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The price of your bike – does it really matter?

Bikes.

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The bane of my life, our lives.

In our sport, the bicycle is like an endless pit that just swallows money.

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And no, this blog wasn’t me trying to convince myself it’d be ok if my bike still never showed up in New Zealand, as for the second day it remained MIA.

But as we move into the new season, time trials and racing starting to spring back to life, here’s a few things worth considering.

Generally things wear out, they get tired, they break. Unfortunately that’s the way life goes.

The more you use something. The more it’ll break, but at up and over £500 for components in high end bikes, just what are you paying for?

It’s quite common for people to ask me what bike they should buy. New starter, commuter, entry level club rider.

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Experience and funds are limited, you’re just after a bike to get you up and running. And I generally answer along the same lines.

Those of you that know my family will know that we’ve always been into a bit of cycling. Mountain biking as a kid, long weekend cycling holidays as a family, coast to coast at 14. I’m no stranger to the world of cycling and bikes, but I’m by no means a professional.

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At home we’ve owned around 15 bikes in the time since I finished growing. Everything from mountain bikes, hybrids to bottom end road bikes and of course, a brand new, full carbon, canyon time trial bike.

The super secure “bike storage unit”, originally known as the dining room, is now home to some rather tasty bit of kit all of which is regularly used and abused out on the beautiful British roads.

But just how much difference is there between a bottom end road bike, and a high end time trial bike? And what does your investment buy? Well it’s easy do quantify these figures.

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Through price analysis mixed with wind tunnel testing, you can see the power saved by swapping in and out each component to give you an estimate.

And yeah you could put a rough figure on the power saved per GBP. But is that what we’re trying to do? I love my time trial bike, ever since my first session it’s treated me very well.

My second ride on it was a mid 49 minute – 25 mile team time trial. Of which i spend 75% of the time in the Amber zone, being gentle to Mr. Gardner’s legs.

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And it’s fast, it’s really really fast.

But for the best part of £7,000 is it making that much difference?

At ironman Wales in my first season as a cyclist/triathlete, I managed l drop my weight to around 80kg, my usual summer race weight, so that I could deal with the hills slight better.

The ironman Wales bike course is 180km with 2,400m of rolling climbs, with no real flat or respite for the legs. That’s 112 miles with around 7,500ft of climbs.

I rode the course on my cannondale road bike, clip on aeros and a nice set of tubular wheels. (Wheels with no inner tubes allowing the tire pressure to be higher and giving more grip on the road).

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And I came round in a 5:40, the 33rd quickest bike split of the day, far ahead of many of the fancy tt bikes floating about.

So I know what you’re thinking, ‘it’s hilly, a road bike is better’.

Well no, the pros would never be seen on their road bikes doing the same course.

And the same can be said for 3 weeks previous, where I did the pan flat Cotswold classic course in circa 2:11 minutes, another top 10 bike split.

Well what’s all the fuss?

Even my pinnacle, a £300 entry level aluminium road bike from the retailer Evans Cycles, can hold onto almost any chaingang.

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Yes, I put the saddle up after the photo don’t worry.

And it’s metal.

With 7 gears.

I may as well ride a wheel barrow.

I’m no better at cycling than the majority of athletes that train hard and get their miles done.

So I’m certainly not letting you blame that.

There are much cheaper ways to save watts, an aero helmet, a skinsuit, smaller items that can be obtained for under £300. You don’t need to splash on a new bike first off!

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Liam Bromiley from Bath Uni, managed a 20:15 on the U375. A time trial course near Frome, Somerset. And that’s fast, really fast.

He holds the course record on a time trial bike around 19:45.

So what’s the extra £4,000+ worth? Where does it go? Well no matter who you are, unless you’re Bradley Wiggins, Fabian Cancellera or similar, it’s unlikely that you’re going to go round setting course records on a road bike.

They are slower.

Fact.

But unless you’re trying to set course records, win championship medals or reach the top end of your speed. I’m not entirely sure it’s worth it.

Everyone knows my bike leg is my strength. It shapes my races, regularly transforming a bad situation into the perfect one. Out of the water in a bad place, out of conntrol. And onto the run in the driving seat, with everything to lose.

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But without the canyon, I’m not just suddenly slow.

And I’m by no means the fastest cyclist.

And obviously, a slower bike costs you a fair few more watts, and you’ll have to work harder. Granted I wouldn’t put out top end bike splits on the road bike, but I think you’d be surprised at just how close you can get if you don’t shut the door before it’s open!

The money you’ll save in service and maintenance is astronomical.

And that’s the defining factor. We can’t spray pay slip after pay slip on fresh gear.

Replacement parts. Besides, it’s far more fun to train hard and get quick without the gear, then watch your legs burst into life when you get it!

I’m not suggesting you buy a £100 bike for you new race season.

But if you’re on a budget, don’t panic yourself. You’re not out of the race!

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