Marginal Gains – Helmets

One of the most popular speed oriented purchases, though often hotly debated. Helmets rank very high on the speed per dollar (or currency of your choice) scale. However, what is not always appreciated is that the fastest helmet varies by individual.

Recent years have seen the price of new aero helmets skyrocket (as with many other cycling products), partially thanks to brands wanting to establish a ‘halo’ product and partly because the nature of the market has dictated a lot more R&D. For a brand that previously created helmets based on aesthetics it is an expensive proposition to recover the cost of CFD and wind tunnel testing. Additionally the last couple of years have seen the advent of aero focussed road helmets which are a useful new option on the market.

Marginal Gains – Tyre Selection Part One

As Monday was a public holiday my wife suggested that this weeks article should be called ‘Tiny Tweaks Tuesday’ but we’ll stick with ‘Marginal Gains’ for the sake of consistency. However, this weeks topic is not really marginal – Tyre selection is one of your biggest opportunities to gain (or throw away) performance.

The three key characteristics for race tyres are:

  • Rolling Resistance
  • Aerodynamics
  • Weight
  • Durability

For this week I’ll cover Aerodynamics, Weight and Durability. Part Two will cover Rolling resistance and the overall picture.

Marginal Gains Monday – Handlebars

On the face of it, not a particularly exciting topic – bars tend to be a bit forgotten as riders focus on the obvious items like frame, wheels and groupset. But bar choice can make a real difference to performance so it’s worth paying attention to them. Logically they have the potential for significance as they’re one of the first parts of the bike to hit the wind.

Obviously there is a significant difference in shape and setup between road and TT bars, but the principles by which they are (should be) selected are the same.

Marginal Gains Monday – Wheel Performance

Wheels are possibly the most visible performance oriented change you can make to your bike. Unfortunately there seems to be a general assumption that more expensive and/or lighter equals faster.

I’ve also heard athletes quoting outlandish figures for the speed benefits of race wheels and the maxim I mentioned last week – the terrible advice that it is better to put race wheels on a road bike for Ironman than to buy a TT bike. So today I shall look at the impact of wheel choice.

Marginal Gains Monday – Frame Aerodynamics

Like the muscle currently beating within your ribcage your bike frame is at the core of the performance of the collection of parts that make up your ride (or whip or whatever you like to call your bike). The right frame is key to position, handling, comfort and aerodynamic efficiency. Like your heart you need a good one in order to perform well in Cycling/Triathlon.

A common oversimplification is that “it’s the rider, not the bike” – this is unquestionably true… however, when we’re looking for peak performance there are significant marginal gains to be had in paying attention to the frame. Of course, bike company advertising would have you believe that every new model is 15% more aero (and 10% lighter, 12% stiffer and 8% more comfortable than the last) and the lack of real world evidence for those claims has led to some riders becoming a little jaded about the benefits of aero equipment. So I’m going to frame the data in ways that relate to the type of riding that you, my treasured readers, engage in.

Marginal Gains Monday – Position Aero Drag

At the suggestion of my friends at Sweat7 I’m starting a ‘Marginal Gains Monday’ post to work alongside their series of the same name. The aim is to briefly cover one topic to provide readers with some useful information about hunting out small advantages.

Having been in the Wind Tunnel again last week I’m going to discuss the changes in aerodynamics possible by changing your body position on the bike.

Profile 78/TwentyFour Wheels Review

Profile Design have been beavering away developing new race wheels for the last couple of years. I was fortunate enough to receive one of the first production sets in February prior to the Global release and have spent quite a bit of time on them.

Even better – I’ve got aero data so I can detail exactly how well they perform (because I’m obviously not going to write a review just based on fluffy concepts like ‘feel’).

Tour de France Stage 3 Equipment Effect

Tour de France 2013 Stage 3 finish

image from cyclingnews.com

Stage 3 of the 2013 Tour de France was another exciting finish (does anyone else feel their heart rate jump watching the final kilometre?).

Once again there are small and perhaps crucial differences in equipment that may have made the difference between the victor and the rather grumpy rider he defeated. So I’ll break out the calculator once more.

New Triathlon/TT Bike Releases – Cervelo, Fuji, Pinarello

There have been some interesting new bikes announced recently, as usual I have an opinion about such things so have jotted down a few observations.

In ascending order of interest….

New Mavic CXR60 Wheels

Following on from the release of the CXR80 wheels Mavic have brought the technology to both a shallower depth and a clincher model. Given that they’re 60mm deep they’ve logically named them the Mavic CXR60. Additionally they’ve released some really interesting supporting data.

So I’m also going to discuss the supporting data as it adds useful information to the body of publicly available knowledge. As well as taking an holistic approach to examining the performance of the wheelsets used in Mavics testing for this project.