I'm primarily doing Sprint tris at the moment due to my swim. Anyway, I think it's safe to assume that I would gain around 3 minutes by ditching my road bike, getting aero wheels and an aero helmet. I have read that these items help the non-elite folks even more than the elites as well as the longer the race the better.
So, when you have these things you are starting to get serious about your racing? I think I can get more from my road bike though. I'm the biggest reason why I'm not doing better than my 25/89 AG bike split last weekend. I thought I was somebody but discovered that I'm nobody. Either that or I didn't ride hard enough. 3 minutes would have got my up to 14th in my AG though :-). I'll post my Garmin file up here if anyone wants to dive into the numbers. I think I could have pushed harder but how hard is usually the question.
Without seeing your race splits it is hard to tell where you can best improve. But for me (I'm a runner), it was biking more... a lot more! Riding hills upon hills and pushing the pace hard. The biggest gains will be made improving your fitness. With that said, no reason not to upgrade your equipment if you can afford it and plan to continue to race.
if you have the money get the stuff.
but like others have said fitness counts overall.
that being said i would put the order of buying for biggest gains as
tri bike with aerobars and proper fit as the first time gain
wheels which sometimes cost more than a bike as the second option
and the aero helmet as the last.
i know people will tell you that the aero helmet gives you just as much time back as good wheels but personally i didn't find that to be the case at all. cheaper yes, but didn't feel like it was worth any time gain.
tri bike set up with aero bars, now that you will notice, at least in my experience it did.
New toys never hurt, but for most people starting out its all about the miles and the lbs.
For the most bang for your buck focus on training consistency + improved diet = increased power/weight ratio = faster times. To steal one from Lydiard, "there is no easy way"!
http://connect.garmin.com/activity/177320241 My max hr is 192 but I'd never hit that on the bike. So about 30 bpm avg. lower than max.
I have been riding a lot (comparatively) and expected more out of this leg than any other. When the speed on downhills passed 24+ mph I would coast to save my heart rate for the uphills, it was a lot hillier than expected. But I don't shy away from hills in training. Although my most popular training route is only slightly rolling... I'm 5' 11" and 165 so my power to weight should be okay. Oh well, Smallwood is my next tri. I will be checking out the bike course soon so I can train for whatever it throws at me!
Not buying any goodies this year, maybe wheels in the off-season though, they're too cool to be without :)
Train, train, train! This Andy agrees with that Andy 100%
I have all those things and I'm nowhere serious or anywhere near any podiums. The people who make those fancy things do not make them for the 2% that are fighting it out for podiums. They make those things for the 98% of us weekend warrior smucks. Otherwise, they would go into bankruptcy. If you can afford it and think that it will improve your quality of life, get it.
Also, not sure why you are using your bike splits to see where you stack up against the field when you are doing a triathlon. A fast bike split doesn't mean anything if you can't back it up on the run. I can brag about how fast I am on the bike, but it doesn't mean anything if half the field passes me on the run.
Makes sense about the expensive items.
My run is fine. Not too far off from top-10 and my normal 5k pace. So I must not be hammering hard enough on the bike if my run isn't affected much. I'll keep at it!
You should be more like me and just blame it on the swim for the slow bike ride :)
If we are strictly talking sprint tris, you should still be hammering going downhill until you gear out - maybe closer to 33+mph. Given that a typical sprint distance bike course has you on the bike (~12mi) for between 30-40 min. you should be going so hard that you are almost seeing double. If not, go harder!
Surprised people neglected the real champion of cost-benefit...blood transfusion/altitude tents/steroids. Biggest bang for your buck without hiding a motor in your frame (too expensive) for sure.
In all honesty I'm no bike expert but I think looking at your stats that maybe you want an easier gear and more RPM. Most stuff I read suggests close to 90 per minute and I think you were closer to 75. On a mostly flat course like Naptown you can get up to 100+. Maybe you're pushing too hard a gear?
Interesting article here describing watts savings per unit cost for clip-on areo bars, full tri bke, aero helmet, and areo wheels. According to that article, the best speed per dollar spent value is from areo bars and areo helmet.
No one wants to be "THAT GUY" who spends more money than his ability warrants and so its hard (at least for me) to know when I've "earned" an upgrade.
Also, coming to tri from running side, I have a lot of trouble justifying "buying speed." You can get faster, not because you trained harder, but just because you spent more money? Doesn't exactly seem right.
There definitely comes a time and place to start paying for the upgrades, but the best way to become a better cyclist is to ride with people who are better than you. Not sure what groups you have been riding with so far, or if you generally ride by yourself, but getting your ass handed to you on some group rides will give you the biggest bang for your buck (it's free). Seek out stronger riders and try to stay with them. You may get dropped at first, but gradually you'll be able to stay longer and longer in the group, and eventually you'll hopefully be leading the pack. Hard to get that same kind of motivation and training if you only ride by yourself all the time.
First of all, I highly doubt an aero helmet, wheels, and bike will add up to 3 minutes saved in a Sprint tri. Maybe over the course of an Ironman. The helmet is bar far the best bang for your buck, followed by the bike, and then the wheels.
Save your money and invest in a coach. Consistent and focused training will take you much further than any of those items listed above.
What Andy and Ben said - a sprint tri bike leg is too short to see gains of 3+ minutes. If you're that close to your 5k run times, you're not biking hard enough. Downhills included.
My thought on speed-to-dollar ration: If you're on a road bike, your best bang for the buck will be aero bars and a cover for your rear wheel to turn it into a disc. Aero bars will require you to adjust your position on the road bike re saddle position and your handlebars, and a disc cover requires you being comfortable with taking your cassette off and on. An aero helmet is cheap (relatively speaking), but won't help as much if you're in a road bike position. It would be possible to buy all of the above for around $400 new. Race wheels and new frame will be considerably more, for lesser gains. All told, you'll still be at less than 3min of gain for a sprint tri unless you upgrade your training/pacing.
save your money and invest in your motor... ie train harder. none of those things is going to make that big a difference especially in a sprint.
if you have an itch to spend money, I think the biggest upgrade you can do is a power meter, it won't make you faster but it will let you train better and ultimately get faster. it's not necessary though, the only thing you really need to do is swim more, bike more and run more, the rest will fall into place in time.
Save the money, work less, train more....Best of both worlds!!
In case you are really itching to fork out some cash,invest in a power meter and train with power. You will get the most benefit from that.