On the road

Updated 14th March  2018

For beginners the most daunting part of a bicycle race, triathlon or sportive can be the walk to the start line! lining up and waiting for the countdown and flag to drop can be nerve wracking for some

..Heres 5 tips that will give you a super start.


These are some of the more common mistakes I see that will impact on the start of sportives or races when coaching people new to cycling.


Lack of practise of the start, which creates anxiety/ panic. Simple things like being in too high a gear (hard to push) or not having the cranks in the best position for starting can create a cycle of panic.

For example having the cranks in the wrong position (6 0clock position) which will not move the bike no matter how much force is applied.

Then when the cranks are in the correct position if not well practised the rider may not be able to get the cleat of the free foot into the pedal as the bunch begins to move away from the start..

This creates more panic and the rider might begin to look down at the shoe and pedal and to flail around trying to get the cleat to connect, next move might be to ride into the back wheel of another rider or bash the shins off the pedal as the cleat slips from the pedal..

So all of this just creates further stress. And even if the rider is still in the bunch they will probably be out of breath and in no fit state to perform to their best because of the stressful start.

So as you can see it’s very important to get this often neglected aspect of preparation well trained so that it’s an automatic action and everything slots into place to give a very smooth start to the event.


1: Plan and practise for the start so that it becomes an automatic skill.

2:      Have the chain on the correct chain wheel

A: if its an event that begins on the flat these generally have a fast start so big chainring is the most appropriate. Trying to change from the small chainring to the large chainwheel when pressing hard on the pedals, under pressure can sometimes be very difficult.

If it’s a sportive and you don’t intend to cycle at a very fast pace the smaller chainring might be fine to begin on. There won’t be as much pressure in a sportive so even if you wish to change to the big chainring after starting it should be fine.

3:     Select the best sprocket


Best sprocket?

A: Again it depends on whether the starting point is flat or uphill or downhill.. so select a sprocket that you can move smoothly away from the start on without much resistance. You can then change to a smaller sprocket as the group picks up speed.

4:  Best crank / pedal position

Note the all the foot positions ready to press down and move away

Correct Crank angle

A: Place the cranks in the 10 past 8 position on a clock. As soon as the forward foot is pressed on the pedal the bike will move forward very easily and smoothly if the correct gear has been selected.

Note Photo: The foot positions ready to press down and move away

5: Cleats into the pedals


Get the cleats right

Practise getting the foot in and out of the pedals smoothly and on feel. This must become automatic if you are to be comfortable at the start.

You should always be looking where you are going. For the skill to become automatic will require lots of repetitions of just slotting in and out of the cleats.. A turbo trainer is a great place to practise this. Aim to repeat the skill a number of times on both pedals during every session that you do..

Sometimes the pedals might be set a bit tight for getting the cleats into and can be adjusted. However ensure that the cleats are not too loose as you do not want to pull the foot from the shoe when cycling

This needs an experienced persons input. So talk with a good mechanic in a bike shop or your club who could advise on this. Check out the pedal manufacturer’s website for recommendations also

Also practise using the gears according to the current speed and when slowing down or stopping go to an easier gear for when you have to start or speed up again.. Same as you would do if driving a car.


Paddy Doran High Performance cycling coach.   For real coaching

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Paddy Doran

Coach at Peak Endurance Coaching
I have been consistently the most successful coach in Irish Cycling in the last 30 years, training Olympians and Professional cyclists including a number of Ras Tailtean Winners and medalists at World & European levels. Cycling and coaching is my passion and I specialise in peaking for major events.
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