London Duathlon Final Prep : Bikelab Q+A with Gillian Sanders

With only 3 days to go until the London Duathlon (eeeeek!) it’s now all about making sure you’ve done your last minute preparation, and got everything ready.


Sam Watson, manager at Bikelab has suggested his top 5 pre-race bike checks to carry out, which basically involves working from the front of the bike to the back in an “M-shape”, to make sure you don’t miss anything!


“Here’s our top five pre-race checks – you should try these several days in advance in case new parts are required, and then again prior to the race to make sure it is all working.

1. The “drop test”
Hold bike 6″ from the ground and drop it to see if anything rattles.

2. Wheels and Tyres:
· Spin the wheels in the frame and look for any kinks or side-to-side movement. If you’re in any doubt, get your wheels trued by a pro
· Look for broken spokes – replacing any that are broken
· Inspect the condition of your tyres; look for cuts, nicks or surface flaws
· Tyres should “look healthy”, the rubber smooth, without uneven wear, distortion or cracking & deterioration of the compound.
· If your tyre is a tubular, try to push it off all around the rim
· Check tyre pressures, especially on race day. Inflate your tyres, based on manufacturers recommendations, which are stamped or printed onto the sidewall
· Keep an eye on the pressure over a few days of use – any drop in pressure could indicate a slow puncture
3. Brakes
· Spin the wheels again, testing each brake independently
· At full pressure, it shouldn’t be possible to pull the levers all the way to the bars.
· Check pads for wear, especially irregular wear, some brake blocks have wear indication lines to help with this. Check that pads touch the wheel rim at the same time, they are central, do not touch the tyre sidewall and are free from bits of grit/aluminium4. Gears
Take the bike for a quick spin and run up and down the full range of gears – if you have access to a workstand, run the gears whilst making minor adjustments
· Check for smooth, reliable gear changes on the rear cassette
· On the front chainrings, shifts between small and large chain rings should be smooth. The chain should never fall off the chain-rings, when shifting the front derailleur. You should be able to change up and down quickly – almost ‘aggressively’ and still not drop the chain
· Wipe down the chain and clean, then lubricate the transmission, using cycle specific cleaners and lubricants

5. Check other parts of the bike; frame, bars & stem, saddle, pedals, cables etc. – you are looking for dents, cracks, split or fraying parts
· Look for any ‘play’ (looseness) or roughness in bearings such as the headset, pedals or bottom bracket
· Grab each item and tug it from side-to-side, feeling for signs of movement
· Check the headset for play by putting front brake on and rocking the bike backwards and forwards – a loose headset will result in play you can feel. to make sure it’s not overly tight or worn, lift the front of the bike off the ground and allow the handlebars to swing freely from side to side. They should move under their own weight, without any ‘notchy’ movement

Just before race day, you’ll only need to lubricate the chain and gear pivots, pack your race-day kit (spare tube / tyre levers / multi-tool) and away you go!”

To pick up some last minute top tips for the London Duathlon I was also lucky enough to attend a Q+A session at Bikelab in Richmond last Wednesday with Olympic Triathlete Gillian Sanders, and her coach James Beckinsale.


It was a bit of a surreal experience chatting away with these seriously experienced guys, when I’m such a newbie in the world of multisport events, and generally to cycling! They were both really friendly however, and I’ve put together some of their top advice below…

Quick Bio: Gillian Sanders

  • Lives in London
  • South African born Olympic Triathlete
  • Only turned pro in 2010, and before then was a practising lawyer!
  • Finished 19th at London 2012  last year, and is on track for a great result in the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final in Hyde Park this weekend, despite a nasty crash in Stockholm last month…road rash, ouch.

But in the words of Gillian herself “never ever ever ever give up“!

  • In a normal training week, Gillian trains 6 days a week, for a total of about 25hours, and tapers down to 18 hours per week before races.
  • While she does a lot of her training in Richmond Park, on longer rides she’ll quite often insist on a cake stop at The Chocolate Theatre in Windsor – a girl after my own heart, awesome 🙂

Training and Race Day tips:


  • As my race starts at 2pm, Gillian suggested a normal breakfast that provides a good amount of energy (such as porridge) and then a light snack for lunch eg. a plain bagel jam or peanut butter, with a banana and some fruit juice- basically something that’s easy to digest.
  • Post race, her favourite thing to refuel with is chocolate milk! And then make sure you reward yourself with a big steak or burger!
  • During the race, have an electrolytes sports drink on the bike (such as Zero High Five), and consider using energy gels or chews if you’ll be racing for over an hour – which I’m pretty sure I will be!
  • If it is wet the day of the race, deflate your tyres a little to provide more grip (down to 90psi).
  • If in doubt when cornering follow the angle of the cyclists in front of you (presuming they don’t crash!).
  • Place something colourful near your bike in transition such as a bright towel to help you identify it when you run in.
  • When setting your bike up in transition, walk through the route you will use to get to your bike from the end of the run so it’s a little more familiar.
  • Don’t be afraid to use the transition as a recovery and relax, if you’re not racing for a time.
  • And above all, enjoy yourself! 🙂

Thanks for the tips guys, hopefully things goes smoothly on Sunday – for me and anyone else doing the London Duathlon, and for those triathletes racing at the ITU World Championships. I can’t wait to be a #duathlete! 

Beki x

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