Can You Buy Speed?

  • Cannondale Slice RS

Many com­pet­i­tive cyclists, espe­cially those of the “week­end war­rior” type, believe that the idea of buy­ing speed, i.e. pur­chas­ing equip­ment to go faster, is a myth. They will tell you that the engine on the bike (your legs) deter­mines the ulti­mate speed of the bike. They may con­cede that lighter and/or more aero may pro­vide small increases in speed that could just as well be explained by per­for­mance vari­a­tions or bet­ter train­ing. From my per­sonal expe­ri­ence, I believe they are wrong. Although rel­a­tively new to par­tic­i­pat­ing in timed events (four sea­sons), I am an older rider (over 60) whose skills are dimin­ish­ing despite reg­u­lar train­ing. Last Fall I par­tic­i­pated in a sprint dis­tance time trial. I was happy that I tied my per­sonal best. I rode a Can­non­dale Synapse Car­bon 4 which is a com­fort­able but still fast road bike. I noticed that all who fin­ished above me in my age group were rid­ing time trial spe­cific (or triathlon spe­cific) bikes. I asked the win­ner in my group if he thought it really made a dif­fer­ence. In other words, I asked him if he thought speed could be pur­chased. He replied that he had rid­den a road bike for three years in this time trial series before switch­ing to a time trial bike. He felt that the switch gained him one to two miles an hour in aver­age speed. I was skep­ti­cal, but still pur­chased a Can­non­dale Slice 5 which is essen­tially the TT equiv­a­lent of the road bike I was rid­ing. On my very first train­ing ride, even while adjust­ing to the brand new aero bar posi­tion­ing, I beat my race per­sonal best aver­age speed. In my first event of the new sea­son, I was over two miles an hour faster in aver­age speed than my pre­vi­ous PR. This was such a dra­matic increase for me that I can only con­clude that I had actu­ally pur­chased speed. Did I win my age group? Not even close. If all are on sim­i­lar equip­ment, then the legs do deter­mine who will be on the podium. How­ever, if you are not rid­ing a bike that was specif­i­cally designed for the events you are enter­ing, I would sug­gest that pur­chas­ing one would not be a waste of hard earned money. It is pos­si­ble to buy sig­nif­i­cant speed.