Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The Fastest way to Increase your Speed.

I rank cyclists right up there with golfers when it comes to thinking that it is the bike or clubs that are slowing you down. If I only had a new carbon fiber handlebar, I would have won the sprint… Not the case at all. A good set of aerodynamic wheels (aero is better than lightweight in all cases except uphill time trials) will bump up your speed a bit with the only strain being on your wallet. I’m going to talk about a few other ways to get faster and save a few dollars along the way.

Positioning – Remember the aero trumps lightweight comment, even when you are not in the aerobars on a time trial, the vast majority of your cycling effort is overcoming the wind. Developing an aerodynamic position that allows you to remain comfortable and put down some power will add lots of speed. Narrow and low is the direction you want to head, making sure you are still comfortable to maintain your power output. If you only ride on the tops and then switch to the drops during a fast ride or race, you are headed for trouble. Practice your aero position often and get some easy speed.

Body weight – Nobody ever takes into account the complete bike, rider and gear weight. How many times have you seen someone with the new super XLSSL featherweight bike loaded down with 3-4 waterbottles, laptop computer, seat bag with the entire Park tool catalog and 6-7 spare tubes, etc. roll up on a ride? I’m not even mentioning the fact that most of us can stand to lose a few pounds on our bodies. Saving 30 grams on your new seat is about one swallow of water. Think about this the next time you blame your lack of speed on the bike. If you are getting dropped on hills, your power/weight ratio is the key factor. This is the power/weight of the entire package, not your watts/naked bodyweight and advertised bike weight with no pedals. Load up for a ride and before you get on the bike, grab it and get your entire getup on the scale. Now chuck everything you don’t really need and see the difference. Free speed!

Power – The first two were easy, now we have to work a bit. This too is free unless you hire a coach who will help you get the maximum return for your training time investment. We have seen clients add 2-3 mph in less than a year to the average speed they are able to maintain by focusing their training time. The majority of our clients are regular people who have families and jobs and work hard to carve out 8-10 hours a week to train. This is plenty to get some good speed in and be faster than your friends, which is really all that matters.
In summary, if you have to buy something, get some aero wheels. I am a huge fan of the Zipp 404 with Powertap and use these as training and racing wheels. Drop weight from your gear and your body to help with your climbing. Focus your training and get a coach to help you if you are unsure, the investment will pay handsomely in a short period of time.

Good riding – Coach Kevin

1 comment:

Blue Dog Daddie said...

Amen to this, Kevin! Dropping 5 pounds off the body = dropping 5 pounds off the bike, and costs about $5,000 less!!