The best way to get faster in triathlon is to train hard. There’s no debate around that. But sometimes triathletes focus so much on their fitness that they forget to do the little things to make themselves faster on race day. Here are seven easy cheats for a faster triathlon.
1. Shave Everything
Wind tunnel testing has shown that skin is slow. And hairy skin is even slower. (In fact, the studies have shown that hairy skin has far more of an impact than you might have thought. See: Secrets of the Wind Tunnel.
This is why professional cyclists wear full, long-sleeved body suits when they compete in the time trial. However, full skin suits aren’t exactly practical for a triathlon. Therefore, it’s best to simply shave every part of your body that’s going to be exposed to the air while cycling. That means the arms too, not just your legs. And the longer the distance, the more going hairless will make a difference. So don’t be shy. Break out the razor before your next race and take advantage of this faster triathlon cheat.
2. Cut your Wetsuit
In a wetsuit-legal triathlon swim, wearing a wetsuit is imperative. The added buoyancy and the hydrodynamics is so much faster that it could take minutes off your leg time, not to mention saving you from the frigid water temperatures. However, those saved minutes could all go to waste if you can’t get your wetsuit off in T1. A wetsuit stripper isn’t always available and getting the suit off from around ankles can prove to be a frantic challenge when your heart rate is over 170.
A lot of triathletes don’t realize that cutting the legs of your expensive wetsuit wouldn’t actually be the worst thing in the world. Now make no mistake, this needs to be done with extreme caution and carefulness and you need to realize you’ll be butchering the resale value. But for those who know every second counts, break out the scissors and make your wetsuit just a tad shorter with this cheat. You’ll be surprised how much faster you’ll be stripping it off in T1.
3. Rubber Band your Bike Shoes
For the fastest transition out of T1 it’s best to slip on your bike shoes while on the move. The most experienced triathletes will have their bike shoes clipped into their pedals and slip them on while riding. However, running out of T1 with your shoes spinning on the pedals and flopping against the asphalt or grass is not exactly ideal. Not to mention once you’re on the saddle getting your feet in the shoes can be rather cumbersome.
To bypass this annoyance and inevitable loss in speed, use rubber bands or a thin strand of string to keep your shoes horizontal. Most triathlon bike shoes have a small loop at the rear. String your rubber band through this loop and attach it to somewhere on your bike so that your pedals are temporarily locked at 3 and 9 o’clock. Once you’re past the mount line, hop on your bike, place your feet on top of your shoes, and start pedaling. The rubber bands will either break or fly off and you’ll be on your way. From here you can slip a foot into a shoe one at a time.
This cheat is a great quick and easy timesaver that will also protect the bottom of your cleats from damage against the pavement so you won’t need to be running through T1 wearing your bike shoes.
4. Take Off the Cages on your Frame
Cutting drag on your bike wherever possible is a necessary tactic for the triathlete simply because the bike is where you’ll be spending the majority of your time during a triathlon. The wind tunnel studies have shown that placing your hydration bottles anywhere on the inside of your bike frame are the worst possible spots for aerodynamics.
Rather than use these inefficient locations, put a cage in between your aero bars (the fastest place on your bike with the least amount of drag) and one behind the saddle. Over the course of a 112-mile ride you could be saving a lot of time with this cheat.
5. Helmet Tail or No Tail?
Once again, time-savings on the bike are crucial. Too few triathletes have properly educated themselves on proper aerodynamics. They’ll buy the snazzy new aero helmet simply because it looks cool and boasts the latest technology without considering its application atop their own head.
Do you know what your head position is halfway through an IRONMAN? Do you look straight forward or do you find yourself looking at the road more often than not? You’ve likely seen a number of professionals sporting aero helmets without the tail nowadays. This is because they’ve taken into account the realistic position of their head while racing. If you look down the majority of the time, a helmet tail is a parachute. If you look forward, it’s a speedy military jet. Figure out what you look like while racing and pursue the fastest helmet for you.
6. Speed Laces on your Running Shoes
This cheat is a no-brainer for the experienced triathlete. Nowadays no one should be tying their running shoes in T2. Speed laces are all over the triathlon market and they’re cheap. If you haven’t already, buy some elastic laces and slip on your running shoes in T2 at a fraction of the time.
7. Race Wheels and Tires
Depending on how you look at it, the convenient or sad truth of triathlon is that you can buy speed on the bike. So in terms of finances, this last cheat may not be easy. But quite often those pricey race wheels and tires do make a difference. Front and rear aero wheels and tires with low rolling resistance can take minutes off an IRONMAN bike leg.
Therefore, race wheels and tires are probably something you should invest in if you’re serious about going faster in the sport. Also, let’s not forget that those fancy race wheels simply look really, really, really cool.
We’ll always advocate smart and dedicated training before buying products or focusing on tricks to make your triathlon race faster. But if you have the time and money to tackle the little things, these seven easy cheats will make for a quicker triathlon experience.
TALK WITH TRIDOT:
Which of these cheats do you do or not do? What other easy cheats do you have up your sleeve for a faster triathlon?
JARED MILAM is a former professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and former member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 17 years of competitive running experience and 12 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.