The bike leg of most triathlons takes up 50% or more of the total race time. Your training should appropriately reflect this. However, there are also a number of actions you can take (or avoid) during race week and within the race itself to gain a bit more time and drop that bike split.
Ride the course. This will help you learn the turns and twists, and will allow you to eyeball most of the hazards you’ll encounter.
Get a bike tune-up, or at least clean your cassette and chain. Accumulated grit will create extra friction – which slows you down.
Put on new tires for big races. Worn out treads are more likely to flat or slip.
Warm up on the bike before sprint and Olympic-distance races. The more you’ve trained, the longer your warm up should be. Bring a bike trainer if the race site won’t let you take the bike out of transition.
Stay in the aerobars as much as possible. The only reason to leave the bars are when you’re taking a corner, getting a drink or eating, during steeper climbs, and sketchy situations involving other riders or vehicles.
Maintain a realistic steady effort throughout the race, especially on climbs. Power meters and heart rate monitors are good for this.
Keep your eyes peeled for upcoming hazards – and avoid them.
For longer races like 70.3 and Ironman, use the first few miles as a warm up.
Corner aggressively – but within your ability. Lean into and accelerate out of the turn. In a sprint, stand up and get back to speed as quickly as possible.
Make yourself known. Yell “on your left” or “passing” when approaching slower cyclists from behind.
Don’t relax at the top of a climb. Ride up, over, and through it.
On long, steep downhills, level your feet and ‘tuck’ your body into as aerodynamic a position as you can muster. Break or sit up only if you’re not comfortable with the speed.
On windy days, you may be able to get a slight draft while staying outside the draft zone of another rider. On normal days, you can get a ‘mental’ draft by fighting to keep stronger cyclists in sight. Don’t sit on anyone’s wheel though – your only cheating yourself (as well as the rest of us).
If you have an aero helmet, remember to keep your eyes looking forward, not down. That tail doesn’t do any good sticking straight up in the air.