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Making your bike faster

So Uncle Sam was good to you this year and you can't wait to spend that new found cash, huh? If you're planning on beefing up, or should I say, slimming down that bike for a quicker 2 wheel split, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. First, Go Aero

If you don't yet have an aero bar on your bike, buy one. The snake-like apparatus will help you shave more time off of your split than any other bike part. A horizontal back position is crucial to a fast ride. Good options range from $100 up to $400. I suggest spending the $100, and saving the other $300 for new wheels. The best reason to buy aero bars first is that they'll save you time on any type of course; flat, hills, windy, you name it.

2. Race Wheels

This is a tougher purchase to make because race wheels are very expensive. If you only have enough money for one, a disc wheel on the rear or a deep dish for the front will provide about the same amount of time savings on a flat course. If you're lucky enough to be able to afford the set, figure that your new weapons of speed will make you about 60 to 90 seconds quicker over 25 miles. If you have visions of qualifying for the Ironman World Championships, buy a 4-spoke, 3-spoke, or deep dish for the rear instead of a disc; the strong crosswinds make riding a rear disc dangerous and prohibited.

3. Losing weight vs. getting more aero

Some riders believe that shaving weight off the bike is more advantageous than getting more aero. They're mistaken. Here's a great analysis from wheel manufacturer HED (Lance's wheel of choice):

"Assume a rider uses a conventional bike over a 25 mile flat course time trial. He weighs 150 lb, his bike is another 20 lb, and he is producing 185 watts of power. The aero drag with this scenario would be approximately 6.5 lb using aero bars into a 2 mph headwind of between 0 and 5 degrees. With his standard bike, our rider's time would be around 1 hour 7 minutes and 38 seconds. If we reduced the weight of his bike by three pounds, that time would come down by just 3 seconds. However, swap the wheels to an aero design and the drag could be reduced to 6 lb. Even with the additional quarter pound weight of the new wheels, his time saving over 25 miles jumps dramatically to over 1 minute 30 seconds. No contest."

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