Photo Description: A photo of two of my bikes racked in an outdoor bike rack at Fast Eddie’s Cycles. On the left is my Quintana Roo PRSix (who I’ve named Bruce Wayne), which is matte black. On the right is my Specialized Roubaix (who I’ve named Anakin), which is black with multi-colored glitter in the paint.
Another edition of Coach Tip Tuesday is here!!
This week, we’re going to chat about cycling. And very specifically, we are going to talk about how you should make the most out of multiple bikes if you have them. And how you can make the most out of them starts with their geometries and therefore your fit on them.
If you are fortunate enough to own more than one type of bike, there’s probably a reason why you own more than one. Different types of bikes can be used for different types of activities. I can ride Tauntaun (my Specialized Fatboy fat tire bike) through wintry wonderlands of snow, but Bruce Wayne (my Quintana Roo PRSix triathlon bike) would be stopped dead in his tracks if I attempted that with him. An added bonus of owning different types of bikes is that the body is used differently when you ride each one. For instance, the muscles that are dominant and engaged vary depending on what the bike is, and then how you ride and handle the bike also changes. Anyone who has ever ridden a mountain bike and a time trial bike can tell you that those bikes handle completely differently and that the body works completely differently when one is riding them.
There are a lot of reasons for this; the main one is due to something called “trail,” which is a part of the bike's geometry and is the horizontal distance from where the front wheel touches the ground to where the steering axis intersects the ground. Trail is shorter on a road bike geometry than on a time trial bike geometry, and this means that the road bike will handle more like a “sports car” (twitchier and more responsive), while the time trial bike will handle more like a “Cadillac” (low, steady, and smooth).
Every type of bike has an optimal fit for the style of bike that it is. An optimal mountain bike fit is not the same as an optimal road bike fit. And even within these “optimal” fits, there isn’t one universal “optimal” fit; what is optimal varies from rider to rider based on their unique anatomical structures, their athletic history, their goals, and the geometry of the bicycle they are riding. Many times, folks who want to participate in triathlons will seek out a way to try and find a way to get “two fits in one,” meaning that they try to have a comfortable upright road bike position AND simultaneously have a comfortable aero time trial position on the same bike. In my experience, this is virtually impossible to accomplish for any rider; the rider needs to choose which position will be optimized.
I firmly believe that if you are only going to have one bike and you want to race in cycling and/or triathlon, it should be a road bike. Road bikes are MUCH more versatile than triathlon or time trial bikes; they’re acceptable on group rides, they’re not banned from cycling events, and they’re also allowed into triathlons. Road bikes also have the great advantage of forcing you to have to engage your core as you ride (something that gets shut down quite a bit in the time trial position).
For those athletes who own a road bike AND a time trial bike, I have found that keeping the road bike set up in a road fit configuration (so that means no clip-on aerobars!!) and the time trial bike as a time trial position is optimal so that the athlete is getting the benefit of each position when they change between bikes. Having a road bike that is set up in a time trial position eliminates the versatility that would be gained by having two bikes with two different fits.
Which bike you should ride when depends on a few factors. If you are a triathlete training for a triathlon where you will be riding your triathlon bike, using that bike for your long rides and at least one mid-week ride is a great thing. Switching to a road bike or to a mountain bike for another ride during the week will change the stimulus imposed on your muscles and will help you become more well-rounded and stronger overall. If you are a road cyclist training for road races, that should be your primary bike, and switching to another bike with a different fit for at least one ride per week can be really beneficial (this is especially true when switching to riding trails on a mountain bike since mountain biking inherently increases handling skills so much). If you are a mountain biker, hitting the asphalt and riding a road bike once a week is a great way to switch things up.
If you have multiple bikes, love them all. Don’t leave one sitting the garage pining after you as you ride only one of your bikes all the time. Diversify what you are doing in your cycling training in terms of the actual bike (and fit!!) that you are riding, and you will see great gains. Plus, you’ll have some fun riding in different ways and on different terrain along the way!!