What’s Aquabike?

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Aquabike is a multisport event introduced by USA Triathlon in 2005, where athletes swim and cycle but do not run. It was created to allow older athletes and those with joint injuries to continue competing. Aquabike events have increased since then and are now included in USAT rankings. It is also a term for an exercise bike used in water for low-impact workouts.

Aquabike is an athletic performance series introduced in 2005 by USA Triathlon (USAT), the official governing body of triathlon in the United States. Rather than competing in all three parts of a triathlon, athletes participating in the aquabike program do not compete in the run. In contrast, in half- or ultra-distance triathlons, athletes in this category compete only in the parts involving swimming and cycling.

A USAT member came up with the aquabike concept after talking to triathletes of various ages who were forced to stop racing. Some older people have had to quit because the pain was too great. Others were sidelined after sports-related knee and hip injuries. However, all of them lacked the thrill of competing and still had the passion and drive to perform in a multisport event.

The idea to drop the running portion of the triathlon was brought to an interim executive director of USAT and the aquabike was born. In response, many long-course triathlon events have begun hosting 1.2 miles (1.9 km) of swimming and 56 miles (90 km) of cycling. Competing two-thirds of the way through the race allows the aquabike athletes to experience a triathlon-like level of endurance without the pressure of the joint-pounding portion of the run, which is 13.1 miles (21km).

When aquabiking was in its infancy as a pilot program, it was not included in USAT’s national rankings. Race directors were encouraged to provide appropriate age breakdowns for entrants and prizes for each category. Since 2005, USAT has noted a steady increase in sanctioned aquabike events. Around 67 aquabike events were sanctioned in 2009, with race directors providing times and placings for participants.

Starting in 2010, the aquabike rankings were included in the final USAT rankings. As the average age of USAT members increases, the organization expects participation in aquabike events to grow. The organization sees the aquabike category as a viable option for older members to stay fit and competitive without putting extra stress on their joints.

Aquabike or aquacycle is also a term for the exercise bike used in an exercise class offered at many public swimming pools and gymnasiums. The bike, which is placed in the water at approximately chest height, is constructed of electropolished stainless steel designed to prevent rusting. An aquabike class helps the spirited participant reap the benefits of an aerobic workout without experiencing the joint and spine pressure associated with exercise performed on dry land.

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