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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

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Old 01-05-14, 11:08 AM   #126
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If only everyone would enjoy their bike exactly the same way I do, for the same reasons, and with the same expenditures, the world would be such a better place.
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Old 01-05-14, 11:10 AM   #127
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A nicer bike would make me a lot faster. I mean subjectively faster. On most of my rides, that is what ultimately counts.
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Old 01-05-14, 11:15 AM   #128
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... the single piece of equipment that resulted in the most improvement was a $12 Bell cyclocomputer showing me just how slow I really was...
Ding! You win. At least in my opinion. This season I'm mounting a Blackburn HR/Cadence (1/2 off sale of course) meter. When those numbers drop, that little voice in my head will be screaming, "SLACKER!"
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Old 01-05-14, 11:31 AM   #129
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I know this is an old thread, but I thought the topic seemed appropriate...

I'm a mechanical engineer by trade and "a bit" geeky. Like a lot of other people I wanted to know how much faster "x" would make me on my bike so I wrote a little program and began gathering as much real-life data as I could... both from my own testing and other people's testing.

Once I'd written the program it seemed a waste to keep it to myself so I registered a little web domain and put it on the web... I hope nobody is upset if I post a link here.... it's totally free to use; just fill in your data hit "calculate" and it'll tell you how much faster "x" would make you on your bike over the same ride:

CYCLE SPEED MARGINAL GAINS CALCULATOR

Because the gains are presented relative to one of your actual rides then the results should be a very good indicator of what you'd expect to see -as long as you put in the same effort and the wind conditions are the same!

Any feedback appreciated!
Pretty awesome.

I was amused that it calculates that low tire pressure plus dirty chain costs me .5 mph on my rides, which seems like a lot but is spot on with my real life estimates! And also the under-inflated tires is about the same loss as 3-spoke aero wheels would gain, which tells me that those wheels would be about as important to me as keeping my tires aired up. It's a useful page.

feedback: I'd like to see watt-equivalents calculated for each line given the input parameters, but that might be confusing and overload for the casual user. Optionally entering watts instead of time (like the other online calculators) might be a good idea though.
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Old 01-05-14, 01:39 PM   #130
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I wonder if getting a thinner tire than 23mm would increase speed. Do they even make tires thinner than that?
I've been meaning to add the effect of tyre width to my program, and your question was just the kick I needed to get it done!

It's another counter-intuitive one: three tyres were tested by Jan Heine of (the rather excellent) Bicycle Magazine. The tyres were the same make/compound/tread pattern but in three different widths; 20, 23 and 25mm. Despite the extra width from the wider tyres probably causing more aerodynamic drag, they were actually faster than the thinner tyres when ridden on a typical tarmac surface (as opposed to a smooth velodrome surface or testing drum that has previously been used for tyre testing). The hypothesis being that the wider tyre is better able to absorb the small imperfections of the tamarc surface and reduce the amount of vertical motion they cause which absorbs power.

Even the pro TDF teams are switching to 25mm wide tyres from the previously "normal" 23mm wide ones.

I've added the effects to my program (bottom of the list):-

Marginal Gains Calculator with tyre width effects
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Old 01-05-14, 01:57 PM   #131
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It's a useful page.

feedback: I'd like to see watt-equivalents calculated for each line given the input parameters, but that might be confusing and overload for the casual user. Optionally entering watts instead of time (like the other online calculators) might be a good idea though.
Thanks!

And thanks for the feedback; I could definitely look at adding in an option to input power rather than time; I've shied away from it at present because I thought that not that many people have power meters... but if there's enough of a demand for it..... guys?

