Where Do I Start, Where Do I Begin?

There’s a thread on a well-known internet forum congratulating the Drag2Zero boys on their astonishing start to the season, with particular emphasis on the violent destruction of the National 25 Mile Time Trial Competition record last weekend. It needed a 30mph+ ride from each of the 3 counters, and then some.

Drag2Zero are a racing team; a hand-picked group of extraordinarily committed and fast cyclists. This year they added both Jeff Jones and Matt Bottrill to their roster. Behind the team is Simon Smart who used to work in formula one. He is a scientist with a specialism in aerodynamics; an expert at reducing drag through the use of a wind tunnel. Here’s Simon in full flow:

He’s a very nice chap. I met him at a 10 last year. My instinct was to ask him what equipment gives you the biggest gains for the smallest amount of money, or what helmet I should use, but it’s a useless question because the dynamics involved mean it’s different for the individual.

The thread congratulates the team on their results, and also gives a lot of credence to the notion of wind-tunnel testing. Personally, i think it’s the thin end of a very thick wedge; one which starts with a phenemonal amount of hard work and a strict, unyeilding training regime, before going through the right equipment, and the getting of a coach, then finally ending up with the tunnel as one of the last areas to achieve gains. I’ve seen the level of work put in by riders like Jeff, and it is staggering. He’s been riding for years in the colours of Chippenham and District, making progress year on year until last season where he won both the BBAR and broke the 12 hour national record.

I train hard and i have some fairly decent equipment. Occasionally i have ridden set distances relatively quickly. I am fairly fast for a club cyclist. However, i don’t have a powermeter, or a coach, and most of my really spangly bike-porn is second hand. My disc wheel is a case in point, it came in at around £300 – not a small sum, but minuscule in comparison to the price of a new zipp sub-9 with a powertap. The cost of a wind tunnel session is £900. For most people who have reached the point where they have considered, or even taken part in tunnel-testing, it’s likely to have been at the thin end, and they are often athletes with a genuine sporting pedigree, despite their status in a predominantly amateur sport.

At some point you have to draw the line, but where that line sits is very difficult to ascertain. It’s clearly linked to how much disposable income you have, and how much you are prepared to ‘buy time’ in pursuit of an amateur sport or all-consuming hobby. I think it also always comes back to one thing; prior to making any expensive investment of this nature it’s probably best to ensure you’ve fine-tuned the inexpensive things first: namely your personal fitness.

5 thoughts on “Where Do I Start, Where Do I Begin?

  1. rollapaluza bag boy April 20, 2012 / 4:25 pm

    Did Alf Engers have wind tunnels, disc wheels or carbon fandangles when he hit out his 49 on A27 back in the day …….me thinks not so that’s your answer and keep up the hard work. with all the modern tricks of the trade Clive Brookes of legendary west dc fame only managed to get to 49 for a 25 before retiring. enjoy the sport for what it is… an amateur past-time.

  2. Ed Pitt April 20, 2012 / 5:03 pm

    My favourite chems tune. That and ‘acid test’. Good blog to boot!

  3. bikevcar April 20, 2012 / 10:20 pm

    Every time I upload my rides to Strava I see His Royal Highness Paul Jones sitting proud at the top of every list so stop feeling sorry for yourself for not having your own personal wind-tunnel, or private leg-shaving masseur or chamois-spreading soigneur and just get out there and beast it like the professional amateur that you are. We love ya!

    • traumfahrrad April 21, 2012 / 7:50 am

      i think you’ll find most of those have been usurped by now. steadily, slowly, people take aim and with the help of a sturdy tailwind and a summer bike they usually bag it… but thank you

      • bikevcar April 21, 2012 / 10:04 am

        Just think of yourself as the Roger Bannister of Strava. Except on a bike. And just in the Bristol area. Not sure I’m helping!

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