On race day, you want all the free speed you can get. Free meaning you get extra speed with no extra effort. Presenting five products in descending order by price that can potentially save you minutes in your next race.
Aero helmets have long been known to be one of the best bang for your buck speed upgrades, but many are now well over $200. Right at that price is the Bell Javelin, a short tail helmet that just a few seasons ago was their top model. With a detachable visor and just enough ventilation for long course racing, it can help you save upwards of one minute in a 40K bike.
You may not think much of them, but your tires can make a tremendous difference in your free speed on race day. A good pair of race day only tires can save you up to two minutes over your training tires, so they are well worth the slight hassle of swapping out. One of the best tested includes the Specialized Turbo Cotton ($80/tire). The only drawback it that the more a tire is bred for racing, meaning they are lighter and have a more supple feel, the quicker they wear down and the more susceptible to puncture they are.
Full Tri Suit
Most of the data on the aero properties of a skin suit come directly from the manufacturer, not from independent testing. This makes it hard to quantify the true time savings a full tri suit can give you. But an independent test from aeroresearch.com for Velonews showed that a skin suit (in this case a suit from Nike) could save over two minutes over a regular jersey during a 40K time trial. Yeah, you probably aren’t wearing a bike jersey to tri anyway. But even if you don’t get that big of a benefit over a two-piece tri suit, consider this: A set of aero wheels costing $1,500 or more is likely to save you 75 to 90 seconds over 40K. The Elite Pursuit TRI Octane from Pearl Izumi has aerodynamically placed seams that could, theoretically save you a minute, and a special treatment to help you keep cool, so you may even save some time on the run too–and it only costs $180.
Between The Arms Aero System
Bottle placement has been closely studied as athletes and manufacturers seek to find the best place to hold your hydration. A between the arms (BTA) system has consistently performed well, saving up to 45 seconds in a 40k. Simple to use, the AeroZ from Torhans is compatible with nearly every aerobar, holds 22oz and comes in under $100. Plus, having fluid right in front of you means you’re more likely to drink, and staying hydrated can save you more time during your race.
It’s not just a habit or myth, shaving your legs does really save you time on the bike. According to this test by Specialized, where they brought a rider into their WIN tunnel and tested him with hairy legs and again after shaving, hairless legs can save you over a minute versus hairy legs. So go smooth and bust out the razor, just don’t wait until the night before to do it for the first time.