I’ve received some pretty interesting advice over the years (especially starting out in triathlon) so I thought I’d compile a few of the more interesting pieces of advice I got when it comes to riding.
“Empty your water bottles at the base of a climb.”
The theory was that every major climb on the Penticton bike course had an aid station at the top and so if you empty your bottles at the base of the climb you will have less weight to carry up the climb. This is a terrible idea. The benefits of having proper fluids far out weigh the seconds you will lose from the extra weight. And yes, it is only seconds. Low wind resistance makes climbs a great time to consume your nutrition and hydration. The low wind resistance also makes it tougher to cool yourself. Dumping extra fluid on yourself during the climb is a great way to stay physically and mentally fresh.
“Save weight and don’t bring something to fix a flat tire.”
When I first took up triathlon this totally made sense to me. Lighter = faster and faster = better. It didn’t take me very long to get a flat tire. I had to run five kilometers barefooted back to transition so I could get out on the run and finish the race. Lighter was definitely not faster or better in that situation and I haven’t made that mistake since!
“Let air out of your tires the night before a race.”
This is the number one piece of terrible advice terrorizing the triathlon world. There is a theory that in order to prevent your tires from blowing up in T1 as the temperature increases, you should let air out of your tires the night before race morning. The first thing that is wrong with this advice is that the increase in tire pressure resulting from an increase in temperature is too small to blow a hole in a properly inflated tube. Don’t believe me? Look up the physics on it and you’ll find as long as your tires are between 100-120psi you’ll be fine. But then why do tires blow up in transition? Most often it is because people have deflated their tires and pinch the tube as the tire bead resets when pumping them back up race morning.
“Don’t worry about aerodynamics, just pedal harder.”
There is a certain romanticism to the thought of working physically hard and not having to worry about whether you and your gear are optimized to slice through the wind. Where this theory falls flat is that great aerodynamics and pedalling hard are not mutually exclusive; you can do both well. If you look at the best athletes in the world, they all do both really well.
“Just take 2 bottles for a GranFondo. You’ll be fine.”
Proper hydration and nutrition are crucial, for endurance events. A well thought out plan can be the difference between a great day and a terrible one. I have heard countless anecdotal stories of the best exercise nutrition that range from standard gels to beer sausage. Lots of them are flat out ridiculous. Most terrible nutrition stories include the words “special needs bag”. My advice: consult with a nutrition expert, hire a reputable triathlon coach or read a book on sports nutrition and practice!