Confirming Stereotypes: Triathletes are not the best cyclists

This is an encouraging little editorial by Evan, our resident Triathlete. Before you read it, please understand that Evan is quite the triathlete, placing 3rd in his age group at the International Triathlon Union World Championships in Australia for the Sprint distance. No small feat. When he talks triathlon, we listen. Enjoy.

I need to make a request to my fellow triathletes. Please work on your cycling skills this off-season. This is for your own safety, but most importantly, my own. It’s no secret that triathletes are not the best cyclists in the world (this is called an understatement), and because of this, I encourage every triathlete to set a goal to improve your cycling skills as you train through the winter months.

I am an avid triathlete and cyclist. I’ve been racing competitively for over 10 years, but I wasn’t always a good rider. I got better because I sought the help of experienced cyclists, and I gradually improved over time until I was comfortable riding in any pack.  I want to dispel the stereotype that triathletes are horrible cyclists by sticking up for my multi-sport brethren at group rides when I hear the hard-core roadies snicker at the guy with aero bars who doesn’t wear socks with his tri-specific shoes to simulate race conditions.

But a few incidents lately have made me embarrassed for my own kind. I would rather keep it a secret that I’m a triathlete when riding in a pack of road racers.

Sometimes being well informed is better than having all the right gear

Sometimes being well informed is better than having all the right gear

Every roadie will agree with me on this one. You would think that as the sport of triathlon has grown tremendously over the last few years, the collective level of cycling ability amongst triathletes would increase accordingly. I have seen little evidence of this.

I raced for the Cal Poly Triathlon Team back when I was in school, and I decided I would re-unite with them for a Saturday morning group ride. I love the Tri Team, and racing for Cal Poly was the best part of my collegiate experience. But this ride was sketchy at best, and flat-out dangerous at worst.

The pace was inconsistent while the pace line was choppy and disorganized. The coaches of this team must have made a very bold point of telling everyone to shout out objects in the road. Every single spec of dust on the road was loudly pronounced by whoever was pulling at the time.

I found this absolutely hilarious. I was riding at the front toward the end of the ride when the guy riding next to me shouted, “Gravel!” He took his hand off the bars to point out a few small pebbles in the road that posed no serious threat, almost swerving into me while unnecessarily startling the entire group.

I calmly explained that shouting out everything in the road is not a good idea, and if you used this tactic on a real group ride, you would get laughed at, mocked, and ridiculed while continuing to contribute to the negative stereotype that triathletes are clueless when it comes to pack riding.

So, for any triathletes still reading, here are a few tips to help your pack riding skills:
1.    If you come to a group ride, road bikes are preferred. Only elite-level triahletes have the competence to handle a tri bike on a group ride.
2.    Try to resist your triathlete instinct to be sketchy. Think about going straight, being calm and riding smoothly.
3.    If you don’t feel comfortable taking your hands off the bars, practice doing so.
4.    Observe what others are doing on group rides and don’t be afraid to ask questions.
5.    Put your helmet on the right way (See picture).

Hopefully I’ve raised some awareness and I’ll see some more competent triathletes out on the road. Post a comment if you have a question or would like to share your experiences. Good luck and happy training!

Just because we’ve talked about triathletes doesn’t mean we haven’t seen you Roadie-who-can’t-look-over-his-shoulder-without-swerving-into-the-road.  Has any one seen the Tour footage where Robbie McEwen bunny hopped a curb because the peloton had forced him onto the center divider?!  A little bike handling will get you out of most jams. Maybe do a Cyclocross race or some mountain biking this winter. Both these will force any rider to improve his/her handling skills and make them safer on the road.

Until next time,

Hammer On