How to improve your triathlon bike handling skills

To state the obvious – if you have good bike handling skills, you will be a more confident and safer rider. And not to forget, you will have so much more fun when you can focus on the right things, whether it is a social ride or a gruelling muscular endurance workout.

While it is true that spending more time riding will increase your abilities, you will also benefit from incorporating bike handling exercises into your training.

Okay, so where would you start?

Safety first

When you leave for a ride for the first time of the season, take it easy. Practise on your own to get up to speed and to build confidence on the bike. Find a closed road or a big parking lot, that allows you to “steer around” as much as you need.

As the saying goes – better safe than sorry.

With that said, it is now time to…

Clipless pedals – one foot at the time

Buckle up

The whole point with so-called clipless pedals is to help your feet to stay on the pedal. However, using clipless pedals for the first time can be a scary experience. Especially when you are about to start or stop.


  • Before you start, make sure that you have shifted to a “light gear”.
  • Then, clip-in the first foot and push away.
  • Get up on the bike, and clip-in the other foot…and start pedalling!
  • And off you go to improve your triathlon bike handling skills.

What about stopping?

Ask any cyclist, and they will have a story about when they forgot to clip-off before stopping. It will probably happen to you as well, just make sure you do your “embarrassing dive” where there is no traffic.

Again, back to the parking lot and practise.

Bend your elbows

Let’s face it, as a triathlete you will spend a lot of time on your bike. And if you do not have an optimal (read: comfortable) position, your body will tell you to stop sooner than later.

Amongst many things, if you are not in the aero position, a fairly common mistake is to ride with straight arms. This will not only cramp your neck and shoulders but also make you less able to move smoothly when cycling. Well, you might even feel it when you are done with your session.

The simple solution is to ride with bent elbows – something that is easier said than done. Watch your friends next time when you are out for a group ride – you will be surprised to find even seasoned age-groupers doing it wrong.

Therefore, from time to time during your workout, remind yourself to bend your elbows.

Bend your elbows for a more comfortable ride

Going aero

As a triathlete, you probably use a road bike with clip-on handlebars or a so-called time trial bike with its default aerodynamic handlebars. Either way, it allows you to ride in an – well, you guessed it – aerodynamic position while still being able to control your bike.

To make the most out of it, you have to practice riding in the aero position. If you have never done it before it is less comfortable and kind of shaky. So, exercising, both on the trainer and outdoor, is a must.

For a start,

  • Start biking in the upright position.
  • Then switch to/lay down in the aero handlebars.
  • When you lay in that position, practice to ride on the white line and see how far you can cycle without touching the asphalt. In the beginning, you will notice how difficult it is to go straight.

Since the brake levers and gear switchers are located on the regular handlebar, plan ahead when you have to stop or adjust your gear.

Change your positions

To become more relaxed on the bike, practise the change between an upright and an aero position. This is something we recommend to everybody at the beginning of the outdoor season.

So to increase your bike handling skills,

  • As always, find a closed road that is somewhat straight.
  • Start your ride in an upright position, holding the handlebars.
  • Then, every 10 seconds or so, move between the drops, your aero bars, and an upright position.

You will notice a big difference in how steady you are, and I bet you will feel much more secure after a couple of iterations.

Shifting gears

Not knowing when or how to shift gears can cause you to lose momentum and possibly have to get off your bike on a climb. Or “pump air” downhill. For this reason, it’s crucial to understand how to make your gears easier or harder and to shift to the right gear before you actually need it.

For example,

  • Switching from your big to small chainrings back and forth.
  • Move the chain up and down the rear cassette from the easiest gear to the hardest.
  • Try to only move the chain one cog at a time for controlled shifting.
  • Figure out different gear combinations that suit you and try to find them without looking down (it is really tricky).
Drink and eat while cycling

Smooth drinking

When you are out on a long ride, it is critical to getting your nutrition right. If you’re not relaxed, you may find it hard to drink and eat while cycling.

By now, you know that you have to practice it!

To begin with, when cycling,

  • Without looking down, find your bottle.
  • Be as steady as possible, and continue your pedalling.
  • Drink. Again, stay focused on the road.
  • Return the bottle.

It might be super tricky at first. But I promise that you will feel so much more relaxed when you get this right. Especially if you are out on a group ride.

Final thoughts

If you have read this far, I believe that you have the ambition to improve your triathlon bike handling skills. No matter your starting point.

It is easy to have big dreams and set high goals. But the real test of commitment to better results is not in the talking but in the doing. It does not begin with the first race of the season – it is all the (small) things you do every day to get stronger, faster and more enduring.

Do your want to commit further?

…then I have a couple of suggestions for you,

  1. If you want to develop your cycling-specific fitness and build your general strength on the bike, then our bike base program is a great start.
  2. If you have trained for some time and want to add speed and muscular endurance, then you should go for a Boost Up Bike Build.

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