Ask Aaron: Keeping Proper Fit After Traveling With Your Bike & More
In today's Ask Aaron, Aaron answers questions about keeping proper bike fit after traveling, the importance of incorporating sports drinks into training and the benefits of bilateral breathing on the swim.
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Q: Hello Aaron,
I am flying to Ironman Rhode Island 70.3 and I have to ship my bike. I recently had a bike fit, but I don’t have the tools (or know how) to get my bike ready for shipping and assemble it when I get to the race. How do I make sure when I get the bike re-assembled at the race that the fit specification is the exact same as it was when I left?
A: The best way to ensure that your bike is reassembled to your exact fit specifications, whether you or a bike shop put it back together, is to mark the aerobars and seatpost locations before pulling them off the bike.
Marking the seatpost is fairly easy. Take a piece of electrical tape and wrap it around the seatpost so the bottom of the tape lines up with the insertion point into the frame. When you go to reinstall the post, make sure the electrical tape sits directly on top of the frame, just as it was before you disassembled the bike.
I like to also take a saddle height measurement as a backup. Using a tape measure, locate the zero mark of the tape precisely in the middle of the crank spindle (axle) on the non-drive side of the bike. Your crank most likely has a small cap used to assemble it, which can serve as a marker to help you find the center of the crank axle. Holding the zero marker in place, stretch the tape up to the top of the saddle going through the center of the rails. Jot down the distance from the axle center to the top of the saddle.
To remove the aerobars, you can either take the stem off the steerer tube while leaving it connected to the bars, or you can remove the bars from the stem and leave the stem attached to the rest of the bike.
If you’re removing your stem, make sure to use the correct number of spacers below and above the stem when you reinstall it. I like to put a piece of masking tape on the steerer tube in the spot between the spacers that the stem would normally occupy.
If you’re leaving the stem on the bike but taking the aerobars off the stem, you will need to mark both the rotational and side-to-side positions of the aerobars. Take a Sharpie and outline two sides of a corner of the stem on the aerobar itself. That way, when you put the aerobar back on the stem, it will have a guideline for its location side-to-side and rotationally.
If you have either a carbon seatpost or base bar, it is very important to retighten the components with the correct amount of torque on the bolts. Too much pressure and the carbon can crack, not enough and the component could slide. Nearly all carbon parts have a torque specification printed on them. Bring a torque wrench that can match those specifications—there are adjustable and fixed wrenches—and anti-slip compound, such as Tacx Dynamic Carbon Assembly Paste. Put a thin layer of the paste onto the clamped section of the carbon part to increase friction and prevent it from sliding. This stuff works miracles.
Another bike shipping options is TriBike Transport. I’ve used their service before and it’s actually quite convenient. Much easier than bringing a bike box on a plane. Drop your bike off at one of their partner shops before the event and it shows up fully assembled at your race. The only drawback is that you are without your bike for several days leading up to the race. The number of days depends on your proximity to the event. The service costs $300 or more, depending on location, which, shockingly, is actually cheaper than flying a bike on some airlines.
Q: Hey Aaron,
I’m an old runner who recently converted to triathlons. I never did get into sport drinks back when I was running marathons. I just drank water, and I continue to do so for two to three hour tri training sessions. I seem to hold up okay without bonking.
Does this put me at a disadvantage for Olympic-distance events where I might be out there for up to three hours? Or can triathletes train their bodies to work hard without taking calories in during the shorter triathlons like Olympic and sprint distances?
A: Runners-turned-triathlete all seem to have an aversion to taking in nutrition while training, myself included. I spent my first three years as a triathlete trying to get by on the least amount of fluids and calories as possible, and avoided those dorky hydration belts at all cost. And during short, high-intensity workouts, your runner’s intuition is correct.
Digesting food puts additional stress on your body, especially when training hard, and can result in an unpleasant sprint to a bathroom if you’re trying to replenish during, for example, a 20-minute threshold run.
I think sipping on sports drink while swimming is great regardless of the distance because the chance for gastric issues is so much lower since there is no impact to jar your stomach.
Although it isn’t necessary to take on calories or water in every workout, years of trial and error have taught me that doing a long ride without a lot of fluid/calories or a long run without a hydration belt is quite simply a waste of a training opportunity.
Yes, your body can be trained to metabolize fat more efficiently, but it cannot perform at a high level without ample replacement of the sugars, water and electrolytes that are consumed or lost during a long workout. If you don’t drink and eat during a long training session, you end up flaming out at the later stages and miss out on the chance to gain the fitness that comes from training long and hard. Suffering from a workout and getting fitness benefit from a workout are two completely different things.
Swallow your pride as a former runner and wear a hydration belt. You’re a triathlete now, not a runner after all.
And don’t forget a recovery meal or shake afterwards as well.
Q: I have a high school swimming background and enjoy being in the water very much. I just completed my first triathlon, the Wildflower Olympic distance, and had a good swim. My issue is breathing. I can breathe bilaterally, but my rhythm has always been left side breathing on every stroke. When I’m in the pool I start to work on every other stroke breathing and/or bilateral, but always fall back into the left side every stroke rhythm. Is this detrimental to my times? Are there good drills for changing my natural rhythm if it is something I should change?
A: Always breathing to one side creates two minor problems. First, it can lead to muscular imbalance since your stroke is lopsided. Many swimmers, Michael Phelps included, have an asymmetrical stroke so it isn’t a death sentence to your swim efficiency, but it does leave you more vulnerable to overuse injuries because your stroke becomes even more repetitive than if you breathed to both sides
The other problem is sighting during a race. Since you prefer breathing to your left, you might be at a disadvantage when racing a clockwise swim course since the buoys will all be on your blind side.
Most swimmers who breathe every other stroke rather than every three develop a preference for breathing to a certain a side and it isn’t a major issue, but it is beneficial to be comfortable breathing to both sides, even if you default to left-side breathing.