These days, you can easily empty your wallet buying “free” speed. Aerodynamic advantage have overtaken lightweight as the key selling point on many products. But how much of that is actually worth it? Where is it best to invest those dollars? I’m not going to delve into the merits of a time trial bike or clip-on tri bars, those are a given (just don’t ride them in a bunch). Here I’ll focus on road cycling aero gains.
According to Specialized, moving from an “standard” road bike to a slippery Specialized Venge Expert will save you 22 watts. A big saving but also a hefty investment. If you’re in the market for a new bike and love going fast, the Venge should certainly be on your shortlist!
Not quite got Venge money to spare? Then going deep on your next set of wheels could save you the same when hammering at 40kph (~25mph). They also sound ace when you really wind them up for a sprint! According to the data, those are the two biggest aerodynamic savings you can buy – but also two of the most expensive.
Something less bank-account-emptying is moving from race-fit jersey and bib shorts to an even racier-fit speedsuit, this could save you 15 watts and also make you look 500% more awesome. Anything that flaps in the wind (jersey sleeves, pockets, your flabby jam doughnut belly) costs you watts by increasing wind resistance. For fast paced rides in the summer months, I live in my Castelli San Remo Speedsuit.
If you’re looking to buy easy savings that wont break the bank, a speedsuit plus an aero road helmet would be my two first recommendations. After that, 50-60mm deep section wheels paired with faster rolling tyres.
I’ve even got a Woking CC speedsuit! #aeroiseverything
At the end of the day it comes down to how much those precious watts are worth to you. If you’re at the pointy end of the race results board, saving a couple of watts could mean the difference between a podium place and being an also-ran. For the everyday warrior most of the upgrades are in no way worth it, but they’re nice to have!
Arguably the second best investment you can make in watt saving is to fine tune your body position on the bike. Spend the time to hone your optimum riding position that balances aerodynamics with power output and comfort. Get comfortable tucked into the drops and also with your forearms level, hands on the hoods. Work on getting low with a flat back. Cut through the wind like a knife! Outside of a professional bike fit or wind tunnel testing, this is totally free.
The best investment is of course to pedal harder!
Footnote: The watt saving claims above are derived from manufacturer data, normalised to 300 watts at 40kph. Manufacturers want you to buy products, so this data should be taken with a grain of salt!