There are plenty of ways to get faster and improve your athletic performance. In our advertising-saturated world, there is also no shortage of people and companies telling you how their service or product can help you do it. Let’s cut to the chase and outline the best use of your hard-earned cash when it comes to optimizing cycling performance. If you are looking to improve your performance and speed, these two top the list:
1. Get a professional bike fit
Optimizing your bike fit will make you more comfortable, aerodynamic and efficient. All of that means that you will go faster. Bike fitting is not something to do once and tick off the list. As you age, your body changes and your optimal fit will change with it. Review your bike fit every couple of years to stay in tune.
2. Hire a coach
Once you’re comfortable on your bike, nothing will help you go faster than having a professional guide your training, rest, nutrition and recovery from injury. A good coach helps you solve problems and streamlines your route to your best performances – and helps you make the most of your time on the bike. Don’t just hire any coach; interview several coaches and check their references. If you’re serious certified professional who works as a full-time coach.
After that, there are plenty of equipment advantages you can exploit, in order of decreasing expense:
3. Buy fast wheels
A nice set of light-but-aerodynamic wheels will make a huge difference over a standard set of wheels. Studies show differences of minutes over 40km at race speeds, though of course some wheels are faster than others. A good all-around wheel that is both reasonably light as well as super-fast is the Zipp 404 Firecrest.
4. Get an aero helmet
For time trials and triathlons, an aero helmet is essential in all but a few specific circumstances (such as long distances in high heat). Today’s aero helmets come in several shapes with options like visors and adjustable ventilation. If mass-start racing is your thing, you may consider swallowing your sense of fashion pride and buying an “aero road” helmet like the Kask Infinity.
5. Install aerobars
This is another item that is essential for some time trials or triathlons, and ideally you will be installing them on a time trial- or triathlon-specific bike. If you’ve got a standard road bike, a set of clip-ons along with a proper fit (see #1 above) will still help you gain considerable speed over drop bars.
6. Buy a skinsuit and aero shoe covers
By themselves, these items don’t make for a huge advantage, but together they certainly count for something. If nothing else, having skin-tight clothing and covering up your shoes will make you feel faster, and there’s something to be said for that.
7. Don’t wear gloves
This is by far the cheapest way to go faster. Not wearing gloves helps you to essentially streamline your leading edge. One MIT study suggested that the advantage of bare hands is bigger than that of an aero wheel.
The most important thing to remember when spending money in order to gain speed is that the biggest advantages will come from sorting out the basics. Once you’ve done that, you can take your extra tax return money and spend it on your new speed gear.