20 Dec Bike buying tips. Save a small fortune and put the savings where it really counts

By James Hadley, Pro Triathlete and Coach, Hadley Racing, LLC

Today’s triathlon is very different from where it started. Back in the good ol’ days you could pretty much get away with borrowing your Dad’s old 12 speed Raleigh Ritmo. Nowadays the sport has progressed and small fortunes are spent every day to ride the latest carbon TT aerodynamic frames, electronic gears and deep rim ceramic hub wheels.

With all the technology and the huge media push for the latest and greatest equipment, a lot of confusion has come along with it, especially when it comes to buying a new bike. So what are the most important things you need? Is it necessary to spend the same amount of cash on a new bike as what you spent on your car? As follows I have outlined a few of my tips to help you swim through the mass of information. The important things to think about, and the upgrades you really should consider.

Do you need the best bike money can buy?
No, absolutely not. Most of the larger bike companies carry an array of different models with the same frame but different component setups – stick to a reputable brand though. My advice is to not just purchase a top spec model (unless you have a small fortune to throw their way) but think about what you really need and where you could use your money more effectively.

For example. The Trek Speed Concept 7.0 has exactly the same carbon frame as the Trek Speed Concept 7.5 – but retails for $1000 less! And when you’re looking at the pros and cons of components remember that the main difference between something like Ultegra and Dura-ace is predominantly weight, and perhaps only a minute difference in performance, if any at all.  This saving can be put to good use in a way that can actually make a difference where it really counts – your performance. By this I mean specific upgrades in the major moving parts. These are: Wheel hubs, jockey wheels, chain and bottom bracket.

Ceramic Speed states on their website that by upgrading these simple components as well as installing a Ceramic Speed UFO chain and an oversized pulley wheel system (OSPW) you can save 10-16 watts!!! Just on the standard version alone (not including an OSPW) you can save 8-14 watts…which might not sound like a lot but trust me – it is. To put it in another perspective, this standard version upgrade alone saves you just under 2min over 90km and just under 4min over 180km at 40kph!!! So just by saving a few bucks on purchasing a lower model, you can put the money into actually going faster instead of buying the ego version that doesn’t.

All bikes, even the $12,000 ones need these upgrades. They might have the nicest components, but as I’ve pointed out that’s not what really helps the bike go fast. The most important aspects of a bike, the parts that can decrease efficiency or help to improve it are the parts that move. Basically, to go as fast as you’re capable of going, you need to minimize friction in these areas in order to get as much power transfer through to the rear wheel as possible. It’s also important to keep drag in terms of wind resistance to a minimum also, which is why a good frame and a decent bike fit (Retul) is vital.

Even though weight is a factor, it’s not always quite as important as people think. An extra drinks bottle for example might weigh 1-1.5lbs. The savings in a Dura-ace derailleur compared to an Ultegra model is just 20grams…so just shy of 4 ounces! But the price difference is significant.

So if you’re considering buying a high spec model that weighs 1lb less than the lower model I’d stop and think about it for a sec. Could that $1000+ be more useful upgrading the moving parts? Could you put the savings towards a set of deep rim carbon wheels or a disk wheel? Could you invest in a coach for 6 months? Buy proper nutrition for training and racing to optimize your energy/recovery during and after exercise? (XRCEL Fuel extended release carbohydrate supplement). Basically, you could end up spending $1000 more on a higher spec, but not actually go any faster – the alternative choices in my opinion most definitely can. One important thing to remember though is that you can always upgrade your components over time, but you can never upgrade your frame.

One of the most popular ceramic bearing sets and ones which I personally love to use is the Ceramic Speed bearings in all my moving parts. I have Ceramic Speed bearings in my bottom bracket, ceramic speed rear jockey wheels and Ceramic Speed bearings placed in my race wheel hubs…and the special ceramic speed UFO chain for races. Along with the special Ceramic Speed TT lube for races this becomes in my opinion an absolute hands down winner.

A frame no matter how much you spend is a fixed shape – nothing moves, so the only thing that can improve your speed here is the aerodynamic shape and the stiffness of the material. So choosing the right one for the right task is absolutely critical. So there are frames that I would recommend – you can’t go wrong with bike manufacturers such as Trek, Cervelo, Felt, Canyon, BMC, Scott, Cannondale, Argon and Specialized to name a few. So weigh up your options and take time to compare different models to find out what is actually necessary and what’s not…and always put the upgrade to your moving parts as a priority next to getting a great frame!

Major points to consider:
1) Look for a bike with a decent frame, not the highest spec. (Trek Speed concept 7.0 has the same frame as the 7.5 with different components but is $1000 cheaper!
2) Upgrade jockey wheels with ceramic bearings.
3) Upgrade bottom bracket with ceramic bearings.
4) Possible upgrade to an oversized pulley wheel system (not as necessary, but good nonetheless).
5) Upgrade race wheels and hubs with ceramic bearings.
6) For that added smooth friction-less experience install UFO ceramic speed chain.
7) Find a decent coach (Hadley Racing, LLC – Ironman Certified Coach).
8) Invest in some proper nutrition. (XRCEL Athlete Fuel extended release glucose carbohydrate supplement).

Happy shopping!

James Hadley is a professional triathlete and a Triathlon coach for Hadley Racing, LLC.  You can contact him at: hadleyusa@gmail.com and connect with James to learn more about his coaching services: Facebook (@HadleyRacing.net), Twitter (@HadleyRacing), Instagram (@jameshadley777)

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