Despite the differences between tri cycling and road racing, every triathlete can up their enjoyment of the second discipline by learning a thing or two about riding from roadies.
Drafting off a large pack of riders may seem irrelevant to tri performance, but group riding is one of the most effective and fun ways to improve your strength and bike-handling skills.
Fitness: Cycling in a pack turns every ride into an interval session. Instead of agonizing over the details of a solo interval ride—time, distance, speed, heart rate, power—simply move to the front of the group, where the wind will boost your intensity level. Slide back into the pack for protection from the wind and the pace becomes a recovery effort. Short climbs and tight corners can quickly turn into an all-out sprint and will give your legs an additional kick that solo riding simply cannot produce.
Skills: For years Andy Potts only rode outside on race day, but even he has started to train outdoors occasionally to improve his bike-handling skills. Riding in a group forces you to maintain a consistent path through corners, take bends at high speeds and ride steadily at all times so you don’t collide with another rider.
Swap out a few of your tri accessories in favor of comfort-oriented pieces.
Road shoes: The biggest difference between a triathlon shoe and a road shoe is the upper. Tri shoes are often lighter because of their minimalistic closure systems, but road shoes use ratcheting buckles, extra Velcro straps, additional materials or other add-ons to fine-tune the shoe’s fit, breathability and comfort.
There are shoes that weigh less or have a similarly stiff sole at the same price point, but if you’re looking for a shoe that is both high-fashion and form-fitting, the Fizik R3 ($300, Fizik.it) fits the bill.
Bib shorts: Shorts slide and bunch, which create hot spots exactly where you don’t want them. Bibs act like suspenders for your cycling shorts and keep them in their proper place to maximize comfort. Once you get past the goofy look, there’s no going back to shorts.
Most women forgo the benefits of bibs because, to put it frankly, over-the-shoulder straps and breasts aren’t a good combination. Pearl Izumi eliminated that problem by tucking the straps down the center of the chest to create the women’s P.R.O. Bib Shorts ($155.00, Pearlizumi.com).