Ironman is a beast and you beat it down with months of dedication, training and top end gear. The reality is that a myriad of small things can rob you of the opportunity to kill the beast on race day. Getting your fitness in place takes centre stage during the months of preparation, and smaller issues that can cause devastation on race day sometimes get overlooked. The bike leg, being the most technical, is where things go wrong in many, unexpected ways. Herewith then, a few bike related pointers that might help you see the iceberg that could sink your carbon Titanic on race day! And also a stern warning: unlikely as some may seem, everyone of these misfortunes has happened to someone during a race. True story!
Have u checked your saddle mounts, rails, seatpost and clamp?
Anything saddle-related is very overlooked. The fact is, seat posts and saddles wear out and break. It is a sure race-ender. That was how Conrad Stoltz’s Olympic triathlon went belly up. Check underneath your saddle for cracks in the mould, the rails, everything. If your saddle becomes very “soft” during long rides, it might be because the core structure has over-paid its dues. Also check your seatpost and clamp for hairline cracks, especially aero-shaped clamps.
Have you checked your gear cables for possible fraying and clogging in the housing?
If your shifting takes a lot of thumb-power, there might be a lot of unseen gremlins in there. Get it checked out. Inspect the ends of your cables for fraying, especially on aerobar shifters. Any fraying gets covered up by the tubes. You won’t see it, till the cable snaps. On the new hilly course you need no gear shifting issues on race day. For example, if your back wheel looses its gear cable, your jockey automatically shifts down to the smallest cog, and stays there. Happy pushing up the hills!
Have you checked the integrity of your saddle mounted bottle cages?
Saddle mounted cages bounce a lot, and gravity pulls the bottles downwards all the times. Many cheap cages open up or simply break off. You’ll see many bottles lying around dangerously on race day. This is one of most common sights. Despite lots of assumed R&D, many adapters fail to maintain an upright position for the bottles, and slowly give way to the weight of the bottles, till they point backwards horisontally, making it very difficult to get the bottles back in, and also prone to falling out. So check that gadget well before you buy. Metal brackets get the thumbs up.
Have you done a long a long ride with your spares and spare tubes like you would on race day?
That is another common sight on race day: spares littered on the bike course. If it looks like it might bounce out ot fall off, chances are that it will. Not only is it dangerous to fellow bikers, but you will be left stranded if you get a puncture or need a multi-tool. Rather over-secure than under-secure it.
Have you taped a length of insulation tape somewhere round your frame or seatpost?
You would need that to secure a broken spoke, or anything that might break, even a shoe clamp. Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it. And it takes no weight.
Have you checked the integrity of your armrests on the aero bars?
Take off the detachable pads on the armrests, if they have, and especially if they are made of some plastic composite. Push down on the arm rest and check for cracks. At the same time tighten the bolts if necessary. Many athletes had to ride with broken or loosened up armrests. You do not want to do that. It is back-breaking and very tiresome!
Have you checked your tyrewalls?
Inspect your tyre walls. During those long rides, sharp rocks, glass debris and other road matter might have caused tiny slits that can lead to bulges and bursts. And you know Murphy’s law!
Did you make sure your tyre sealant is still active?
How long since you have checked your tyre sealant? Ironman, being such a goal race, actually deserves fresh sealant in every tyre, as well as your spare tubes. It should seal your tyre even before it hits 6 bar, coming down from 8, and you can race like that. Embrace that technology.
Are you familiar with your tri-watch, especially the lock function?
Rehearse with your tri-watch if you are new to it. The frenzy of race day leaves very little room for thinking. It has to be automatic. If you need to think about how your watch works on race day, you will cock it up! It is best to lock the buttons for the swim. In the swim-fight, buttons get pushed by accident, moving it on to T1, the bike or run leg, rendering it close to useless as a pace tool for the rest of the day. Just lock it ten seconds before the gun goes and unlock it after the swim as you exit.
How long is it since you have tightened your cleats?
In this life, anything is possible. Don’t take the fact that they have never loosened up for granted.
Have you made cuts in your energy-bar wrapping?
There is nothing worse than fighting to get your energy bar out of its wrapping, whilst having to balance your bike with only one hand on the aero bars. Many swaying handle bars have clipped a fellow rider during efforts to feed on the bike. It is not easy to maintain a straight line while fighting your energy bar out of its wrapper. One famous Tour de France rider’s race ended like that in 2014. Unless you cut them in half anyway, make cuts in the wrapping so they will tear easily for flawless feeding on the bike. The same actually goes for anything you do on the bike. Keeping a straight, well balanced line is vital.
Are you well rehearsed in filling up your aero botlle on the go?
It is pointless having an aero bottle between the bars if you only use it once, coming out of transition. Part of its efficiency is the easy of use. You can drink more frequently without fighting a bottle out of, and back
into its cage, while trying to steer with one hand. Filling it up takes a few squeezes and you can do it with both elbows on the armrests. Rehearse it in your training. You will most likely be given PUMP bottles, a.o. on race day. PUMP bottles are quite slippery, and some hands are a bit small, while some people accidently push the valve back in when pressed upside down against the aero bottle, which prohibits flow. Get familiar with refilling your aero bottle on the go, it is atually quite easy. It will be worth every cent you’ve paid for it.
If you intend changing valve extentions in case of a puncture, do you have the tool for it?
This is only of concern if you ride with deep sections. It is best to pre-fit valve extensions on your spare tubes, but if you have other plans, get a steel tool. That small plastic thingy that unscrews valves and valve extensions might open up if the extension was screwed on too tight, rendering it useless. Waiting for the tech vehicle will be your destiny.
Have ever changed a tyre, used a CO2 inflator, or re-attached a broken chain with master-link?
It is a fact that many people take on Ironman without ever having done any of the above. Ironman is not for you to tempt fate with. If you want to be a faith hero, use it for a higher cause than Ironman. If you have never done it, get the screw-on type inflator, a chain tool, a master-link, tyre levers and practice all of the above. However unlikely, broken chains have shown their faces in races.
Many more tips can probably be shared, but all of the above should bring home the notion that weird and not so wonderfull things can happen on race day. For the swim: should your goggles go under your cap or over, should your wetsuit zip cord be above the velcro flap or beneath? The best we can do is to avoid making school boy errors. Good luck with your training and everything that will get you to the start line. See you on race day!