Triathlon Magazine Canada
Aero helmet vs. Tri suit vs. Bike fit
Best Bang for the Buck Bike fit
All three of these potential speed-savers can be found in the same price range, but it’s hard to find any expert who would put the helmet or tri suit ahead of a quality bike fit.
Dean Phillips, elite masters cyclist, coach and owner of Fit Werks studio agrees: “I would absolutely rank a bike fitting from a reputable fitter in your area as the most important upgrade which can typically be done in the $300 range. A bike fitting may amount to more time savings than all the other upgrades combined and can also result in a more powerful and comfortable position on the bike.”
Worried about spending $300 on a bike fit for a bike you might upgrade in a year or two? It’s still money well spent. A fit will optimize your position on your current rig, making you more aerodynamic and more comfortable, but it will also give you terrific insight into what brands and models might work well for you in the future. The measurements taken at your bike fitting are going to be “your numbers” for years, so a coach or shop can help you match those specifications to bikes in your price range.
A quality bike fit goes well beyond adjusting the saddle height. Look for:
• 90 MINUTES TO 2.5 HOURS WITH A FITTER: a quality fitter will take their time with you, with no distractions.
• A THOROUGH INTERVIEW: your fitter will ask about the events you do (or want to do), existing pain or discomfort, nagging injuries and more.
• AN ASSESSMENT OF YOUR BODY: we all favor one side or the other and have asymmetrical body parts. A fitter takes that into account.
• TIME ON A FIT JIG: most top fitters use a “jig” – a contraction that barely looks like a bike, but is set up with infinitely adjustable geometry to dial-in your position.
• FOLLOW-UPS: the best fitters include a follow-up to see how you’re doing on the fit, including tweaking adjustments to solve any remaining issues.
Find a fit studio or bike fitter by asking around. Word of mouth from other local triathletes and cyclists is the best way to find a good match for your needs.
Runners-Up Aero helmet
If you already have a good fitting bike, consider a race helmet for your $300. Phillips says that he’s seen 10 to 20 watt savings (which means more speed for less effort) just by switching to an aero helmet. However, Clint Lien, assistant coach for the National Performance Centre, adds that an aero helmet will only make a difference if you’re riding at speeds more than 32 km/h, so slower riders might put that money elsewhere.
If you’ve been making do with a two-piece kit, you’re in for a surprise. One-piece suits, for most people, are far more comfortable, but they can also be faster. “A good fitting and comfortable triathlon race suit that covers the upper arms and uses top quality material and seam placement will often save 10 to 20 watts compared to traditional two-piece triathlon clothing,” adds Phillips.