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Introduction To Duathlon; Tips & Tricks For Beginners

Elle on her bike, smiling during the bike leg of CLS mini triathlon.

Why do one sport, when you can do two? (you could go further and do three, but we won’t cover that today). My fitness journey started with running, but within no time at all, I was loving being on two wheels more and more. Which is how I came to be introduced to duathlon.

At that point I couldn’t actually swim, so triathlon was off the cards for me anyway. So I set my sights on completing the London Duathlon back in 2014 when the opportunity came up.

What Does A Duathlon Consist Of

Duathlon events are multipart events consisting of running and cycling. The format is typically run-bike-run with a transition from the first run to the bike and then from the bike to the final run. Time in transition is counted in your event time so the transition is an area not to be overlooked.

UK Duathlon Events For Beginners

I’ve just signed myself up for the GO TRI East London Duathlon which takes place in less than 4 weeks time. I figured it would be a great introduction to duathlon (or reintroduction), a good opportunity to practice my bike handling and transition skills as well as a chance to benchmark my fitness.

I’ll be doing a Super Sprint distance which is 1m run (1 laps) / 5m bike (10 laps) / 1m run (1 laps), so short and sweet. Or short and sharp?!

Tips & Tricks For Beginners

Back in 2014, I attend a Women’s Only Introduction to Duathlon session where I picked up a few tips and tricks before I took part in my first events. I learned all about how a duathlon worked and also got the chance to try out a BRICK session for the first time.

We covered –

  • Bike, helmet and equipment check
  • Rules of duathlon racing
  • Bike handling skills
  • Mounting and dismounting your bike
  • Cornering technique
  • Acceleration
  • Effective changing gears
  • Developing efficient cycling
  • Efficient run technique
  • Transition set up and brick (run/bike/run) session

General Event Tips

No helmet, no ride. It kind of goes without saying, but wearing a helmet isn’t a legal requirement on the road. It is however mandatory in race events. Add your helmet to the top of your kit list and attach / put it somewhere where you just can’t leave home without it.

Practice running off the bike. Practice running after cycling as much as possible even if it’s only for ten minutes. It will help your body get used to the feeling. If you cycle commute, you can easily drop your bike off post commute, switch into running shoes and clock up ten minutes of running. Another option is to ride to a local parkrun, do the 5km and the ride (or walk) home.

Tips For Duathlon Running

Add running drills to your training. Running efficiently after cycling can be tough. Try adding drills including high knees or butt kicks to your training. Include exercises which isolate each leg to see which was strongest and help you to train your weak areas.

Tips For Duathlon Bike Leg

Drafting is not allowed. …which is a shame but rules are rules. Cycling is a fair bit easier and much more efficient when you’re sitting behind someone else.

There are also rules about taking over other riders in a certain distance and in a certain time. Make sure to read the information provided to you by your race organisers thoroughly.

Taking corners like a boss. Cornering it a skill in itself. When taking a corner, the weight should be on your outside leg which is straight while you lean into the corner. Sometimes this comes naturally, other times it can be awkward but the more you practice it, the better you will get.

Learn your gearing. This is something I struggle to learn (and remember), but again, I think it will come with practice. The short story is: use the easy gears for uphill, and the tougher gears for downhill.

Check out the graphic below created by a fellow female cyclist and graphic designer which gives you some handy reminders about gearing.

Graphic for introduction To Duathlon showing how to use gears on road bikes
Credit: J C Broug

Get clipped in. You can cycle much more efficiently with clip-in shoes. It allows you to PULL as well as PUSH in your pedal stroke. This utilises your glutes and hamstrings which are some of the biggest and strongest muscles in your body.

Transition Tips

How not to forget your helmet. When you return from your first run, you do not touch your bike until you have your helmet on securely. Place your helmet by your front wheel with the clips open so it’s easier to put on. Helmet closet to you, and shoes behind.

Don’t mount your bike ’till you cross the line. There is a line, that MUST be crossed. You do not mount your bike before you cross the line to go for your ride. When you return, you dismount your bike before you cross the line.

Time saving footwear options. Having two pairs of shoes does take time. However, you can mitigate some of the time lost by using lock laces – they’re elastic laces that need no tying.

Use bright accessories. Consider using something like a bright towel in your transition area to help you spot your bike / run shoes etc. Stash a snack / gel under your towel too, which you can guzzle down as you switch shoes to keep you fuelled for your event.


Any other tips you’d add from experience? Or questions you still have?

Elle

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