How to ride faster for free – Part 1

In my project #FasterThanSuperman, where I try to become the most aerodynamic triathlete in the world, I have learned that “its all about the engine” is not true. You can ride faster without having a better engine.

Ironman Texas was a great race for me where I got a very good bike split in relatively low watts. Not every watt was totally free of charge, but some were.
Speed can be bought. Even better you can get speed without using a dime. This is how you ride faster for free.
  1. Stay aero – At every race I do I see age groupers with high-end aerodynamic bikes and wheelset with a combined cost of $10.000+ unable to hold their aero position. Sitting upright have a far bigger negative impact than any gain you can buy. Finding a comfortable aero position and train to be able to hold can be a major source of free speed. Possible gain – 10 – 20 watts – 5 to 10 min.

    I do sit upright at moments as well. If the speed is low (like going up a hill) or to take drink/gels in the aid stations. Otherwise, I am in the aero position. Photo: Ola Morken
  2. Clean your bike – Especially the drivetrain could give a much higher resistance if dirty. Also, be sure to use a high-quality chain lube or wax. Possible gain – 1 – 10 watts – 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

    A dirty chain can steal a lot of watts in increased friction. Be sure to clean it before races.
  3. Ride with correct tyre pressure – Finding the perfect tyre pressure is much more difficult than it sounds. I have a blog post about the subject coming up. However, finding a good enough tyre pressure goal is not very complicated. The calculator from FastFitnessTips is the best I have found. Measure the actual tire width (a 25mm is not necessarily 25mm) and fill in the weight, weight distribution etc. and use the pressure suggested. Note that slightly under ideal pressure is much better than above ideal pressure, so if in doubt, go down 5 psi. Possible gain – 1 – 15 watts – 30 seconds to 7,5 minutes.

    The GP5000 25mm clincher tires measure 27,5mm on my HED Vanquish 8. That is a big difference in regards to tire pressure. If pumped up too much you get «impedance», or suspension loss which I prefer and increase rolling resistance a lot.
  4. Smooth out your storage solutions – Doing a long-distance triathlon can feel like Armageddon. It doesn’t mean that you must kit up your bike like you are doing on a weeklong field trip. Find out exactly what you need to bring and find storage aerodynamical storage solutions to meet those needs. My QuintanaRoo PRsix (and PRthree) have aerodynamic bento boxes integrated, but before that, I just taped the energy bars on the frame/aerobars and put them in my trisuit after settling into the bike leg. Possible gain – 1 – 10 watts – 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

    A bike mechanic I meet in Ironman Texas has an Instagram account where he share photos of creative and unusual bike setups. Hillarious – Check out @Riseabovecycles.
  5. Improve hydration solutions – Where you put your bottles matter. Round bottles on the frame are no-go, but between the aerobars could improve aerodynamics. Also, check out my previous blog about where you should put your bottles. Possible gain – 1 – 10 watts – 30 seconds to 5 minutes.

    Putting the rear bottle at this position, which I will claim is among the most common, created a lot of drag. Actually, a 90-sec loss over 180km compared to the flatter position.
  6. Shave your legs – The tests done in the Specialized wind tunnel found a 10 – 15 watt gain in shaving the legs(!). It was not the most scientifically test done and 10 – 15 watts are based on 50km/h. For lower speed, the watt saved is lower, but time-saving is bigger. Possible gain – 4 – 10 watts – 2 to 5 minutes. Note that you can buy inexpensive aero tubes to save you the hassle of shaving, which also will improve aerodynamics more than hairless skin.

    Aero tubes, like mine from Bioracer, are inexpensive but do come with a cost. If not wanting to buy a pair you can at least shave your legs.
  7. Evaluate your race kit – A high-end aerodynamic trisuit as mine from Bioracer is not free. Ditching you oversized rain jacket or wind vest on race day is. Do you really need it? If not, drop it. Possible gain – 2 – 10 watts – 2 to 5 minutes.
    Norseman is a race where many lose a lot of watts with non-aero clothing. Is better to be less aero than hypothermic, but I believe you can get aero clothing for cold and rainy conditions as well. This is from Norseman 2013 where we had rough weather. I had to put on a jacket to avoid freezing and this was my option. Now I have learned.

    In Lofoten Triathlon last week I opted to only ride in my trisuit even if the air temperature was only 12 degrees. I was too cold for about 10 minutes, but from then it was all good. Definitely worth to not putting on a wind vest. Photo: Kristin Folsland.
  8. Optimize bike fit – I do recommend getting a bike fit from a professional bike fitter who knows triathlon. That, however, is not free. Reading advice from reliable resource and ask forums for advice can be a way to get inputs on how to improve on your own. Note that not all “experts” are in fact experts. Possible gain – 2– 20 watts – 1 to 10 min.
  9. Draft (legally) – If I could change the rules I would have increased the draft legal distance. Being 10 meter behind a rider can give a 10 – 20-watt advantage depending on the wind direction/strength and rider size. Use it, but please don’t misuse it. Possible gain – 10 – 20 watts – 5 to 10 min.
  10. Ride smart – I use to find how I get most speed for my watt. You can try a demo of the software for free and find how you can best spend your watts on the course. Learning to ride in “superaero” position, when sitting on the downtube is also a way to save some time. Possible gain – 5 – 20 watts – 2,5 to 10 min.

    Riding like this may look dangerous, but it’s not. That is if you train on it of course. Photo: Ola Morken

In my next blog post in how to “How to ride faster for free”, I will share to performance gains that can be bought for a relatively low cost.

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I am a 33 year old PRO triatlete. My goal is to swim, bike and run as fast as possible, and enjoy the journey. All my adventures and triathlon related stuff is well documented on this blog.

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