Get The Right Set-Up To Increase Your Bike Speed

  • By Paul Moore
  • Published March 7, 2012
  • Updated March 8, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Throughout the course of the year we publish numerous articles on bike training tips and advice. However, bike set-up and components can also contribute heavily to your speed. As part of a two-part look at bike set-ups, Richard Hoad and Paul Moore discuss initial considerations when purchasing the bike and components. Next week, they will discuss a TT rig versus the use of Tri Bars.

Written by Richard Hoad and Paul Moore
There are three main ways to go faster on your bike. The first is to apply more power to the pedals as a result of all the training you will be putting in over the next few months. The second is to reduce the weight of your bike and the third to increase your aerodynamics.

This is an extract from Ultimate Triathlon, available on Amazon.

To many of us, decreasing the weight of your bike is the first thought in “buying speed”, but in fact offers limited benefit if you are thinking of just upgrading your existing road bike to an improved model. The impact of a few less grams will not save you a significant amount of time, but if upgrading means you are saving a few kilogrammes then it might be worth considering.

For the average speed many athletes finish triathlons in aerodynamics matters more than weight and aerodynamics means reducing drag. Drag is caused when something pushes air out of the way so that something can then occupy that space. The shape and the size of that object is important in determining how efficiently air is pushed out of the way and how much air is needed to be pushed out of the way. How then can drag be minimised for the triathlete?

Reducing the amount of frontal body area: The frontal body area is what you can see when someone is riding directly towards you. Simply put, the more frontal area you can see the more drag the rider will be creating and so the harder the rider will have to pedal to overcome the air resistance.

To reduce this frontal area and so the drag created, the majority of long distance triathletes will use some form of tri bars either clipped on to their road bike or as an integrated part of their bars. When using tri bars, your torso is flatter against the top tube, meaning your frontal area is reduced in size and in turn reduces air resistance.

The Aero Helmet: Aero helmets have been proven to offer some of the best cost vs time saving ratios compared to other time saving expenditure. Their tear drop design, with fewer vents provides a more efficient shape for the air to flow across than a standard helmet. If you are committed to reducing as much air resistance as you can (and why wouldn’t you be?) and saving every last second possible this is an option worth serious consideration.

However you will find that the majority of long distance triathlon competitors (generally not in the leading finishers) will not be wearing aero helmets. It is also worth pointing out that Chrissie Wellington (three-times Ironman World Champion) and Craig Alexander (two-times Ironman World Champion) have opted not to wear aero helmet’s during their victories at Kona in the past.

Aero Wheels: Aero wheels are a common sight at long distance triathlon events, ranging from deep rim wheels to full on disc wheels. There are high entry costs involved with purchasing aero wheels, but there is an associated time saving (and they look good). However, unless money is no obstacle there are cheaper purchases that can provide an equivocal time saving over the course of the race (an aero helmet, for instance).

Wearing tight fitting clothing: This is a simple point, but loose fitting clothing flapping in the wind will create more air resistance than tight fitting clothing. Look to wear cycling or tri specific tops and shorts on race day that fit close to your body. Don’t make life harder for yourself unnecessarily!

Next week we will look at Tri Bars versus TT Rigs

Paul Moore and Richard Hoad are the authors of Ultimate Triathlon: A Complete Training Guide for Long-distance Triathletes which is available on Amazon.

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Paul Moore

Paul Moore

Paul Moore is the Online Editor for Triathlete Europe. When not glued to a computer he can be found writing books - most recently Ultra Performance: The Psychology of Endurance Sports and The World's Toughest Endurance Challenges. Both are available on Amazon. Paul has also written Ultimate Triathlon: A complete training guide for long-distance triathletes which is also available on Amazon.