Race season is coming quickly or here and many of us like to dust off the cobwebs with some early season Sprints and/or Olympic triathlon races like the awesome Georgia Endurance series we sponsor. Theoretically these race distances are all about going fast and hard from the start. One aspect that provides some benefit to speed is being as light as possible. Another is unobstructed aerodynamics. Supplementary free speed is what we’re looking for here. Let’s talk about your gear.
As I – Coach B.A.M.F. – like to state in the beginning, the opinions expressed within this blog are just that but usually informed by my research and learning. To a large degree, how fast you are is dependent on how hard you work for it. It’s the engine that drives the vehicle. Nothing trumps the work you put in. That said, there are some places where you can find opportunities to help increase it.
Free Speed – Tips to Increase your Triathlon Bike Results
This blog is not referring to fitness here, although that is most vital. One of the most important pieces of cycling is being properly fit on your bike to maximize aero and power positions. If you haven’t done this I highly recommend you seek out a quality local bike fitter in your area like Micah Morlock at Georgia Cycle Sports in Athens and have it done. This doesn’t matter if you’re riding a standard road or TT bike. Getting fit can make a huge difference. There are a wide variety of fitters, costs, and fitting machines in use these days. In addition, if you’ve had fitting on your bike and it’s been a few years, it’s never a bad idea to schedule a refit to check things out. You could even go to the wind tunnel like ORR Carbon Wheels did in this blog, if you are trying to find seconds and minutes.
Fits should be done during the off-season/pre-season so you have plenty of time to adjust and acclimate to the new changes. If you do decide to get a fitting close to race season make sure they aren’t huge changes in your positioning that will cause you to adapt and leave you susceptible to injury or soreness.
LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD
One thing that makes me cringe when I walk into a Sprint or Olympic race rack transition area is seeing a bike with 4+ bottles in bottle holders and a picnic basket mounted on the top tube. Or all of that, along with an entire bike mechanic shop bag with tires, multiple tubes and CO2’s, and tools attached to the rear of the seat. That’s adding several pounds of extra weight to your rig. Get out your trusty allen wrench multi-tool and strip it down for short course races. You only need the bare minimum for these races. It’s not a half or full Ironman!
CLEAN UP THE BIRDS NEST
Do yourself a favor. Stand in front of your bike, squat down, and look at it. Then ask yourself, “What does the wind see?” Does your bike have a mass of cables and housings from your brakes and shifters crisscrossing all over the front? All of that is just added drag on your bike. Most of the newer super bikes are going to more of an integrated front fork that houses all of the cables where you cannot see them. If that’s what you have, great! But if you don’t, consider cleaning it up a bit. You may not be able to get rid of all of the cables, but there are safe ways to tie them together. Ask your local bike shop to assist you with doing this to makes sure you don’t mess up any gear shifting or brake tension.
HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR COMPONENTS? CONSIDER THE RACE TERRAIN
Bike components can a little bit complicated to understand. (Don’t even get me started on front derailleurs!). There are lots of different models, materials, lengths, sizes, number of teeth, ratios. This is interesting if you’re into it, but not a lot of people are. One component I feel is often overlooked by the component novice is the rear cassette. Sure, it looks intricate and complex with all of its individual rings and teeth, but I’ve actually found it’s pretty easy to understand and deal with.
If someone asked you what size is the rear cassette on your bike, would you know? A better question would be, is your rear cassette right for the terrain you’re training and racing on? Most of your off-the-rack bikes are going to come with a standard 12-25, or maybe 11-25 rear cassette. Basically, the first is how many teeth are on the smallest ring of the cassette furthest away from the wheel hub. The second is the number of teeth on the largest ring, closest to the wheel hub.
If you find it difficult to climb steep hills you may want to check your cassette and possible look into getting one that will increase your spin rate. Such as an 11-28 or larger in your rear derailleur is compatible. If you train and race on mostly flat terrain, switching to a smaller cassette such as an 11-23 could provide some additional speed to hammer those flats. Solid rear cassettes are relatively inexpensive. It may be worth investing in a few to have for different terrains. (*If you’re not knowledgeable with changing them out most bike shops will do it for you as a walk-in, as long as they aren’t busy)
Your workload will correlate with your results, so continue focusing your efforts on becoming a strong cyclist through training. Ride more, solo, in groups, hard, moderate, easy, off the bike, etc. That said, hopefully there are some ideas here that could help you assess your current gear and set-ups to find some additional speed during your upcoming races. The only other place to lighten it up is body weight. If you’d like to review some thoughts on that you can read about that here: Going Against The Grain.