Can I Use a Mountain Bike For a Triathlon?

So, you’ve signed up for your first triathlon and started training. You’re set on the run and the swim but wondering if you need to invest in a new bike or if you can just use your trusty mountain bike.

Can I use a mountain bike for a triathlon? A mountain bike can be used for a triathlon but you’ll want to make some adjustments so that your bike moves smoother and faster with the least amount of effort.

If you plan on using a mountain bike for your upcoming triathlon, make sure to read on to gain some great tips on how to prepare for your ride.

Can I Use a Mountain Bike For a Triathlon?

Serious triathletes use either road bikes or specialized triathlon bikes for competition. If you are just starting to compete in triathlons, it is not necessary to purchase a new bike just yet – your mountain bike will work just fine at first.

Follow the steps below to prepare your mountain bike for the competition.

What to do to prepare your bike for a triathlon:

  • Road Tires
  • Clipless pedals
  • Saddle replacement
  • Suspension

Mountain bike tires can be pumped up to 40-50 PSI so the tires roll easier on the hard, even surface. Make sure to check what PSI your tires can be pumped to before inflating.

Many bikers will purchase a second set of wheels set up for road biking. These wheels will have 1.5-inch slick tires that more closely resemble road bike tires.

These tires are still wider than traditional road bike tires but they have less of the treads that slow bikers down. No matter which way you decide to go, you’ll need to make sure that you have extra tire tubes with you in case you need to replace one on the go.

Clipless pedals allow the biker more stroke control and more power from the complete 360-degree rotation of the pedal stroke.

With the clipless pedals, you’ll want to pick up a pair of specialized shoes that clip into the pedals. This will lock your feet into position and give you even more power with every pedal.

This pedal system helps you gain speed and helps you handle the bike better. These can be easily installed at home or at your local bike shop.

Anytime you purchase a bike, it’s recommended to get a new saddle that fits your personal preference. The seat that comes with the bike is a generic seat that isn’t meant to be the most comfortable – it’s just meant to be the most universal.

Especially when you’re riding in a competition, you’ll want to find a seat that’s comfortable. You don’t want to be thinking about a sore butt when your focus should be on your pedaling and your end goal.

In terms of the triathlon, you’ll want to raise your seat up to gain a higher stance and be more aerodynamic for speed.

Since the mountain bike is built for rough terrain, the suspension is key to a comfortable ride. But when you’re riding on the road, suspension is really unnecessary. There are a few ways you can adjust the suspension on your mountain bike to make it more closely resemble a road bike.

The first, and easiest is by using the suspension lockout. This is a device on your suspension that locks up your suspension when you are riding on smooth surfaces or going up hills. This helps improve the efficiency of your pedaling.

If a lockout is not something your bike has, then you can look at adding air pressure to the suspension to stiffen it up.

How To Prepare For a Triathlon

It’s important to train for all aspects of the triathlon, but the biking can take additional training as you build up your bike legs.

You’ll want to consistently get out on your bike and go for bike rides at least two days a week for at least two to three weeks. Start out slow and work your way up on intensity and length of ride.

Take your training to the next level:

  • Pick up an indoor trainer
  • Monitor your heart rate
  • Join a group ride
  • Schedule challenge rides
  • Have fun

An indoor trainer will basically transform your bike into a piece of equipment that stands still inside.

This is a great way to get a bike ride in and get comfortable on a bike without having to deal with outdoor elements like wind and hills. You can also still train on rainy days or if you can’t leave the house due to kids.

You’ll want to keep an eye on your heart rate during your training so you know you are hitting your target heart rate. You can easily calculate what your heart rate should be at during a workout.

Find a local biking group and go on a group ride. This is a fun way to get to know other cyclists and find new biking routes that you may not have known about. This group can encourage you and keep you going on the days you think you might want to quit.

Take time to work on the things that need the most work. Have you been biking on mostly flat courses? Take a challenge day and find a course with lots of hills to build up your endurance. Do you not feel comfortable on curves? Take a day to practice that skill. This is how you become a more proficient biker.

And, don’t forget to have fun. Remember what it was like to ride your bike as a child. Don’t make every bike ride a grueling one.

Have some fun with it and switch it up. If you are beginning to dread your bike workouts, take a day off and do a different workout instead. Just remember to come back to your bike so you’re prepared for your competition. But, in the meantime, enjoy it!

Tips For Your First Triathlon

No matter what your reason for deciding to participate in your first triathlon, there are some things you need to consider before your big day. Take a look at the tips below to make your first triathlon successful.

What to consider before your first triathlon:

  • Race distance
  • Race location
  • Race gear
  • Pacing
  • Plan rest time
  • Race transitions

For your first triathlon, consider picking a sprint-distance or Olympic-distance triathlon. The sprint-distance is 400 to 500 yards of swimming, 11 to 15 miles of biking, and approximately 3.1 miles of running. The Olympic-distance triathlon is 0.9 miles of swimming, 24.8 miles of cycling, and 6.2 miles of running.

After you get your first or second triathlon down, you can start building from there and potentially work your way up to an Ironman triathlon, which is 2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of cycling, and 26.2 miles of running.

While you are still getting comfortable with triathlons, pick race locations close to home. This allows you to sleep in your own bed the night before a race and helps reduce the level of stress on your body on race day.

Plus, if you are close to the race location, you can do some of your workouts on the course you’ll be competing on. This will help you get comfortable with the hills, slopes, curves, and more of the course before your big day. This will help boost your confidence.

Don’t feel like you have to invest in everything for your very first race. You’ll just need the minimum race gear for your first race – a bike, bathing suit, goggles, and running shoes. Your mountain bike works just fine for your first races.

Don’t feel the need to pick up a special triathlon bathing suit – you’ll be just fine with your regular bathing suit and goggles. You will want to make sure you have a good pair of running shoes and that they are actually running shoes and not other athletic shoes.

You can go to a local running store and have a professional help you find the right pair of running shoes for your gait and feet. One thing to consider purchasing is elastic shoelaces.

These can save time during transitions and won’t put a huge dent in your pocketbook if you decided not to continue competing in triathlons. If you end up enjoying the race and plan on making this a regular occurrence, then you can slowly start upgrading your triathlon gear.

While you are training, make sure you schedule in rest time. It’s understandable that you are excited to get out there and hit your goals but your body needs time to recover. If you don’t plan in rest time, you risk injury.

You want to make sure you enter your race healthy and ready. You don’t want to be nursing an injury, or worse yet too injured to participate in your competition.

For the race itself, pace yourself. You don’t want to use all your energy in the first half of the race and have nothing left for the last half. A good recommendation is to take the first half of the race slower than you expect.

This saves energy for the last half and allows you to pick up the pace if you’re finding yourself with extra energy.

Be prepared for the transition times during the race.

The transitions from swimming to cycling and then cycling to running counts as part of your overall race time. Make sure that you practice your transitions prior to the big day.

The bottom line is that you wanted to participate in a triathlon for a reason. Remember that reason and have fun. You can always improve your race time and gear later. Focus on what you are able to work on and go from there.

Mike Rausa

I'm a 42 year old married father of 3 that fell in love with mountain biking late in life. Mountain biking quickly became my go to fitness activity. I created this blog to help beginners to advanced riders with tips and strategies to improve your riding experience. More About Me...

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