As a complete triathlon newbie I benefit tremendously from the experience and knowledge of others. Just a few little steps save years, if not decades, of trial-and-error, not to mention decrease chances of injuries and increase enjoyment of the sport. My friend Ilya Nedbailo who has successfully completed his first 70.3 Ironman in Rapperswil this year generously shared a couple of tips.

The first of which is getting a professional bike fitting service. I strongly believe that money spent on professional advice is worth much more than any piece of gear one may buy. A lot of human knowledge cannot be easily encoded in articles or books. One really needs one-to-one contact and quick feedback to understand the nuances of physical movement.

Ideally, one should do bike fitting before buying a bike. But almost any existing bike will do just fine. It’s not unheard of to see people competing in triathlon on rigid mountain bikes. An existing road bike is certainly sufficient.

Choosing the right professional could be tricky, especially when there are many options. I followed Ilya’s recommendation and went to a triathlon-focused sport store Tempo-Sport AG in Thalwil. I’m glad I did because René Kuster is an experienced and dedicated counsellor. As someone who participates in the sport himself he went above the mandatory adjustments and explained what is important in the bike position and why. I find such human experience and knowledge vastly superior to impressive computerized tech. Surely a computerized solution yields correct measurements consistently every time. But who will check your pedaling technique, advise on body posture and check that you are using the right muscles when the fancy system is operated by a disinterested or an inexperienced clerk?

Surprisingly, my bike fits me like a glove. Even the stem length is perfect. We got the handlebar height and saddle position adjusted and then installed clip-on aero-bars. Then René explained me how to pull the pedals and told me to utilize core muscles to stabilize the body. In the subsequent training sessions I could really tell the difference: I kept myself in a good position by engaging core (acknowledged by disappearing wrist pain) and I did the pedal pull movement correctly (acknowledged by feeling muscle pain in a previously unknown area).

René has also suggested an upgrade path when I’ll get the itch to spend money on improving my cycling performance. His top 3:

  1. road-bike specific pedals and shoes (I’m currently using a XC combination of Shimano M780 pedals along with Specialized Rime shoes)
  2. tight aero clothing
  3. deep rim racing carbon wheels
  4. everything else

Once I got the bike fitted I built myself a “cycling training lab” at home which I’ll explain in a separate post. For the other two disciplines I’m going through a similar phase of collecting advice and early error correction. I’ll share more as soon as I learn!