Monday, February 1, 2016

Real World Bike Speed, Part I

Gordo Byrn: Real World Bike Speed, Part 1
By Gordo Byrn

This week, I'm going to talk a bit about the evolution of my approach to the bike leg in triathlon. I have gone DEEP into the archives for your reading enjoyment!


But first, two multimedia links for you.

Laura Bennett Olympic Video -- great if you have kids that are wondering what it might take to get themselves into the Olympics! The video is about 24 minutes long -- so let it buffer.

Chris McDonald Podcast ( The Big Unit updates on his year since winning IM Louisville last August. Great info on racing Challenge Roth as well as life at the sharp end. More Chris can be found at his blog(


You can waste a ton of energy thinking about your bike position -- each year, I try a few changes in January/February then tinker through the year based on optimizing COMFORT, not power.

Short course athletes might think that comfort doesn't matter. However, if it takes you a few miles to loosen up then your race is OVER before you get into your run groove.

For Ironman, if your back locks up on the bike then you give away tons of "aero". 112 miles of riding is a heck of a long way to endure a tight position.

So, remember what really matters to triathlon performance:

Consistency -- consistent training over many years
Nutrition -- high quality fuel for optimal recovery, body composition and performance
Aerobic Stamina -- maximizing aerobic economy and endurance at your optimal race effort
Pacing -- back-end loaded race effort to optimize speed across each leg and increase the probability of outstanding run performance

Bike position has NOTHING to do with how your bike looks racked in transition. Your bike position is about how you perform on your bike as well as how you run off your bike.

Your true bike position is what you are holding when tired, not fresh.


Let's get into a few photos to kick off.

You might recognize the guy above. Craig Walton is one of the most respected, and fastest, non-drafting athletes in the World. I throw this up to remind myself that my nose doesn't need to touch my stem.

OK, now for a bit of raw reality with some of the positions that I've used over the years. Below is a shot from my first bike fit with John Cobb, April 2002.

The position looks great on the trainer. Trouble is... how the heck do I see where I am going? Look at my vision. Straight down. So I would have to crane my neck upwards even to see a few meters up the road. Not great for long distance triathlon.

As an interesting aside... I look fit in that photo but I am totally smoked and only a few weeks away from my first bout of serious overtraining. If I knew then what I know now...

Below are my next two bikes -- the position I rode in 2004 as well as what I changed to in 2005. The reason I changed in 2005 was I wanted to get my saddle more forward. I will come to the "why" in a little bit.

As you can see above, different frame but, in reality, same position. Two important aspects to note about the picture on the left:

1 - look at the angle of my arms, they are pointing down. You see this a lot at the races. My front end is too low for my flexibility. As a result, my low back is constantly firing and my back will tighten as my ride progresses. Eventually, I'll have my wrists on my aerobar pads and form a big wind scoop with my body. My bike, however, looked excellent racked in transition!

2 -- I corrected this point in the picture on the right. I'm able to relax my back in the position. An important point... a higher front end can result in a lower, more relaxed, back. This is very important to remember for all distances.

The positions above worked out well for me -- they weren't all that aero but they were, on balance, comfortable enough for me to run very well (3 hours flat on the day photographed below).