5 Gear Upgrades for a Faster 2020
A new decade has dawned and coming along a new year is the motivation to be a better triathlete. Perhaps you are yearning to be faster and stronger for 2020. It is no secret that nothing trumps putting in the hours and sweating it out training your butt off, improving your technique to get fitter and stronger. That will give you the biggest gains.
Besides that though, you may also want to look at your gear, and see what gains you can achieve just by improving your gear and equipment. Here are 5 of gear upgrades you can spend on, and to our eyes can give you the most value to your money.
A Professional Bike Fit
What is an awful sight in triathlon races? An age grouper racing on his super tri bike, but spends most of his time on the handle bar, not tucked in a aerodynamic position. While we do not expect all age groupers to go ride a supreme aerodynamic position like most pro triathletes and time trialists do, a proper bike fit would lead them to the most comfortable aerodynamic position they can hold for the target ride.
A good bike fitter always finds a good balance between a riding position that makes you as aerodynamic as possible but also enables you to produce the power you need for the length of your ride. Also, a professional fit will find you a bike that will be adaptable to your limitations, rather than the rider adapt to the limitations of the bike, fit-wise. That means there will be component changes on your bike, particularly on the touch points (saddle, stem, aerobar, arm pads, crank length etc). Each will have an impact on the bike fit geometry, and will ultimately lead you to riding more efficiently—-and hopefully to better bike splits.
Aero Road Helmets
Full-blown point aero helmets are out. In real world conditions, it will be rare that you will be riding in a 100% headwind course that would make the bulkier teardrop-shaped aero helmets the go-to gear. The trend is to upgrade to their more cooler, more comfortable, leaner cousin…the aero road helmet. Earlier versions had less vents, but latest models are cooler than ever, and are not as susceptible to drag in nasty cross wind.
Your tires are the only thing that touches the road when you ride so it makes sense not to skimp on quality. Tubulars used to be the go-to tires when it’s time for race day. But having to glue them right and no alternative than to throw them away when punctured means they are not practical to use. Clincher tire technology has indeed caught up through the years, with more tire brands releasing puncture-resistant tires that roll fast.
One much loved tire brand is the Continental Grand Prix 5000 (used to be 4000 but has since been replaced). The new version, as claimed by Continental, are said to be 20% percent more resilient (less punctures) and rolls 12% faster than the 4000. These along with the Grand Prix 4 Season are great choices for training rides as well as for race day duties. But if you want to roll faster on race day, options are racing tires Specialized Turbo Cotton or the Vittoria Corsa.
It is common among age-groupers, and to a great extent, the competitive bunch to have 2 different sets of wheels. One set would be training wheels, sturdier, heavier which can handle all kinds of road punishment from heavy training block sessions; And when it comes to race day, aerodynamic deep rim wheels are the fast workhorses. Popular brands among triathletes are Zipp, Enve and HED and they are indeed pricier than most, but expect to pay more for reliability as they invest more on testing and research. With that, you get confidence the wheels will ride faster on the same power output you exert when your training wheels are on.
If you have iron-distance dreams for 2020, and the longer triathlon race as your A race, the more crucial it is to grab and eventually to know how to use a power meter. If used properly, power meter can effectively be used as a training tool as it provides feedback on how hard you are working on your bike. As a racing tool, it allows you to stay consistently within your prescribed bike zone, monitoring your effort, which allows you to stay fresh for the run.
There is a huge amount of information, sometimes too technical for the average age grouper, but if you talk to your local bike shop, or your coach, you can choose a power meter that will suit your bike. Older power meters are hub-based (on wheelsets), and most common nowadays are crank-based, on crank arms and even pedal-based.
Ultimately, if you mastered the use of a power meter as a training and racing tool (if you want to know more, The Power Meter Handbook by Joe Friel is a good read ) you will avoid the crawl to the finish line with cramped up, beaten up legs versus you reaping the benefits of having enough energy to harvest golden run splits.
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