Cheers,
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Old 01-05-14, 02:28 PM   #132
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My point is aimed at someone who changes nothing in terms of training but brags that his Zipps knocked 5 seconds off of a strava segment.
Regardless, that person is still 5 seconds faster. Do you get upset because someone hits a golf ball further because of carbon shafts? Or has better control in tennis because of a new racket? Or does better running because they wear tights instead of baggy pants?
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Old 01-05-14, 03:20 PM   #133
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Regardless, that person is still 5 seconds faster. Do you get upset because someone hits a golf ball further because of carbon shafts? Or has better control in tennis because of a new racket? Or does better running because they wear tights instead of baggy pants?
I couldn't care less how they feel about their performance "gains", I was only offering my opinion that I don't think it is something (again, in my opinion) to feel proud about. Take a car example- Someone laps a race course in 1:45 in a Miata at the absolute limit of the car and nails every apex. He should be proud of his abilities and control. Someone else laps the course in 1:30 in a Porsche 911, but drives under the limits of the car and takes poor lines through corners. If I were that 2nd driver, I wouldn't be proud of myself for lapping faster than a Miata, I'd feel like I could improve because I hadn't touched the car's limit. Again, all my opinion, so I shouldn't have to defend it and it's unfortunate that some people seem offended by it. I think it's a fairly common sentiment, at least in my riding circles.
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Old 01-05-14, 06:25 PM   #134
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I couldn't care less how they feel about their performance "gains", I was only offering my opinion that I don't think it is something (again, in my opinion) to feel proud about. Take a car example- Someone laps a race course in 1:45 in a Miata at the absolute limit of the car and nails every apex. He should be proud of his abilities and control. Someone else laps the course in 1:30 in a Porsche 911, but drives under the limits of the car and takes poor lines through corners. If I were that 2nd driver, I wouldn't be proud of myself for lapping faster than a Miata, I'd feel like I could improve because I hadn't touched the car's limit. Again, all my opinion, so I shouldn't have to defend it and it's unfortunate that some people seem offended by it. I think it's a fairly common sentiment, at least in my riding circles.
I totally got what you were going for back the first time you posted it and agree with your sentiment. I know some people feel that they've improved because they're faster with new equipment even though their level of fitness hasn't changed (and that's fine with me if they want to feel that way), but I'm not going to be proud that I got my ride done 1 minute faster while using an e-assist bike (obvious exaggeration) compared to my normal bike. Some people still would be happy (and there's nothing wrong with that), but the change wouldn't be anyway reflective of me improving my fitness, so I wouldn't care and would throw that out unless I was always going to use that bike from now on. In that case, that ride would be my new baseline. In a sort of related note, I'm trying to lose weight and have a crappy scale that tells me that I weigh a few pounds more than I do. I want to get a new scale that also measures body fat, but I'm going to wait until I hit my goal (and, once I do that, I'm not sure whether I'll still care about getting a new scale), because I don't want the free 3 pounds that a more accurate scale will tell me that I'm lighter. I want to earn my whole loss.
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Old 01-05-14, 06:36 PM   #135
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My opinion that I offered was that it's more satisfying to see gains through training, but if it makes you happy to buy speed that's fine
Look, any fool knows (or should know, anyway) that the gains that can be made through buying high-end equipment are much smaller than the gains that can be made through improving one's fitness. But the cutting-edge tech and gear is a part of the sport that interests and excites a lot of people, all out of proportion to the difference it makes in how fast they're going. Having nice stuff is fun! And nice! And I just think you're totally out in left field thinking that whatever speed people are able to buy will be "unsatisfying," as though you can't both buy faster wheels and improve your fitness. These aren't mutually exclusive!

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The way I see it, he is trying to appeal to peoples' common sense, where as you are trying to be funny with nonsense.
Common sense? You say common sense, but what I'm reading looks more like this:


Like I said: having nice stuff is fun! It may not necessarily be justifiable - hell, I race, I know the value of equipment and I sure as heck can't afford carbon wheels or a Di2 group. So I concentrate on the stuff that's both affordable and that will make the biggest difference for me personally, things like contact points, shoes, and so on. But I'm also using Ultegra and not 105, because I like it better. And I have some wheels with nice Chris King hubs, because they're pretty light, and awesome. They might not be much faster than Shimano hubs would be, but they're sick! "Common sense" by your definition sounds awfully tedious.

