There are many worries that may prevent you from participating in your first triathlon. Although the fear of swimming is usually at the top of the list for many, worries associated with cycling seem to be a significant factor as well.
As children many of us used to ride our bikes and not even think twice about the potential hazards on the road. It was simply one of the ways we used to keep busy and spend time with our friends. Parents encouraged it not only because it was a healthy activity, but also because using up our energy would prevent us from causing trouble around the house.
Now, as adults many of us seem to have taken on the false beliefs that cycling is either 1). Too Dangerous 2). Too Expensive or 3). For Established Athletes Only
So let’s help you crush those false beliefs as it relates to each one of the three:
1. Cycling is Too Dangerous
You may have a legitimate concern for the dangers of cycling outdoors. Especially now that the sport has grown exponentially, causing more collisions involving cars and cyclists. Those are valid concerns, but there are certain precautions you can put in place when cycling outdoors:
- Avoid the high traffic times of the day (8-10am & 4-6pm)
- Plan out your route to avoid busy intersections, stop lights, stop signs, etc.
- Wear reflective gear as this way you can be visible to the drivers from far away
- Attach lights to your bike for the same reason (front and back)
- Take some of your training indoors on a trainer or even a spin bike
(I personally have done over 75% of my cycling sessions indoors when I was living in the Chicagoland area. Yes, even while training for Ironman distance triathlons. I actually found these sessions to be more effective. There were no empty miles of just coasting on a down hill or wasting time at a stop light. A 3 hour ride was literally that, three full hours of non-stop effort. It would probably take 3 1/2 or 4 hours to put in that work outdoors).
2. Cycling is Too Expensive
You may have done a little research and quickly realized how expensive tri bikes can be. Spending a large sum of money on a sport you are not sure you’ll stick with may stop you from participating. After all, like anything else, you may want to get a taste of it first before making a more serious commitment to triathlon.
I can certainly relate to this as I did not even own a bike when I registered for my first Sprint triathlon. I decided to borrow one from a friend, and believe it or not, it wasn’t even a tri bike or a road bike. It was hybrid touring bike, and it was just perfect for my first triathlon. I didn’t have to worry about clip in pedals or aero bars. If I became a triathlete that day and didn’t own a bike, I’m sure you can too!
After I realized that I had really enjoyed my first triathlon I decided to then buy a road bike. I found a simple aluminum bike online for about $200 (it was the GMC Denali). I completed my first Olympic distance triathlon on that bike, as well as my first Ironman 70.3 and full Ironman. I learned that investing in the engine (that being myself), and the right mentor/coach was much more valuable. Having a several thousand dollar bike would have been pointless, if I didn’t first have a strategy in place.
I became so hooked on the sport and enjoyed it so much that I knew it would become a huge part of my life going forward. So finally after my first full Ironman race I purchased a much more expensive Cervelo P3 bike that I have been riding ever since and completed dozens triathlons on, including 8 more Ironman races.
3. Cycling is For Established Athletes Only
The fact that we refer to it as ‘cycling’ instantly adds an intimidation factor in our minds, even though it literally is just riding a bike. It makes us think of extremely serious athletes seen on TV, competing in events such as le Tour de France. Or perhaps Pro triathletes speeding through on their over $10,000 carbon fiber aero machines engineered for optimal speeds, tested and calibrated in wind tunnels to shave seconds off a specific distance.
We start to mistakenly compare ourselves to some of the fittest cyclists in the endurance world. After all, they’re not only fit, but wear tight superhero looking outfits designed to save seconds. That visual alone makes us second guess our own abilities.
But in all reality, those professional athletes are 100% focused on training as for most of them their livelihood depends on the result. You most likely have a job, and other responsibilities so cannot possibly put in that amount of time into training as a professional would. Therefore, it’s unfair to compare yourself to someone doing this sport full time.
We're intimidated by how we label the event. Words such as ‘race’ or ‘competition’ can talk us out of signing up because we again assume those types of events are only for professional athletes and a small percentage of age groupers looking to win their category, or those "better than us." But we have to keep in mind that as first time triathletes we are just looking to finish and to prove to ourselves that we are capable of completing the event, and not necessarily be standing on the podium!
Since 2001 Peter has worked with individuals from many backgrounds, some taking up exercise for the first time looking for weight loss and toning, and others seeking guidance with a more extreme goal of training for an Ironman triathlon. Peter has published articles in the Competitor Magazine, some of his work was also featured by USA Triathlon, Golf Fitness Magazine and Colorado Runner website.
Latest posts by Peter Kadzielawski (see all)
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