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“Don’t try anything new on race day” is a piece of advice just about every triathlete has heard. But this suggestion really isn’t very helpful on its own because the amount of time needed to adapt depends on what change you’re making — for example, adapting to a new helmet takes less time than getting comfortable with a fit change. Follow these guidelines to calculate the proper time period to maximize your comfort on race day.
Both brakes and derailleurs must be readjusted when wheels are swapped, and braking performance can change, especially when swapping to carbon rims.
Minimum: One ride. Make sure the bike is tuned to the new wheels.
Ideal: One week. Get accustomed to different braking and ride feel.
Cycling ability isn’t universal — fitness is tied in part to a position. Change an aspect of fit, and muscles have to retrain to function while stretched to a different length.
Minimum: For small tweaks, two weeks is enough time to adapt.
Ideal: Changes like dropping the bars or major adjustments require four weeks before becoming totally comfortable.
A new shoe can be a little stiffer, and different models impact gait.
Minimum: When swapping to a fresh pair of shoes you’ve been using, five runs is enough to break the new set in and discover if there are any blister-inducing seams.
Ideal: Changing shoe model takes a big adjustment. Heel height differential, for example, can dramatically alter stride, so give yourself five weeks to adapt to an entirely new race shoe.
Vision, heat dissipation, fit and transition are impacted.
Minimum: One brief trip around the block is enough to see if a helmet is a problem.
Ideal: Studies have shown that five days of heat training is enough to acclimate, so shoot for five rides in the helmet if temperature is a concern.
Fit, friction and flexibility are all hard to assess from dry land.
Minimum: A single swim will alert you to any severe problems, which are often less harmful to a race than swimming without a wetsuit.
Ideal: Building strength to overcome a wetsuit’s restriction takes weeks. One swim a week for three weeks is enough to start developing resiliency.
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