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On race day, you want all the free speed you can get. Free meaning you get extra speed with no extra effort. Presenting five tri race day upgrades 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 race day upgrades, but many are well over $200. When it comes to “budget” full aero helmets, Louis Garneau’s P-09 ticks off all of the major boxes for under $200: Ported vent to keep cool, removable visor, mid-length tail, and dimpled aerodynamic surface. All while weighing under 400g—which is a miracle for this price.
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. Pirelli recently jumped back in the bike tire game after a long absence and released the stupid-light P-Zero Velo TT. Weighing 165g for 23c (but trust us, get the 25c that comes in at 180g), these are super thin and super sticky. Also boasting a ridiculously low rolling resistance, these tires will run around $60 each, and truly only reserved for race day as flat protection is minimal at best.
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 is a race day upgrade with 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 is a tri upgrade that 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. We’re big fans of XLAB’s Torpedo Versa 500 carbon version. For $155, this setup is ready to go with a aerodynamic bottle and intuitive computer mount. Plus, having fluid right in front of you means you’re more likely to drink, and staying hydrated can make this a race day upgrade that kills two birds with one stone.
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. We like the innovative Headblade Aveline razor for a smooth shave legs that might not get attention too often (guys?). So go smooth and bust out a race day upgrade for your body, just don’t wait until the night before to do it for the first time.
If money is no object, take a look at a few other products we’ve collected that will save even more time in your next tri.