12 Jun How to get Cycling Faster, for Free
It’s the medium that us cyclists must do battle with on every ride. Imagine cycling through water – would feel really tough, right? Air is like water just thinner. Aerodynamics is a sub branch of fluid dynamics. Air can be considered to be a ‘fluid’ like any other, just it’s density is much lower.
So when you cycle at a decent cruising speed on the flat, almost ALL of your power is being used to cut through the air. So it figures that if you can improve your aerodynamics you will go faster, for free!
So important is air, and it’s drag on you, that did you know that a change of temperature of 10’C can result in a change of average speed of over 1km/h? As the temperature goes up, air becomes less dense, and therefore easier to cut through.
OK, so maybe you’re saying, “I’m not into TT’s”, or “I don’t want to sacrifice everything for aero” – fine; just a few small tweaks are all you need to gain a bit of free speed, and who would say no to that?!
Top Tips for Cycling Faster
- Clean yourself up! No, not talking personal hygiene but your own Cd (drag coefficient). Lycra is designed to be tight and stretch, so don’t wear baggy tops! Arms should be flush with the skin, or air will get in. Keep the zip done up. Look at your tummy when riding; is the material all bunched up? It should be smooth. Carrying tons of stuff in the pockets? Don’t! Think about wearing shoe covers and consider an aero helmet. These measures can easily add up to 2km/h faster over an hour.
- Position! We’re not saying you have to get a super aggressive TT position for every ride, but as your body makes up the majority of your drag, just a small change can reap big benefits. Handlebars – how wide are they? Ever given it much thought? Your arms are splayed out, like air collectors – a narrower bar will reduce your silhouette and reduce the air pocket that your torso makes. Many riders are on bars that are too wide, that bring them no benefit.
- Stuff! No point in having the latest, greatest aero frame if you stick a big pump on it, or hang a Di2 battery off the bottom. Keep the frame clean! If you must carry stuff, put it in your back pocket. Mount your Garmin flush with the bars. Do you really need two water bottles for every ride? That saddlebag with tools you never use – really essential?
- Drops. Use them! If you can’t for more than 30 seconds, then something is wrong with your position. Pros spend hours in the drops for a reason. Consider shallower bars or more spacers if need be.
- Easy on the buns! Knocking off a few kilos has a double benefit; as well as the weight loss, you will have a smaller silhouette – less frontal area, less drag.
Each of these measures considered in isolation may seem trivial and of limited benefit. Add them all together though and you suddenly have something quite significant which may get you cycling faster. Try it!