6 Secrets of the Ironman Bike By: Rich Strauss

DO you feel you waste to much energy on the bike and dont have a great run?
In your Ironman event do you find that your run is not where it should be, especially those last 6-10 miles?  Many athletes will try and throw down the fastest bike split of the day, which will plague them on the run.  It is very important to bike well and not waste a lot of energy so you can have a great run.  At Kona Multisport home of SwimBikeRun.com we have trained professionals that want to help you reach your multisport goals.  Be sure to check out our store for all of your triathlon supplies, triathlon gear, and triathlon equipment to help you Cross YOUR Finish Line. Rich Strauss head coach and co-founder of endurance nation have the 6 best secrets for the Ironman Bike. 

You’ve trained for six, nine or more months for this day. The chaos of the swim is gone, you’ve gotten your cycling legs back and now it’s time to get to work, to get down to racing the Ironman bike.


For most triathletes, if you’re going to booger months of training and ruin your race, you’re going to do it on the bike leg.

Follow these tips to avoid that trap and ride your best Ironman bike leg.

#1. Set Yourself Up for the Run

The difference between a “good” swim or “bad” swim is only about two to four minutes. The difference between “easy” bike or a “hard” bike is only about 10 to 15 minutes. But the difference between a “good” and “bad” run can be measured in hours.

The truth is, your chances of dramatically slowing down happen in the last six to eight miles of the run. Therefore your focus all day is on creating conditions for success in the final six to eight miles of the run, NOT on putting up a sexy bike split. The Ironman run course is littered with the walking bodies of athletes who put up great bike splits. Just think about that.

#2. Ride the Bike You Should, Not the Bike You Could

Your “could” bike split is the one you dream about, the one you told your friends on your last long ride when they remarked how fit you look, how hard you’ve been working, and ask you what you could ride at your race. In contrast, your “should” bike split is the bike that sets up the run.

The difference between “could” and “should” is about 10 to 15 minutes. Add 10 to 15 minutes to that sexy “could” split and set up the run. If you’ve made the mistake of riding too slowly, you have 26 miles of running to fix that mistake.

But if you made the mistake of riding too fast, that mistake now has 26 miles of running to express itself.

#3. Do the Opposite of Everyone Else

The majority of the Ironman field doesn’t know how to properly execute the bike. Proper Ironman bike execution is then largely a matter of doing the opposite of everyone else.

  • Ride easy for the first hour. Are you being passed by a LOT of people? That’s a very good thing, trust me.
  • Manage your effort on the hills. Setting up the run is your priority, not racing for the non-existant $100 prize at the top.

Feel like you are going backward through the field? That’s a good thing; they will come back to you somewhere during the day.

#4. Flatten the Course

You best cycling strategy, to set up for a great run, is to maintain a very steady effort across all terrain. Avoid big surges on hills and excessive coasting on downhills. Imagine your foot is on a gas pedal.

  • On hills, only give it a little bit more gas, even if everyone around you stomps on the gas.
  • Across the crest of the hill and into the downhill, stay on the gas. Maintain that steady effort as everyone else comes way off the gas and coasts as they pay for that surging effort on the climb. You might descend at 33 to 36 mph, for example, to their 28 to 30 mph, carrying that speed into the next hill…and the next…and the next.
  • That foot on the gas pedal is locked in the same position on flats, false flats, slight downhills, etc.

#5. Show Up with Enough Gears on Your Bike

Your bike should have proper gearing for your race course in order to successfully execute the “flatten the course” strategy above.

What gearing is best? In general, you can never have enough gears in an Ironman. This is what I ride for the various races:

  • For all races, I use a compact crank with 50/34 gearing, then add:
  • 23-11 for Ironman Texas, Florida and Arizona
  • 26-11 for 25-12 for Ironman St. George, Coeur d’Alene, Lake Placid, New York and Mont-Tremblant
  • 26-11 for Ironman Wisconsin

#6. Look for Free Speed First

112 miles is a long time for smart, aerodynamic choices to express themselves. Your biggest return-on-investment opportunities on the Ironman bike are:

  • Bike fit: The largest aerodynamic component of the bike system is YOU. A proper bike fit can dramatically improve your aerodynamics while keeping you comfortable on the bike.
  • Aero helmet: A big aerodynamic return for your $130 to $200 investment.
  • Bottle/tool placement: An efficient, clean, well-thought-out setup will significantly improve your aerodynamics.

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