To become a better triathlete, it takes practise and dedication to the training plan. It’s also about building confidence. For the past 6 years of dabbling in triathlon I can safely say that the amount of biking I did was just slightly more than my race distance. You read that right. If I did 2 sprints in the course of a summer, I would likely average 80K for an entire season, maybe 100K. I was not a biker. I kept to running and swimming. And I’m slowly realizing what was holding me back from the road.
1) I’m closer to a beginner than an expert.
The fact that I was at the back of the pack certainly didn’t help. I remember going on my first group ride (circa 2009) and my friends calling me when I was 10K from home, they’d been home for close to an hour and were worried I had landed in a ditch. A reasonable fear. It’s discouraging, but I knew that in time I would build strength and speed.
2) My bike was no joy ride.
My bike wasn’t comfortable. End of story. I had aero bars installed that received about 1% of my time. I never felt natural in that position, and I just avoided it. I now know that I average 2-4KM/hr faster in that aero position..it is time I get comfortable there! My knees sometimes bothered me, but I didn’t connect the dots that it was because my seat was too low, stem too short, or something else. I just thought it was me, or maybe my lack of biking.
3) Fear of the unknown.
And the third, and likely the biggest hurdle, not knowing how to fix said bike. I paid attention when I watched my friends fix flats and I knew the logistics behind making the fix. Heck, I’d even attended a few bike maintenance courses over the years but never dived in. I never got my hands dirty.
In 2014, I vowed to move past this, to become comfortable on my bike, to really get to know Betty, the way she deserved. I started with a professional fitting of my bike that included a new seat and hight adjustments. For the first week or so I wasn’t sure, but after a number of longer rides I knew my bike was fitting well.
In my triathlon training camp I had a few seasoned ironmen watch me ride and gave me tips about getting comfortable in my aero bars (a little more each time) and some tricks on peddling, coasting and upper body placement and fuelling tips for longer rides.
Next I figured out the wheels and brakes. I finally, finally practised changing an inner tube and using my hand pump. After brunch this week, an experienced biker friend lead me through the inner workings of changing a flat (without tools!) and how to get the pesky back tie on and off.
I could use more education around the gears and deraillers, but I’m ok with leaving some of it up to the professionals (for now!). Having a pro look at my Betty is important and she’s had 2 trips to the mechanic this year for check ups.
With this knowledge and practise I’m feeling more comfortable on my bike and am heading to a point where I don’t feel the need to take my cell phone or a friend on every ride (although I prefer it that way!).
Knowledge = Power & Power = Confidence