Best Bike Upgrade for Improved Speed and Endurance
The two most common cycling related questions I receive as a coach are: “How do I get faster on the bike?” and “How can I ride longer and sustain my speed/power?” With deference to the great Eddy Merckx, who said “Ride up grades, don’t buy upgrades” when he was asked about improving as a cyclist, here is my list of upgrades that will help you improve your overall bike speed and endurance as a triathlete.
Get a bike fit. Before you start putting money into upgrading your bike, it is worth it to make sure that your bike fits your body properly. A proper bike fit will help with injury prevention, comfort, and the ability to train and race longer and more consistently.
Get a coach. Very few people can truly be objective with their own training. Most triathletes have type “A” personalities and having a coach who works closely with you to develop a training plan based on what your life dictates helps provide accountability, motivation, and a reality check on your goals. Individual coaching at Playtri starts at $150 per month.
Buy a power meter. Training with power can have a huge impact on the way you race. Training in determined power zones will help build your “engine.” Unlike speed which can be variable due to terrain, dehydration, wind, road surface quality, etc., riding to power means you can manage your efforts in a race so that you can set yourself up for a quality run. I’m impartial to the Garmin Rally RS200 or RK200 because each pedal reads power and they are easy to switch between bikes.
Use an Aero Helmet. An aero helmet smooths the airflow around your head and reducing drag. Approximately 90% of the energy your produce while cycling is used to overcome the air resistance produced by your body and bike. On a tri bike your head is one of the first things air resistance meets, an aero helmet helps make that meeting smooth and fast. For hot and humid races, I prefer aero road helmets like the Lazer Bullet or Kask Utopia.
Upgrade your wheels, tires, and tubes. These are the first point of contact between your bike and the road surface. Aero wheels are a proven energy-saving upgrade as they are designed to cut through the wind, and upgrading your tires and tubes (unless you run tubular or tubeless tires) will help cut down on rolling resistance. Lowering the rolling resistance of your tires and tubes means going faster while producing the same amount of power compared to tires and tubes that have higher rolling resistance. Some of the best aero wheels come from companies like Zipp, Enve, or the more affordable Reynolds. For tires, I’m a fan of the Continental Grand Prix 5000 Clincher Tire which has low rolling resistance, low weight, and decent puncture resistance. If you run tubeless, then consider the Vittoria Corsa Speed Graphene 2.0 for racing which is the fastest tire on the market. And the fastest tubes on the market are latex tubes.
Coach Jim Rowe is a Playtri Level 3 Coach, and also holds a USA Triathlon Level I Coaching Certification specializing in Long Course Racing, a UESCA Triathlon Coaching Certification, and a TRX Coaching Certification. He is available for individual coaching, one-on-one sessions, and performance testing. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.