Let’s say you have $1500 to spend on getting faster on the bike this season. Here are my top “speed packages” that offer the best bang for your buck.
A New Bike
If your bike fits uncomfortably or you’re ready for a tri bike, ask your local shop if it has any leftover 2013 models. You may end up with a bike that originally cost more but now fits into your budget. Most purchases should come with a basic fit, a deal on accessories and free service after initial break-in. Choosing a road bike with clip-on aerobars is also a good way to get the most versatile machine possible with higher-end components.
Tip: While it is tempting to buy a used bike, it gets risky when it comes to fit or the condition of the components—and you aren’t likely to get much love from the seller if something goes wrong.
Aftermarket wheels are most likely more aerodynamic, lighter and smoother than the set that came stock on your bike. Go with a rim depth of at least 40mm to reap the aero benefits, but consider how often you ride and race in windy conditions before going too deep. Wheel companies offer some terrific wheels at affordable price points (see a few options here) or you can find some great deals on used sets online.
Tip: Save a few bucks for new tires, as they are literally where the rubber meets the road when it comes to increased speed and puncture resistance.
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A Power Meter And A Good Book
A power meter can significantly improve the quality of your training time. PowerTap ($1000+) measures power at the rear hub, while the new Garmin Vector ($1,499.99) uses a pedal-based power system—both helpful if you own more than one bike, the latter if you want to swap wheels. Set aside $25 for Training and Racing with a Power Meter by Hunter Allen and Andrew Coggan, Ph.D.—the best read to get the most out of this investment.
Tip: Shop through a local coach or dealer for the best price. Fascatcoaching.com provides bike set-up and a free month of power-based coaching.
RELATED: Power Pedal
It’s likely no other purchase will improve your bike speed as much as quality coaching. If possible, find a coach in your area (Usatriathlon.org has listings on a map), or consider a reputable online coaching service such as D3multisport.com. The new athlete-coach matching program on Trainingpeaks.com is also a helpful resource.
Tip: If a coach is out of your budget, a heart rate monitor is an effective tool to take out some of the subjectivity so you can plan effective training based on actual workout performance.
RELATED: Eight Reasons Your Coach Hates You
The Shotgun Approach
If you don’t want to part with a good chunk of dough, consider a combo of these lower-priced options.
A professional bike fit ($150–$300): These two hours may represent your best investment when it comes to pedaling with more power, better aerodynamics and enhanced comfort in the saddle.
An aero helmet ($150–$250): Testing shows that an aero helmet may shave as much as a minute off the bike during an Olympic-distance race, and far more in an Ironman.
Lab testing ($100–$200): While VO2max testing is good for determining how well you’ve chosen your parents, more effective lab time is spent doing a lactate threshold and/or fuel test, either of which will help you define your optimal training and racing zones.
Regular massages ($500+ annually): Recovery is the time when you actually get fitter and faster. Commit to getting at least one sports massage a month, ideally after a hard training block, and you’ll feel fresher and stronger in time for your next big workout or race.
Scott Fliegelman is the owner and head coach of FastForward Sports (Fastforwardsports.net) in Boulder, Colo.