Of course, stupid threads like this one don't really help, and few people are able to give the right answer, which is that the question is unanswerable. It just depends on too many factors, for example, like what it is that even makes a bike nicer. I assume that generally means "more expensive, with higher-end components and lighter weight." In my case, my bike is nicer than the last one because it fits me better. And I do go faster on it, though that's mostly because I'm fitter. So a nicer bike probably will make you faster, but "how much" is unanswerable. Probably not by much. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't bother buying one.
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Old 01-05-14, 06:52 PM   #136
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Your program is interesting and I appreciate it, I wasn't criticizing you and it does highlight some things that are lost on some cyclists- why buy deep carbon aero rims if you never ride in the drops? People can feel however they want about cycling, I was just expressing my personal viewpoint that buying bits to improve speed in a non-competitive environment or in lieu of personal fitness gains is a waste of money, but if it makes that person happy then good for them.
Doesn't sound at all like you think that's good for them. But ferchrissakes, so many things in life are a waste of money. Expensive locally-roasted coffee doesn't have any more caffeine than stale, burnt-ass Starbucks. You can get just as drunk on two-buck Chuck as you can on a $40 bottle of Cabernet from a respected vineyard. You can get where you're going in a Toyota just as quickly and easily as you can in a Mercedes. Cotton sheets will keep you just as warm as silk. But good coffee and wine taste better. A Mercedes is more luxurious than a Toyota. Silk is softer than cotton. Where any of us draws the line on any particular item depends greatly, but a nicer experience is certainly worth something.
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Old 01-05-14, 07:13 PM   #137
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This should be repeated about every 5 posts.
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Old 01-05-14, 09:01 PM   #138
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Doesn't sound at all like you think that's good for them. But ferchrissakes, so many things in life are a waste of money. Expensive locally-roasted coffee doesn't have any more caffeine than stale, burnt-ass Starbucks. You can get just as drunk on two-buck Chuck as you can on a $40 bottle of Cabernet from a respected vineyard. You can get where you're going in a Toyota just as quickly and easily as you can in a Mercedes. Cotton sheets will keep you just as warm as silk. But good coffee and wine taste better. A Mercedes is more luxurious than a Toyota. Silk is softer than cotton. Where any of us draws the line on any particular item depends greatly, but a nicer experience is certainly worth something.
I understand the fact that we buy what we can afford and what makes us happy, I was never contesting the premise of buying stuff we don't need. I also acknowledge that buying nicer bike bits can make you want to ride more/harder and can therefore improve your performance in 2 ways, which is also great. I'm just of the opinion (and I don't think mine is any more right than anyone else) that in the specific realm of cycling, buying bits and getting excited about the time they gain you when you aren't competing is deluding oneself. If you want to buy Enves and tell people you bought them because they look amazing, that's fine, it's your money, I just think the guy that buys them and brags that his top speed in a non-competitive sprint improved by 1 mph is missing the point of the sport. Maybe that makes me sound smug or self righteous, but this sport is what we make of it.

Also, it made me laugh that you used Starbucks coffee as your example of a low end product. I get what you're saying, but when you've lived off of craptastic instant folgers crystals for a while, Starbucks and their $3 regular coffees looks like a luxury item.
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Old 01-05-14, 11:48 PM   #139
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Buy more stuff! It makes you happy!
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Old 01-06-14, 12:01 AM   #140
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I'm just of the opinion (and I don't think mine is any more right than anyone else) that in the specific realm of cycling, buying bits and getting excited about the time they gain you when you aren't competing is deluding oneself.
I think I understand what you're saying. But there are a couple things you miss. One is the point Grolby makes that technology and training are intertwined. Both are part. To me improving is something to get excited about and it doesn't matter how it happened. For example if a rider adjusts their position by changing stems and removes some spacers, they might get faster. How does that fit in? I also don't understand how competing or not fits in either. What difference does that make? I know many people who constantly challenge themselves to get quicker on some course or have fun going one on one with friends. To them that's just as important as standings in a race.
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Old 01-06-14, 09:17 AM   #141
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This is all so asinine. "2 minutes over bla bla bla distance" and such... Why do you care? Are you doing time trials on your road bike and losing by a few seconds? If so, train harder. If you're racing or riding in a pack, the drafting will effectively eliminate any advantages of the "nicer" bike until you're in an all out sprint for the finish, and then the nice bike will only matter if you are losing by half a wheel. The solution to that is also to train harder. I know this has already been said and I don't have to post in these threads, but I feel like people forget that drafting/strategy are far more important in racing than the bike, and people that obsess over the bike are often not racing at all, in which case the only thing that matters is how the bike feels to you because time savings are pointless unless you're competing. /Rant.
You have completely hit it out of the park Dan. The more I ride, the more I realize that the bike has less and less to do with it. When I look at my Strava times with my road bikes compared to my Cyclocross bike with 35mm tires on the same route, my times are really not much different. Wearing more clothing, shoe covers, lower temps etc. probably slows me down more than the bike itself. I can notice that holding speeds above ~25mph are much more difficult on my Cyclocross bike. You can only buy more speed (not as much as you think)when it comes to time trials with disc wheels and other aero gear.
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Old 01-06-14, 09:50 AM   #142
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I think I understand what you're saying. But there are a couple things you miss. One is the point Grolby makes that technology and training are intertwined. Both are part. To me improving is something to get excited about and it doesn't matter how it happened. For example if a rider adjusts their position by changing stems and removes some spacers, they might get faster. How does that fit in? I also don't understand how competing or not fits in either. What difference does that make? I know many people who constantly challenge themselves to get quicker on some course or have fun going one on one with friends. To them that's just as important as standings in a race.
Yes, personal accomplishments on some non-competitive solo ride are important and can be useful goals for pushing yourself. If people feel like they've achieved something worthwhile by buying really expensive wheels and set a PR by a couple of seconds, that's good for them. I'm only saying that I wouldn't be so thrilled with myself if I were them, because for me the satisfaction derived from performance gains is only related to my improving fitness. That's for me, I'm not discounting others who relish the time savings of a skin suit on a strava segment. As for fit, all of my examples are for someone who is already dialed in. Paying for a fit and seeing improved performance is nice and is something people should do if they want to optimize their riding, but again, for me that's not as truly satisfying as increasing performance through training. It's not a binary thing, I don't only accept my form of employment of cycling as right and all else as wrong, I'm just elaborating on my way of approaching the sport.
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Old 01-06-14, 09:58 AM   #143
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Dan,

