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.