Money can’t buy fast legs

Sometimes I find myself thinking…

“…a set of full carbon wheels would make me so much faster!”
“…this old alloy frame is holding me back!”
“…on a light carbon bike I’d totally smash this climb!”

mavic-cos-car-80-11-zoom__88334_zoom-LargeIn the world of road cycling and with the ease on an internet search it’s all too easy to get drawn into the belief that throwing money at your ride will result in speed gains. Sure a stiff, lightweight bike will climb better and a set of deep section aero wheels will save you some watts, but the differences here are marginal – and by marginal I’m talking seconds in an actual race situation.

Remember … It’s the monkey not the machine!

One Sunday morning when being slowly shelled out the back of the paceline I found myself thinking that maybe on a lighter or more aero bike I’d be able to stick with these guys. Then I looked to the rider in front slowly pulling away; on a heavy alloy frame, low end Tiagra, stock wheels and full length mudguards! Splashing cash on upgrades wouldn’t save me now. You need to work on those legs, boy!

Rules 72: Legs speak louder than words.

I don’t throw out a lot of watts, I just have the dubious honour of being an aerodynamic featherweight. Yes there would be some benefit from a lightweight carbon frame or some expensive aero goodies, but there’d be a much greater benefit from an extra 30 watts in the legs! My bank balance would benefit from saving the cash too.

Work on those legs and lungs. That’s where the real gains are made.


Footnote: Of course money can buy a dubious doctor and a supply of EPO (or tainted steaks if you’re cynical) which will give you fast legs, but lets not go there…

11 Comments Add yours

  1. bgddyjim says:

    A nice bike does make fast more comfortable. Having gone from an aluminum frame to carbon fiber, I’ll never go back. Going from a 14 year-old composite Trek 5200 to a brand new aero Venge was only about a second per mile faster (or so they say) – anyone can make that up with a little “want to”. Still, I do love the Venge.


    1. biking2work says:

      So a nice bike makes going faster more comfortable?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. bgddyjim says:

        Absolutely, no question about it. I can ride my aluminum Cannondale (steel fork) just as fast as my Venge but for shorter periods of time because the aluminum transfers every bump and crack in the pavement right through my body… Because the composite bikes eat the road chatter better (ESPECIALLY with a carbon handlebar!), keeping on the gas is much more enjoyable.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Absolutely! Just as bgddyjim has said, a well made carbon bike will eat up the fast miles much more comfortably than an entry level alloy road bike, but that entry level bike won’t be the reason you get dropped from the chain gang!


  2. bribikes says:

    I am very cynical about speed right now. I trudge through the snow on my mountain bike that is stuck on second gear with low pressure studded tires. What is speed anyway? Does it even exist?


  3. In part I do agree it’s all about the engine, not the chassis. However, like Jim says, some things do make noticeable improvements. For me a carbon framework and deep dish aero wheelset have radically increased my speed, comfort and endurance.

    These days I cruise at 30+ km/hr. Previously it’d be about 20-25. This is more than mere seconds in a race situation.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, but I’d be willing to bet increasing your cruising speed from 15mph to 18mph is more about your legs/lungs (or possibly a more aero position) than deep section wheels. That said, if they didn’t make any difference we’d all be kicking around on classic steel frames and 32 spokes, hahaha! :-) My biggest “bang for buck” upgrade has to be my 52mm deep section wheels. Lush.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Perhaps, but the stats prove a noticeable change when the frame upgraded and then again with the wheels. I rock out on 60 mm zipp now :)


  4. cyardin says:

    The Cannibal once said “don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.” Great post and with a very hard truth.

    Liked by 1 person

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