General Discussion Triathlon Talk » competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear) Rss Feed  
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2012-11-02 7:23 AM

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Subject: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

Hey folks,

I've been researching new bicycles and started to wonder how much of an edge do people get when they ride carbon bikes. Is there a known correlation between speed and weight? There are some obvious benefits but at what point are there diminishing returns?

Take myself for example: 5' women weighing 120 lbs training for my first Tri.

Would I have a significant reduction in time if I reduced weight by 5 lbs? 10 lbs? 15 lbs?20 lbs?

Is weight more or less of a factor during sprint vs IM distances?

How much does fitness factor into the equation? ie, if in 5 years after participating in 20 various distances would the ability to reduce weight by the same degree effect the race outcome in the same way?

 

Thoughts?

 

 

 



2012-11-02 7:49 AM
in reply to: #4480036

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Champion
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)
The actual time savings depend on many factors, but as a rough estimate, for a typical triathlete on a typical triathlon course, a reduction in mass of 5kg will result in a time savings of about 1s/km.

Shane
2012-11-02 8:05 AM
in reply to: #4480036

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Champion
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

You can pay a lot of money to drop a few grams off the bike, or you can make sure to take a good dump before getting on the bike -- same weight, but you'll likely feel a lot better after the dump.

If money is no object, knock yourself out with the lightest stuff out there. Just remember this: light, durable, cheap -- pick two. Also, even if you DO have the means, once you get off that bike in T2, all that high-zoot lightness isn't doing you any good.

I did quite well in a lot of bike races (including some with a LOT of hills) on a bike that was considerably heavier than the guys riding next to me.

Carbon is the latest thing that everyone seems to think is the best thing going. I tend to disagree for a variety of reasons. Seriously, I think the only thing carbon has going for it is that it can be molded into some fairly slippery shapes, aerodynamically speaking. But I'm riding a round-tubed standard diamond titanium frame, and I'm still topping out my age group in most races.

Work on the engine.

2012-11-02 8:18 AM
in reply to: #4480036

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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

 

I've been researching new bicycles and started to wonder how much of an edge do people get when they ride carbon bikes. Is there a known correlation between speed and weight? There are some obvious benefits but at what point are there diminishing returns?...

...Would I have a significant reduction in time if I reduced weight by 5 lbs? 10 lbs? 15 lbs?20 lbs?

Do you mean reduce YOUR weight? Or the weight of all your equipment? Carbon doesn't always mean "lighter"--my current race bike, which is carbon, is substantially heavier than my previous aluminum bike. It's aerodynamic, sure, but not all that lightweight.

Reducing YOUR weight can make you speedier, though--esp. in terms of running.

2012-11-02 8:30 AM
in reply to: #4480036

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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)
The easiest place to shave grams in on the rider. Typically the process also involves tuning the engine. A
Pound lost is a pound lost, whether it is by spending $1000's on a new bike or sweating it off. One of these Options is signIficantly cheaper than the other. That said, if you want a new bike and it is in the budget, get one, especially if it will make you want to ride more. The proper number of bikes to own = n+1 where n is the number of bikes you already own.
2012-11-02 8:44 AM
in reply to: #4480036

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Master
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

For triathlon, weight of your bike/equipment/self is not as important as aerodynamics of your bike/equipment/self. 

Of course, the engine is the most important thing to work on.  But in a debate purely on weight vs. aero, areo wins.

 



2012-11-02 8:50 AM
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)
MikeK_PA - 2012-11-02 9:30 AM

The easiest place to shave grams in on the rider. Typically the process also involves tuning the engine. A
Pound lost is a pound lost, whether it is by spending $1000's on a new bike or sweating it off. One of these Options is signIficantly cheaper than the other. That said, if you want a new bike and it is in the budget, get one, especially if it will make you want to ride more. The proper number of bikes to own = n+1 where n is the number of bikes you already own.


I think the other part of the equation is the proper number of bikes to own = s - 1, where s is the number of bikes that would cause your spouse/significant other to divorce/leave you.
2012-11-02 9:23 AM
in reply to: #4480180

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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

ajminn - 2012-11-02 9:50 AM
MikeK_PA - 2012-11-02 9:30 AM The easiest place to shave grams in on the rider. Typically the process also involves tuning the engine. A
Pound lost is a pound lost, whether it is by spending $1000's on a new bike or sweating it off. One of these Options is signIficantly cheaper than the other. That said, if you want a new bike and it is in the budget, get one, especially if it will make you want to ride more. The proper number of bikes to own = n+1 where n is the number of bikes you already own.
I think the other part of the equation is the proper number of bikes to own = s - 1, where s is the number of bikes that would cause your spouse/significant other to divorce/leave you.

Rule #12

agree with what others say, reducing your own body weight through fitness will give you better returns that just buying the lightest gear.  carbon is big because it is much easier and cheaper to form it into a more aerodynamic frame.

there is a reason i opted for the $7.95 bottle holders on my new bike vs the $60 ones my LBS recommended for weight savings.

2012-11-02 10:33 AM
in reply to: #4480036

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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

Thanks for the feedback!

A Carbon bike isn't in my budget, but I wondered about it....

I am working on my fitness and I hope to loose weight in the process, but honestly, I haven't. 4 months into training, and I haven't lost a pound. I don't eat crap either. I'm assuming that I've been shaving off excess body fat and replacing it with muscle. If I don't start loosing a few more pounds then I'll probably have to diet more seriously. I'll wait another 3 months though.

