Go faster without spending a lot of money

By Mon Garcia

Race season is on again and every competitor is looking for that last bit of advantage. Because of the speed involved, some say that gains on the bike make the most difference.

But which gains? There’s a study that says that once you hit a speed of 30 kilometers per hour, majority of your effort goes to overcoming aerodynamic drag (resistance caused by the air). How to lessen that load? By getting into aero. Here are the top three gear changes you can do to reap the most aero benefits:

1. An Aero Position

Technically not gear, but proper bike fitting allows you to find a position that balances aero dynamic benefits with power generation. It also helps you get comfortable while using your aerobars. Adjusting your position by getting on the aerobars, or at least getting on the drops if you have traditional road bike handlebars, is the biggest on-the-bike, on-the-fly change you can make to improve your aerodynamics.

A loose jersey creates ripples and consequently little pockets of turbulence, increasing drag and ruining your gains from your position and helmet

2. An Aero Helmet

Aerodynamic studies have proven time and again that your helmet is the biggest equipment factor in getting more aero. Want proof from cycling lore? Greg LeMond won the 1989 Tour de France on a prototype longtail Giro helmet. His rival and race leader till the last day, the late Laurent Fignon, chose to ride the final time trial without a helmet and with a ponytail flapping in the wind. There is an old article in Bicycling computing the aero gains of aerobars, the helmet, riding with and without a ponytail, and disc wheels. Had Fignon worn the helmet and tucked in his ponytail, even without using aerobars, he would have won that year. LeMond’s winning margin? Eight painful seconds. The most famous lesson in aerodynamics in the history of professional cycling.

3. A Skinsuit

Bits of fabric flapping in the wind? That’s a big no-no. A loose jersey creates ripples and consequently little pockets of turbulence, increasing drag and ruining your gains from your position and helmet. There’s a reason we’re Lycra warriors. Just make sure the Lycra fits you right.

Surprised that there’s nothing about the bike? If you look (literally) at it, you comprise majority of the frontal area when riding. This means that your body is the biggest contributor to aerodynamic drag and resistance. It also means that the greatest gains come from streamlining everything related to or close to your body. In the case of aerodynamics, there’s truth to the title of Lance Armstrong’s book, It’s Not About The Bike. It’s about you.