Triathletes consider the relatively "easy" cycling leg child's play--after all, most people learned to ride when they were missing their two front teeth. And while the skill of bike riding does come right back, there are a few training tricks that will help you build lean muscle and pump the pedals on race day. With proper prep, those 12 miles will fly by faster than you think.
Spin your wheels. Your bike is powered by your legs and core, which means your upper body should be relaxed and motionless as your lower half does the work. Try not to hold tension up top.
Shift. "Most beginners fall in love with one gear and don't shift as often as they should," says Jonathan Cane, head coach for City Coach Multisport in New York City. You want less resistance while going uphill, so shift down into a lower gear (your legs will spin faster and with less effort) to help you over a climb. Do the same whenever you come to a complete stop--starting again will feel 10 times easier in a low gear.
On flat or downhill terrain, shift up to a harder gear to add resistance so you're not just coasting but powering through.
Pedal evenly. A good pedal stroke should be about pulling as much as pushing--a complete circle of power and efficiency. And the smoothness will help your entire form: "If you have a perfectly round pedal stroke, you'll notice your hips, shoulders, and torso are stationary," says Cane.
If the last bike you rode was pink and had a basket on the front, start by taking a spin class or riding a stationary bike at your gym for 30 minutes. Do that two or three times a week to remind your muscles how to pedal before hitting the road. Once you're used to the gym bike, hop on a road bike twice a week for 30 minutes (to start). Just don't forget to vary your terrain--especially if you're prepping for a hilly racecourse.