GETTING THE BIGGEST BANG FOR YOUR TRI BUDGET
Getting the Biggest Bang for your Tri Budget
Triathlon has always been a sport that has been an early adopter when it comes to innovative new ideas and gear. Some of the best innovations in cycling and endurance sports have come through the envelope pushing attitude of triathletes. Because we have an early adoption attitude, triathlon can be an expensive sport. However, not all improvements in this sport require money. If you are looking to make some big gains this season, here are some of the most economical upgrades you can make on the bike to improve, assuming that you already have or will be purchasing a tri bike soon.
Improve your flexibility.
Regular stretching and myofascial release, especially in your hips and lower back, is critical to improving your on-bike position. Whether you are riding a road bike or tri bike, you cannot hold a good aerodynamic position if you aren’t flexible enough. Regular yoga, Pilates, or your own homemade stretching routine will do. Stretches such as Happy Baby pose, Pigeon pose, Downward Dog, and Cow-Face pose will loosen tight hips and lower back.
Shave your legs.
Shaving your legs allows you to get your wetsuit off easier, reduce drag in the water, improve cleaning and healing after a crash, and adhere to cycling tradition. In addition, you can save watts on the bike, some studies show that smooth legs will give you a whopping 15 watt savings!
Update your tri kit
Select the snuggest fitting, sleeved, one-piece tri suit that you can fit into. Anything that flaps in the wind will increase your drag. I’m a big fan of this kit made specifically for Playtri.
Proper bike fit
You can have the most aerodynamic bike money can buy, but if you aren’t able to hold an aerodynamic position because the bike doesn’t fit you then you are wasting energy and money. A good bike fit will optimize your position, making you more aerodynamic, more comfortable, and make the best of the bike you currently have or are buying. When you get your fit, talk with the fitter, a coach, or a sales associate about the best ways to store nutrition & hydration on your bike.
Work with a coach
It is hard to be objective as a self-coached amateur athlete. It is so easy to fall into a routine that does not help us improve as athletes, but comfortably fits into our life commitments. Coaches who write a plan that meets your life commitments, fits into your schedule, challenges you to get better, and helps you to learn the in’s and out’s of triathlon faster are worth every penny. You can find out about working with a Playtri here.
Outside of a heart rate monitor, this is the best tool for measuring your performance on the bike. Heart rate monitors help us know the physiological cost of exercise (how hard it is on the body), while power meters help us know the exact energy we put into the bike. Using both a heart rate monitor and power meter will allow you to really dial in strategies for bike pacing and with testing (a Blood Lactate/Power Zone test and a Vo2 calorie expenditure test), you can determine the correct nutrition strategy for training and racing at different intensities.
Aero helmets are the next upgrade if you are looking to make performance gains with your money. Your head provides a big wind catch and using an aero helmet can minimize some of that drag and increase your overall speed. Short, blunt aero helmets or aero road helmets work well for amateur athletes who can’t hold their aerodynamic position for an entire race.
Race tires & Aero Wheels
Both race tires and aero wheels will give you an advantage on race day. Race tires will help you cut down on rolling resistance and increase overall speed and should be something you use on race day no matter what type of wheel you are using. Save the bomb-proof tires for training. Aero wheels, although they will cost more, offer a significant advantage in comfort and aerodynamics. When you purchase aero wheels be prepared to have an honest talk about your bike handling skills and the type of race courses you will be racing, since those impact how deep your aero wheels can be.
Jim Rowe is a Playtri Level 4 Coach and a USAT LI Certified Coach who works with adult athletes of all abilities from beginners to IRONMAN World Championship qualifiers. Learn more about Jim at www.playtri.com/jim-rowe.