at 4:00 AM to swim, then have a successful day at work, then do a run or a ride. Incredible!
From a business perspective, I discovered that the things I learned about fitting cyclists for time trials, road, mountain and track applied directly, with one exception. I found that triathletes riding the wrong setup on their bicycles suffered twice! First the ride leg is painful, with people having to sit up because the aerobars are too uncomfortable. Second, the transition to the run is painful because muscles are used disproportionately.
Triathlon bikes are very sexy looking. I find, however, that the least aerodynamic part of a tri bike is the rider and that power trumps aerodynamics within reason. Consider your bike setup and ask these questions. Are you comfortable the whole event? Are you stiff and awkward when transitioning to the run? Do you put as much emphasis on the bike as you do the run or swim? What would happen to your times if you did a bike focus and maybe even a bike change?
One other topic is worth adding to this article and that is the age old question, "Should I have a road bike and a tri bike?" My perspective is, you run with the fast runners, swim with the fast swimmers and should be riding a road bike with the fast cyclists. Even though you may not draft in a triathlon, the fact that you are comfortable going over 30 miles an hour in a pack will translate to much more comfort when at your time trial pace. You will have a bigger range of speed and can take better advantage of the terrain and the curves of the road. Additionally, you will ride smoother and in a straight line which we all know is the shortest distance between two points. So, a good road bike is important. A good tri bike that fits perfectly is a tool that can make a huge difference in the performance and enjoyment of a triathlon, so no wonder so many triathletes take pride in owning a nice time trial machine.
KGS Bikes is known as the world's premiere bicycle boutique and fitting studio. Kevin Saunders, President, has over 25 years experience in high-end bicycles and bicycle fitting. KGS Bikes sells bicycles from Zinn, Parlee, Serotta, Co-Motion and Guru, in addition to fitting services. Visit the KGS Bikes blog, http://blog.kgsbikes.com and the KGS Bikes website, http://kgsbikes.com for more information.
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