2012-11-02 10:46 AM
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)
LPJmom - 2012-11-02 8:33 AM

Thanks for the feedback!

A Carbon bike isn't in my budget, but I wondered about it....

I am working on my fitness and I hope to loose weight in the process, but honestly, I haven't. 4 months into training, and I haven't lost a pound. I don't eat crap either. I'm assuming that I've been shaving off excess body fat and replacing it with muscle. If I don't start loosing a few more pounds then I'll probably have to diet more seriously. I'll wait another 3 months though.

If you haven't already been to the weight loss forum, have a look.  There's a great thread in there right now for dropping some weight during the holiday period, and it's quite active -- you'll have plenty of good company.  Best of luck.
2012-11-02 10:50 AM
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)
briderdt - 2012-11-02 9:05 AM

You can pay a lot of money to drop a few grams off the bike, or you can make sure to take a good dump before getting on the bike -- same weight, but you'll likely feel a lot better after the dump.

If money is no object, knock yourself out with the lightest stuff out there. Just remember this: light, durable, cheap -- pick two. Also, even if you DO have the means, once you get off that bike in T2, all that high-zoot lightness isn't doing you any good.

I did quite well in a lot of bike races (including some with a LOT of hills) on a bike that was considerably heavier than the guys riding next to me.

Carbon is the latest thing that everyone seems to think is the best thing going. I tend to disagree for a variety of reasons. Seriously, I think the only thing carbon has going for it is that it can be molded into some fairly slippery shapes, aerodynamically speaking. But I'm riding a round-tubed standard diamond titanium frame, and I'm still topping out my age group in most races.

Work on the engine.

fixed it for ya Wink



2012-11-02 10:51 AM
in reply to: #4480428

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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)
oh, we're not bringing *that* thread back up, are we?
2012-11-02 10:56 AM
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

Yes in most of our cases losing some weight will help performance.  However there is a point where the speed gained by losing more weight is outweighed by the performance lost of declining function from your muscles.  This sweet spot is known as your optimum racing weight.  Matt Fitzgerald has an excellent book on this (called racing weight).

As for your bike, yes lighter will be faster.  With the bike lighter doesnt mean less performance so you can go as light as you can afford (lightness costs more).  As has been mentioned though, for triathlon aero trumps weight.

2012-11-02 11:00 AM
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

Your issue sounds like it has almost nothing to do with weight and almost everything to do with power.  Triathlons are not mountain climbs and most of them aren't even all that hilly.  For you at your current weight, I'd be 100% focused on aerodynamics and power on the bike.  

Weight will lead to marginal changes and for someone your size may lead to loss of power if not careful.  Your body position on the bike and the power you generate will be the majority of it.

Yes to answer your question though.  There is a correlation and you could apply to hills that are a certain grade at a certain speed given your aerodynamics.  Shane could break all that down for you.  I'm just saying, if you want to go fast in 90% of triathlons on the bike, you need to have the power and aerodynamics part covered and the weight is a distant 3rd....we aren't talking about the run.

2012-11-02 11:01 AM
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

Fitness trumps everything, but dropping weight is going to make more of a difference in a sprint then a IM.....though in a IM your cumulative time savings will be greater but that is more of a factor of the length of the race.  If you are going to sniff the podium than it may be worth it, but IMHO if its just to shed 5-10 seconds its not worth it.

Getting back to fitness vs. upgrading to carbon wheels, bottle holder, etc......I do have a carbon bike with no upgrades and I beat many people on the bike segment with "high end" upgrades and bikes....if I could get faster running and swimming I may make a few podiums.....so spend more time focussed on your training and not getting lighter components

2012-11-02 11:03 AM
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

For those warning about losing enough weight to be detrimental to power...

She's 5' and 120 lbs, training for her 1st tri. That kind of thinking is what feeds the undertraining epidemic.



2012-11-02 11:10 AM
in reply to: #4480465

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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)
I agree with you.  I have no idea on her body composition overall but I do know some 5 footers around 100 flat who are crazy fast so there may be a chunk to lose.  I'm just saying I'd be a lot more focused on power.  It's the first Tri so you may lose anyway without trying too hard...
2012-11-02 1:04 PM
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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)
LPJmom - 2012-11-02 10:33 AM

Thanks for the feedback!

A Carbon bike isn't in my budget, but I wondered about it....

I am working on my fitness and I hope to loose weight in the process, but honestly, I haven't. 4 months into training, and I haven't lost a pound. I don't eat crap either. I'm assuming that I've been shaving off excess body fat and replacing it with muscle. If I don't start loosing a few more pounds then I'll probably have to diet more seriously. I'll wait another 3 months though.

How is your fitness coming along? I see weight loss just kind of happen for the most part when fitness gains are the focus.

2012-11-02 3:06 PM
in reply to: #4480786

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Subject: RE: competitive edge - body weight vs carbon bikes (and other gear)

My fitness is alright I guess. I've been looking up routines and getting some ideas from various sites to help put together something that would work for me. I don't have a trainer or coach so it is hard to know where I am at and where I need to go, but for now I am concentrating on specific areas. Sept/Oct was swimming and weight training for arms/legs and minor core training. I threw in some runs and spin classes as well. Nov/Dec I really need to focus on running and core training. I probably will take off from swimming all together as the pool is 45min away and my husband hated me coming home at 11pm.

My next goal is a getting a solid running workout together. I should probably look into a heart monitor at this stage in training and learn more about zone training.

At some point when the snow melts I'll probably get together with a coach so he/she could assess what strengths and weaknesses I have and then go from there.

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