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Cycling in triathlon is a unique beast, nothing like the rigors of a Tour de France rider: We don’t get rolling starts like in road biking, we don’t have to cover attacks, and—unlike a time trial—we don’t wait at the start of the bike leg with our heart rate low, ready for a little beep to start us off. Instead, by the time we get to two wheels, we’ve already been through a massive heart-rate spike (the swim start), a few dunkings, a few surges, and then forced to go from horizontal to vertical (which is physiologically tricky…) before sprinting out of the water, changing clothes, and wobbling our way onto the bike course.
This is one of the reasons we need to do brick workouts—intervals that switch from swim to bike and from bike to run. We don’t always need (or logistically have the ability) to do a brick, but it’s still important to remember that as triathletes we have a very unique situation when compared to regular swimmers, cyclists, and runners. Enter the “Spiky Bike Workout.”
This workout is meant to be done as a key bike session, no more than once per week, as you get into the build/speed/race phase of your training plan. Don’t do this workout closer than 10 days before a big race, and be sure to leave a day of recovery post-workout (with that said, you don’t need to be fully rested here—a heavy swim in the morning would actually be ideal). Expect to feel very tired during the workout, but it shouldn’t take way too much out of your legs—this is more of a cardio workout than anything else.
Finally, try to do this workout at least three times before your big race to get the max effect, and be sure to remember on race day how you felt and how you most effectively got through this session. The psychological boost this workout gives is as great as the physiological one!
Though best done on a trainer with a strong fan, this is a fine workout to do outside on a course with little interruptions. If possible, do the hard 45-second build on a hill and the longer interval on a flat or slight uphill. Beginner to intermediate triathletes should shoot for two to three rounds, while more advanced racers can shoot for as many as five rounds of the main set.
15 minutes easy spinning, no lower than 85 RPM
5 x (30 seconds build to 7/10 Rate of Perceived Exertion, 30 seconds easy) all between 85-95 RPM
5 minutes at 6/10 RPE, 80 RPM
3 minutes at 7/10 RPE, 85 RPM
1 minute at 8/10 RPE, 90+ RPM
(45 seconds as (15 seconds at 7/10 RPE, 85 RPM; 15 seconds at 8/10 RPE, 90 RPM; 15 seconds at 9/10 RPE, 95+ RPM), right into
4:15 at 7/10 RPE at race cadence, work on smooth pedaling, trying to keep HR down
2 minutes easy spin, 90+ RPM)
10 minutes easy spin at 85-95 RPM