“It is vain to with more what can be done with less.”
– WILLIAM OF OCCAM (1300-1350), originator of ‘Occam’s Razor’
What is cycling economy? Economy can be defined as the ability to do a certain amount of work using as small amount of energy as possible. Translated to the cycling leg of a triathlon, economy is the ability to cycle as fast as possible for as long as possible using the least amount of energy at a given amount effort. By improving cycling economy triathletes can conserve energy on the bike and set themselves up for a more successful run segment.
There are two easy ways to improve cycling economy without increasing training volume – obtain a proper bike fit and improve pedaling efficiency.
A proper triathlon bike fit will help you in a number of ways. First, if you’re set up properly, your bone structure will passively support your body weight rather than your muscles, which are subject to fatigue. Second, you’ll be more comfortable in your aerodynamic position and be able to stay in that position for a greater amount of time. Finally, a proper fit will take advantage of your body’s uniqueness – bone length, flexibility, etc – to enable your muscles to generate more power with less work.
There are a number of different protocols available for bike fits. I honestly don’t know which one is best, but I do know that the experience of the fitter with the type of rider that you are is very important. Fits can cost anywhere from $120 to more than $500. As the old saying goes, you usually get what you pay. The way that I look at it is that if you’re going to invest in a $5,000 bike set up, spending another 10% for the proper frame and fit is money well spent. Local shops, bike manufacturers and other athletes are great resources to find a reputable fitter in your area. In some cases, you might have to travel to get a proper fit.
Using myself as an example, I felt it was well worth the 2.5-hour drive from the suburbs of Washington, DC to Philadelphia for a fit by master fitter David Greenfield of Elite Bicycles. The entire process took 7 hours from start to finish as he considered me an “advanced fit.” Already, I feel better positioned and more comfortable in my aerobars. Ultimately, it will be my results this year that will justify the investment so we’ll see what happens.
Safe and happy training!