Hoping to mine some advice from the collective expertise - I currently ride on a road bike with clip-on aero bars. Was thinking about upgrading to a TT bike, but I don't think it will be in the budget. That said, I've heard that an aero helmet and disc wheel can make a pretty significant difference over a 40k bike split (my nations split on road bike and training wheels was 1:05).
I talked to someone at a practice tri who had a wheel cover they ordered online for about a hundred bucks (can't remember the company though). Any thoughts on these? Discs being over a grand, this is quite appealing to me.
Also I found an aero helmet on sale, thinking about buying it. Do people think these make a big difference?
Not that it matters, but if I show up to a race with a road bike and these accessories am I going to look like a total goon?
great bike split on the nations tri, that is a great speed for that course. with or without aero techno gizmos you are on the right track and going fast.
aerohelmet: personally i never saw any times saving from an aerohelmet. i know that "marketing and people" says that you can gain up to 1 minute or maybe more over a 40k with a teardrop shaped aero helmet on, and who knows maybe you do, but remember that is lab conditions. most likely the real times savings is mental, meaning "if you think you should be faster with this equipment you will be".
aero wheels: i think that with good race wheels you do get faster over a course for me personally i saw something like 1 minute improvement over a 40k split, again i have no hard data to back this up, maybe the only reason i'm faster with aerowheels on my bike is again "if i think i should go fast then i will". so if the wheel cover is cheap enough then maybe its worth it to try out. if you get it tell us what you think of it.
and don't worry, nobody looks cool wearing the aerohelmet and such. everyone looks equally like a goon so be liek the rest of us goons if you want. :)
You probably heard about www.wheelbuilder.com/ which makes custom wheel covers for about $100.
I just ordered an aero helmet so lets hope it pays off!
Comfort does need to be taken into consideration. Ironman Champion Craig Alexander does not wear one, perhaps to keep his head cool over 4 hours of biking (longer for the rest of us), whereas for a sprint or Olympic you won't experience as much overheating.
Some people say the small advantage you gain from anything anything "aero" adds up over the long course, but I have read arguments that for longer races where you will not be going as fast you don't get as much benefit because drag is not as much a factor. Think of sitting upright going down a hill vs. a tuck position and then think of the same positions while moderately cruising. You don't gain much when cruising in the tuck position but you can gain 5+ mph by doing so at higher speeds.
There's definitely a psychological factor involved. When I'm wearing one, I feel like I should be going fast. I have no idea if it actually makes me faster. In a longer race, you might put your head down or turn your head to the side to look at a passing cyclist or someone you just passed. That will negate the aerodynamic benefit. So it's really anyone's guess as to whether there's a physical benefit over long distances.
But the good thing is that aero helmets are relatively inexpensive, especially when you compare them to disc wheels. The wheel covers are an interesting idea though. The cost is similar to that of an aero helmet.
I don't have a disc wheel or a wheel cover but I've read that there's a potential tradeoff. The disc/cover may help with aerodynamics going into the wind, but they could also slow you down if there is a considerable amount of crosswind. You also need to be going relatively fast for the disc/cover to be worthwhile. I don't remember the exact numbers but it's somewhere in the range of 23-25 mph and up for the disc/cover to have a true beneficial effect.
Heavier riders also get more out of disc wheels/covers. Lighter cyclists will get affected more by crosswinds.
As for the overheating issue, earlier aero helmets did not have vents. Most recent models have vents. Some people tape them up to help with aerodynamics but others say that the vents actually help with aerodynamics. They keep your head cool because the air flows directly through the front, over the top of your head, and out the back. I ride in the aero helmet on every ride now and I haven't had any overheating issues. Of course, the recent rides have been in cooler temperatures but I don't remember having any issues last fall. I'm still going to test it out during some long rides this spring when the weather gets nicer, then decide whether to use the aero helmet for Eagleman (HIM).
(I even wore the aero helmet while riding the mountain bike this winter. Of course there's no aerodynamic need to use an aero helmet on a mountain bike and most people would probably think it's dumb to wear one on a mtn bike. I guess I'd have to agree, but that's not why I wore it. It kept my head warmer during those cold days. So as long as my head was warm, I didn't care how strange it looked.)