New Ride!

Posted: May 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

A few weeks ago I finally made the plunge and bought a new bike. After a lot of deliberation and shopping around various NYC bike shops, I opted to go with a road bike over a tri bike. While a tri bike is definately sexier and offers better aerodynamics for triathlons, I decided the loss of steering agility in the city and the relative short distances of triathlons I’m doing at this point tipped the balance in favor of a more comfortable, but still fast, road bike.

The bike I decided on in the end was the Specialized Allez- a nice “entry-level” road bike by Specialized (specs). While I really wanted the Tarmac (full carbon, nice finish), my wallet wouldn’t let me go that far.

The Allez is a popular and affordable bike with an aluminum frame and carbon seat post and fork. The benefits of carbon are primarily its strength to weight ratio, and most of the higher end road bikes these days are carbon. I’m not terribly concerned about having an aluminum bike though- lots of people prefer them for the better road “feedback” and stiffness.

Since purchasing the bike, I’ve made two major changes- first, I switched out the standard platform pedals for “clipless” pedals. In a bit of an oxymoron, clipless pedals are exactly the opposite- you clip into them as you would ski boots into skis. In order to get out, you rotate your heel outward and pull. The point of them is to increase your efficiency on the bike. Instead of just pushing down on the bike pedal, you can apply force throughout the entire stroke. Envision a clock- normally you push down on the pedal from about 2:00 to 5:00, then the other leg pushes its pedal down until the first pedal makes a complete revolution. In clipless pedals, you extend that range from 12:00-12:00, since with your feet clipped into the pedal, you can actually pull up from the 6:00 to 12:00 position. The drawback to the pedals of course, is that if you need to break quickly, or until you get used to them, you can find yourself on the ground if you have forgotten/were unable to unclip your feet quick enough. Thank goodness it hasn’t happened to me yet, though they say its inevitable.

 

The other change I made to the bike was adding aero bars. These bars extend straight out in front of the bike from the handlebar and the rider leans forward and onto them while riding. The point of them is to put the rider in the “aero” position.

 

Since most of the force a rider must overcome is that of the wind, by tucking the body into as small and streamlined of a position as possible, the rider saves lots of energy which translates into faster bike times- or the same bike time with less energy spent. Take a look at the pictures below, you’ll notice how the aero position (left) is much more aerodynamic than the road position (right).

 

There are other benefits to the aero bars as well. Imagine standing a couple of feet away from the counter and then leaning forward at the waist, grabbing the counter and holding yourself up with your arms. Now imagine standing closer to the counter and leaning on it with your elbows/forearms. The second position is much easier to hold- instead of using your muscles to hold you upright against gravity, you allow your weight to rest on your bones (elbows/forearm), requiring virtually no work from you. Aero bars do the same thing.

Finally, the aero position is supposed to use your quads/hamstrings in a way that doesn’t fatigue you as easily as the road position, making it easier to transfer to the run after the bike. At least, its supposed to, I don’t know if its been proven yet.

In any case, I’m enjoying my new bike and the components, and can’t wait for some triathlons this year. If only my foot would get better!

-kd-

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