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3 Mistakes You're Making on the Bike

By Chris Kaplanis | Nov. 07, 2017, 6:13 p.m. (ET)

This is part two of a three-part series. Read about common swim mistakes here, and stay tuned for mistakes you’re making on the run and how to fix them.

Triathletes spend the most time and energy on the cycling leg of a triathlon, so it’s important to master your bike technique and fix these common mistakes.

1. Pointed Toe

Generally speaking, when riding your bike, the more power you generate, the faster you will go. To help accomplish this, it is important to use your bigger, more powerful muscles when pedaling (i.e. glutes, quads, hamstrings).

A common mistake athletes make is pedaling with their toes versus driving their pedal stroke with their heel. In other words, your foot should be mostly parallel to the ground with your toe pointing forward (not down). This is especially true when driving from 11 o’clock down to 6 o’clock.

By doing this, you will help engage your big muscles and in turn the pedal with more power.


2. Climbing in aero


When you do this you are unintentionally making it more difficult on yourself. This is true for a few reasons.

First, you get a negligible aerodynamic benefit when you’re going below 16 mph and even less when you dip below 14 mph. Further, when riding in aero, your lungs are not fully open as you are hunched over. Not only that, but you’re also unable to maximize your power in this position on your bike.

Instead, sit up tall and proud in your saddle. By adjusting your position, you will open up your lungs and maximize your power as you move up the hill and pass others.

3. Cadence

Cadence as it relates to cycling is a measure of how fast you are pedaling (i.e. RPM). Depending on your gearing, this can be very easy or very difficult.

The optimal cadence for cycling on flat terrain is about 90; give or take 5 reps. This is considered an ideal balance between muscular and cardiovascular recruitment. When climbing, your cadence will likely be in the 70s and 80s. This is OK, but try to avoid a cadence in the 60s or lower if possible.

If you consistently find yourself with an average cadence in the low 80s or in the 70s at the end of your ride, you should consider riding in an easier gearing combination. This will help bring up your average cadence.

It is important to note cadence times force equals power (Cadence x Force = Power). As such, you will still go about the same speed, but your legs will be less taxed. This is especially helpful when you need to get off your bike and run.

In addition to putting yourself in an easier gear, you may also have to condition yourself to hold a higher cadence. You can do this by integrating cadence pyramids during offseason workouts and as part of your warm-ups year round.

Chris Kaplanis is the co-founder and assistant head coach at RTA Triathlon. RTA works with athletes from across the country offering a variety of services to get you faster, fitter and on track to successfully accomplish your goals. He is a USA Triathlon Level II Endurance and USA Cycling Level II Certified Coach. Kaplanis is a five-time IRONMAN finisher, in addition to IRONMAN 70.3 World Championship and USA Triathlon National Championships finisher. He is a USA Triathlon Al- American. Learn more at

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.