Money Can Make a Difference
by coach Matt Russ
It is the rider not the bike that determines speed correct? For the most part this is a true statement, but equipment can make a considerable difference in overall cycling performance. Cycling is a rare exception in wheeled sports. The technology and hardware that the pros use is generally available to the public and relative to motor sports, cheap. The latest �Ferrari� of bicycles with top shelf components can be had for around 6k. State of the art power meters, heart rate monitors, cycle computers, analysis software and monitoring devices can also be purchased retail, and an expert coach can be hired to put it all together for you.
Of course �cheap� is very relative and it is important to spend your money where it will give you the most bang for the buck. If you are looking to upgrade your bicycle your money will be best spent on replacing moving components first, starting with your wheel set. A lighter, more aerodynamic wheel set reduces rolling resistance. Switching to a lighter crank set or a compact crank as need be, and selecting a cassette appropriate to your power output is another way to achieve greater economy.
Most of your resistance while riding from the air around you. Addressing aerodynamics will make the most significant improvement in road speed. If you are competing in multi sport events on a traditional road bike, switching to a tri or time trial bike may add several miles per hour to your average speed once you are acclimated to the new position. Even bolting on aerobars to your road bike will help, although it is important to get professionally fitted in both cases.
A drop in bike weight definitely helps, especially when climbing, but if you are carrying around a few extra pounds of ballast it will be far cheaper to address your eating habits over your bike weight. Shaving a few grams on the latest carbon fiber stem will have almost zero impact on overall speed.
The latest GPS heart rate monitors and power meters are amazing tools, but only if you utilize their capabilities. A $300 heart rate monitor that is uploadable and measures speed, cadence, altitude, etc., has no real value if you simply use it to monitor your heart rate. These tools are becoming increasingly complex and you should plan on spending the time learning their functions and how to apply these tools to your training program. This is money very well spent
Unfortunately you can not buy your way to speed. Fitness and the means of achieving fitness will always come first and that is going to require knowledge, hard work, and discipline. But the equipment you use can make a significant difference in your training and racing, and it is important to consider all aspects of improving performance to reach your true potential.
Matt Russ has coached and trained elite athletes from around the country and internationally for over ten years. He currently holds expert licenses from