I was recently asked by a fellow DM’er about whether he should shell out the big bucks for a new set of deep rim aero wheels. My reply was long and winding, carefully weighing the pros versus the cons and delving ever so gently into the politics of triathlon and marriage. In the end, I think the short answer came out something pointing towards no, or “maybe, ask your wife."
The question, however, started me thinking about all the awesome tri-gear to which we multisport athletes have access and the even awesomer amount of money that can be shelled out.
If you listen to the bike industry, every new wheel, helmet, bike, etc that comes out is the fastest! And for the low, low price of umpty-hundred dollars this new thing will guarantee that you have the best race of your life.
However, if you look at the test data on which this assertion is based, the best results may yield savings of a few seconds or minutes over the course of 30-112 miles. For those at the pointy end of the spear, the <5% of the race field, this can mean the difference between being on the podium or watching the awards ceremony from the crowd. For the rest of the field, the advantages that these new products provide are often minimized or negated by other factors such as life stress, poor nutrition/sleep or sub-optimal training. Even at the highest levels of sport, the majority of performance gains have not come from advances in equipment technology but through advances in training science.
Now, I am not saying that you shouldn’t aim to have the best equipment that you can afford or that a set of Zipp 808s won’t make your bike look super slick while hanging in transition. Simply keep in mind when you are drooling over the next high-dollar aero widget that there is really only one true way to get faster: hard work.
If there are any questions on gear selection, cost/benefit, form/function, etc. post them to the team forum and I will be happy to answer.
JonRyder is a member of District Multisport, the owner and operator of RPM Coaching. Jon is a USA Cycling and USA Triathlon certified coach and offers a wide variety of coaching options, including bike fitting. Jon was named to USA Triathlon's All American for his achievements in triathlon in 2016. He and his wife, Katie, live in Takoma Park, MD with their two sons.