Thanks for explaining that. I totally agree. I probably misinterpreted what you meant at first.
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Old 01-06-14, 10:00 AM   #144
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Nicer and newer stuff would make you want to ride more often hence the better results.
I can vouch for this. Also, the placebo effect tends to be very pronounced in our sport.
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Old 01-06-14, 10:58 AM   #145
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What racers typically miss in most sports is that the majority of the market that the companies are selling to are non-competitive types. The recreational cycling sphere is much much bigger than the racers. The components might be "designed" for racers, but why do you think the racers get sponsorship deals? So they can market it to the general public. Racers get an elitist persona sometimes that the typical person riding the local climb doesn't "NEED" that light bike because he's not competing, I say baloney.

Amateur racing is akin to a Saturday night bowling league. You show up to race, most of the time you won't get your money back(gas + race entry fees) yet you show up to prove yourself against 50 other dudes where the end result only matters to you and the other 50 dudes. About the only thing you can get is bragging rights to your racing buddies. No one outside of cycling cares, just like no one cares that you bowled a 250. Well maybe your girlfriend or wife cares(except when you crash and need a new bike).

Then there's the recreational group that does metric centuries and club rides. On these club rides they'll try to beat their best buds up the local climb or sprint to the town line. This is fairly competitive except they dont have a number pinned on their jersey. They want to beat their buddy so they can brag at the coffee shop. Guys will spruce up their ride to get them an advantage and hopefully suffer less when they're competing at this level. I won't even go into Strava and how competitive that's become.

The amount of people riding around on ENVE's recreationally exceed those that are racing on them. If ENVE designed wheels only for the racer crowd, they'd be priced out of most racers budgets.

Racers need to chill and embrace everyone that makes the cycling community.

My 2c.
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Old 01-06-14, 11:28 AM   #146
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What racers typically miss in most sports is that the majority of the market that the companies are selling to are non-competitive types. The recreational cycling sphere is much much bigger than the racers. The components might be "designed" for racers, but why do you think the racers get sponsorship deals? So they can market it to the general public. Racers get an elitist persona sometimes that the typical person riding the local climb doesn't "NEED" that light bike because he's not competing, I say baloney.

Amateur racing is akin to a Saturday night bowling league. You show up to race, most of the time you won't get your money back(gas + race entry fees) yet you show up to prove yourself against 50 other dudes where the end result only matters to you and the other 50 dudes. About the only thing you can get is bragging rights to your racing buddies. No one outside of cycling cares, just like no one cares that you bowled a 250. Well maybe your girlfriend or wife cares(except when you crash and need a new bike).

Then there's the recreational group that does metric centuries and club rides. On these club rides they'll try to beat their best buds up the local climb or sprint to the town line. This is fairly competitive except they dont have a number pinned on their jersey. They want to beat their buddy so they can brag at the coffee shop. Guys will spruce up their ride to get them an advantage and hopefully suffer less when they're competing at this level. I won't even go into Strava and how competitive that's become.

The amount of people riding around on ENVE's recreationally exceed those that are racing on them. If ENVE designed wheels only for the racer crowd, they'd be priced out of most racers budgets.

Racers need to chill and embrace everyone that makes the cycling community.

My 2c.
you nailed it, bro!

i may not race, but i train damn hard. and even if it means just being closer to the front of the group, or winning the race up the climb, it keeps me focused and committed. a nice bike supports the entire enterprise pretty nicely.
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Old 01-06-14, 12:09 PM   #147
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Intriguing! Thanks for doing the leg work on that.

