Can You Buy Speed? Here's How to Spend Your Money

author : jtriathlete
comments : 1

I'm jumping back into the long-distance races next year and I'm wondering the best way to spend my money? Should I buy a new bike or a powermeter and race wheels?

Member Question

So I have a 2003 Cervelo P2K which I LOVE. I have had it fitted and the only item I didn't tweak was the aerobars as they were not adjustable forward/back so I'm out 1" from an ideal position according to two fitters I've seen. It's comfortable and in good working condition. 

I'm jumping back into the long-distance races next year and I'm wondering the best way to spend my money - is it worth it to buy a new bike (since mine is now 11 years old) or just buy a power meter and/or race wheels for my current setup along with new bars so that it's adjustable for a better fit? 

Answer from Jim Halberg
D3 Multisport.com Coach

Well race season is over, and we often look at the market and think, upgrades? Listen, it's not what you ride, it's how you ride it.  I believe we all do it. But what's efficient, practical and can give you the best bang for your buck? The first question is, how much money do you have to spend?

Spending $5,000 on a new bike? Will it make you $5,000 faster? I would say that if you are currently riding a time trial (TT) or triathlon bike you are perfectly happy with, then why change? If, however, you need to make some positional adjustments then I would be making those fitting adjustments first. Comfort is key to efficiency and power which translates to speed on the bike and the run. You have to propel that bike and to do so you have to be comfortable and aero. But how hard can you propel that bike and for how long? Notice I didn't say how fast.

The next major investment would be to buy a reliable power meter. There are Gold standards down to budget friendly. I have no complaint with accuracy because I have experienced both. The convenience factor is that it takes your indoor trainer rides into a level of meaningfulness. Once you have that power, what are you going to do with all those cool numbers? Current Wattage, Normalized Power, Threshold Power, and much more. And how in the world are you going train to increase that threshold power? What level of power, or percentage of your FTP, are you going to sustain to be able to have your best run off the bike at different distances, and REALLY maximize all those fun new toys? I’d suggest you get a coach who is experienced in such devices, owns them and coaches others who own them and has real world experience.

By now you figured out that power is simply the best upgrade, an instantaneously accurate measure of effort, and you found one you like. Done. Do you still have a few more dollars to spend? Well a nice aero helmet is key and affordable.  The last upgrade would be race wheels, carbon wheels, with anywhere between 40-90mm in rim depth. You're probably going to get a great deal because if your riding a P2K or a bike three years or older, you're likely going to need to ride the older model 23mm wide wheels, which will likely be on sale. Yay for you! However the major question is clincher or tubular? I still think tubular has an advantage but I think that advantage is at the pointy-end of the category you're racing against and likely your race pair compared to your training pair. That's some serious extra money. It really comes down to ride-ability.

I suggest you get wheels you can both race and train on, hence clincher. Here's why: if you pull out those fancy wheels just for races, you tend to not be so familiar with how the bike handles in winds, descents, and cornering. And then you gave up time, all that time, that you just bought (literally and figuratively) on those sweet wheels because you were uncomfortable at how fast you were and how hot you go into those corners. I would spend at least your spring season on those wheels, months before your big race. Learn to handle that bike. That deeper dish and the rolling momentum will throw off your cornering. Spend some time in an empty parking lot. I personally ride my wheels year round, and then switch out the tires for the bigger races.

What about a disc?   Don't train on a disc, now you're going too far, but you should have a few rides on it in that parking lot.

Bike adjustment for more efficiency and comfort equals more power, —->Powermeter—->Coach to help with overall training to make yourself faster (with new powermeter)——> and sweet new wheels.   This is how you get fast.

Enjoy and train safe.

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date: November 25, 2014

jtriathlete

Some athletes spend too much time focusing solely on their strengths or just on their weaknesses. As a coach I believe you should work on both. Your strengths can give you a competitive edge in one or more of the disciplines but spend an inordinate amount of time on them and you can forgo progress in other areas. Not enough time and you’ll see them diminish. Same with your weaknesses, but together we’ll build a plan to balance the two and make you the best overall athlete you can be!

avatarjtriathlete

Some athletes spend too much time focusing solely on their strengths or just on their weaknesses. As a coach I believe you should work on both. Your strengths can give you a competitive edge in one or more of the disciplines but spend an inordinate amount of time on them and you can forgo progress in other areas. Not enough time and you’ll see them diminish. Same with your weaknesses, but together we’ll build a plan to balance the two and make you the best overall athlete you can be!

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