▿ More Articles ▿ GURU SWIM BIKE RUN COACHING  
SWIM ▿
Swim Basics
Technique
Propulsion
Swim Sets & Pacing
Wetsuits
Open Water
Dryland Workouts
Race Day
More Speed
Pool Tools
BIKE ▿
Ride Safe
Form Counts
Perfect Position
Pedal in Circles
Cleat Position
Be Aero
Cornering & Climbing
Pacing
Bike Choices
Wheel Choices
Need for Speed
Forward or Back
Cadence
Tire Tech
Adversity
RUN ▿
Hit the Trail
Form Counts
Stretching
Economy
Pacing
Tempo
Distance
Speedwork
Fartlek/Hills
Brick Runs
Recovery
Form Drills
Alternative
Shoe Choices
Injury Prevention
Coach Steve being aero!

CORNERING & CLIMBING: Cornering is scarey until you get confident—and fun once you do! Ask a speed skater or skier what they like best about their sport and many will say they dig the sensation of being on an edge. There's a fine line between holding an edge and losing it. That's just where the thrill seekers want to be.

You don't have to push it that far to corner well though. All you really need for triathlon are the skills and judgment to make turns with confidence.

Each turn has a different angle of attack and appropriate speed, but all require the same principles to be in control. Gradual radiuses may allow you to pedal all the way through the turn and hold a high speed. Sharp turns require lots bike lean and if the cranks continue to go round your inside pedal may hit the pavement—not good. In the worst case scenario you might really misjudge it, and as your pedal hits, a tire lifts off the pavement—worse.

So each turn requires a decision: pedal through, or coast. Unfortunately you can only make the decision by experience. If in doubt, lean and coast. Keep in mind the most important part of the lean and coast technique is that your crank arm on the outside of the turn is in the down position, with the inside crank up!

The first skill you need to master to corner well is weight shift. As you approach a turn where you must stop pedaling some of your weight should shift to the outside foot, which is on the pedal, which is attached to the crank, which is in the down position. Some of the weight that would normally be on your saddle should shift to the foot in the down position, lowering your center of gravity.

For most lean and coast turns if you simply keep your shoulders centered over the handlebars it will work well, but sometimes a weight shift of your upper body can give you more grip. Contrary to one's natural instinct to keep the bike as upright as possible, if you push the bike slightly to the inside while keeping most of your weight on that outside pedal you'll be pushing the bike 'into the ground' and increasing grip. This is an advanced technique to try only after you've mastered the basic weight shift.

In addition to developing bike handling skills you need to consider road conditions. How fast you can take a turn is determined by how much friction your tires need before they slip, and the stiction factor of the road surface. Smooth pavement with an abrasive surface offers the most grip. Bumpy surfaces may leave your tires airborne for a split-second, increasing the possibility of a slide. Anything loose on the road surface like sand or leaves should be avoided or ridden over at low speed with no lean.

Wet roads are the most unpredictable of all; you get about half the friction, so you need to reduce speed by about one-third. Painted lines and manhole covers are slicker than the pavement. It's wise to reduce tire pressure when it's wet as this will increase the amount of rubber in contact with the road.You don't need to be a great climber to race well in multisport events, but you should be able to get over the climbs smoothly without struggling. Unlike bike racing on hilly courses where most of the separation between riders happens on the climbs, multisport races are a time trial where how fast you can cover the whole course is what counts.

When cycling on flat stretches most of the resistance comes from your drag coefficient (aerodynamics), while at lower speeds climbing the limiter is weight. In either case the more power (watts) you can develop the better, and I'll assume you're at a competitive body weight. So the only factors you can alter to help your climbing are form, gearing choices, and your confidence.

Climbing form should be slightly different than body position on the flats since overcoming wind resistance is less important. On climbs you should sit up straighter with a hand position higher on the bars. The higher position will make it easier to breathe and put less stress on your lower back. A change in position is a good thing as it uses muscles in a slightly different way and gives some relief.

Optimal gear choice is crucial to climbing efficiently. On the flats I recommend choosing a gear that gives a cadence matching your run turnover, which for most of us is 85 to 95 pedal strokes per minute. On climbs your cadence should drop slightly to about 75 on average. For short, steep stand-up climbs I sometimes go as low as 65, but that's rare. There's no advantage in going to the extremes, pushing an excessively high gear, or spinning up climbs. After a bike race you're done for the day, but in a triathlon poor gear choices are magnified, leaving your legs with less energy for the run that follows.

Most modern bikes have a drive train that will shift under pressure, but it's still wise to make the front shift from large to small chainring well before you get to the steep part of a climb. Also, before a race where you expect to use your lowest gear (inside cog in the back), check to be sure your gears are adjusted properly. A bike can fall over just once on the right side and bend the rear derailleur in just slightly. Then you make the shift to lowest gear and the derailleur goes too far, beyond the inside cog and into your spokes—not a good thing!

Body position should be relaxed and powerful on climbs. Most riders move their upper body more as the get closer to max output, but too much motion uses energy better saved for the legs. As It's OK to sit up straighter for climbs, and sometimes this requires a unique hand position on bikes with bullhorn style bars. On my tri/TT bike I hold my aerobars just beyond arm rests with a narrow hand position. Hold the brake levers or tops of bars on a road bike with drop style bars.

For some riders it's easier to focus on using all the available leg muscles at lower cadence on climbs (though you should be pedaling like this all the time). Push forward with your quad muscle over the top; pull back with your hamstring at the bottom; pull up with your hip flexor as your leg moves back to the top.

A decision to make on a climb is whether to sit or stand. Standing increases power potential with your full body weight, but is energy intensive. It's appropriate for short, steep hills that are done in 30-seconds or less to keep your momentum and speed. Getting out of the saddle also works for steep sections of long climbs like switchbacks, again, you should not stand for more than 30-seconds. Use standing on climbs to keep your momentum for short bursts.

contact Coach Steve content ©opyright tri-Guru