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You have raised an interesting point... lets put some numbers to it and investigate the effect: below is a graph showing my personal "mean maximum power output" for times from 1 minute to 60 minutes...

Over 60 minutes my mean maximum output is 280 watts. If I were to go from an upright position to an aero position I might save 4 minutes over a 20 mile ride that originally took an hour.

My mean maximum power output for 56 minutes is 281 watts (the curve is very flat at that point). I've plugged this into my calculator (You could double check on something like Analytic Cycling) and I find that this 1 watt increase in power would reduce my time by a further 3 seconds over the same 20 mile course, so the total improvement over the course would be 4 minutes and 3 seconds.

Essentially; whilst the effect you describe does occur, it is very small compared to the main time saving (certainly it would be very difficult to measure it in real life).
Yes, but...

1. You're a highly trained athlete (relative to the average cyclist). This means you will experience a lot less heart rate drift and have a much better ability to sustain hard efforts for longer periods of time, partly due to your stronger heart and cardiovascular system, but partly due to training your muscles/body to better utilize and replenish your glycogen stores. So the average cyclist will likely see a much bigger difference than what you're seeing.

2. You're comparing the aero benefits of your body's position to the aero benefits a bike change could give. Your body's surface area against the wind is many times that of a bike and the difference between your body sitting up versus leaning over is huge. The difference in aero savings between a Specialized Venge and a 1980 Schwinn is minor by comparison.
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Old 01-06-14, 01:25 PM   #148
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Doesn't sound at all like you think that's good for them. But ferchrissakes, so many things in life are a waste of money. Expensive locally-roasted coffee doesn't have any more caffeine than stale, burnt-ass Starbucks. You can get just as drunk on two-buck Chuck as you can on a $40 bottle of Cabernet from a respected vineyard. You can get where you're going in a Toyota just as quickly and easily as you can in a Mercedes. Cotton sheets will keep you just as warm as silk. But good coffee and wine taste better. A Mercedes is more luxurious than a Toyota. Silk is softer than cotton. Where any of us draws the line on any particular item depends greatly, but a nicer experience is certainly worth something.
I should agree with Dan considering what I ride: Nashbar frame w/Sora and the most inexpensive wheels. I only improve the bike to the extent that it can improve me. My personal perspective is more in line with Dan's.

And yet, if I thought that $600 wheels and Ultegra groupset would boost my speed or by itself improve my pleasure in the ride I'd buy them in a heartbeat. So you're right. Speed is important for its own sake (sorry Dan) regardless of whether or how you compete. Also, a more enjoyable experience is of course worth something. I just don't think that those upgrades would improve my speed any, or make much difference on my commutes and long solo rides. Which leads to my only point here. It's legitimate and rational to speak of subjective enjoyment, beneficial placebo effects and so on, but we also need to be brutally objective about this question: how much of that subjective evaluation is based on the real qualities of the equipment, and how much is based on image (self image and status)? If the answer is more heavily weighted in the latter, then it is more responsible and in my opinion, more effective, to adjust our own attitude than the image.
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Old 01-06-14, 01:39 PM   #149
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But using this rationale, why not just settle for a $200 walmart special and train like mad? In other words where do you draw the line? what's high end to you might be a $5000 bike, to someone else it might be a $1000 bike.

The performance gains by nicer equipement I think is quite frequently overestimated.

Me, I'll buy the most expensive gear I can afford, and still pile the miles on to become a better rider.




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I couldn't care less how they feel about their performance "gains", I was only offering my opinion that I don't think it is something (again, in my opinion) to feel proud about. Take a car example- Someone laps a race course in 1:45 in a Miata at the absolute limit of the car and nails every apex. He should be proud of his abilities and control. Someone else laps the course in 1:30 in a Porsche 911, but drives under the limits of the car and takes poor lines through corners. If I were that 2nd driver, I wouldn't be proud of myself for lapping faster than a Miata, I'd feel like I could improve because I hadn't touched the car's limit. Again, all my opinion, so I shouldn't have to defend it and it's unfortunate that some people seem offended by it. I think it's a fairly common sentiment, at least in my riding circles.
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Old 01-06-14, 05:22 PM   #150
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Again, you raise some interesting points and I would add as follows:-

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Originally Posted by donrhummy View Post
So the average cyclist will likely see a much bigger difference than what you're seeing.
Whilst I totally agree that the critical power of an amateur will be lower than a more experienced rider, in my experience when I have tested my non-cyclist friends their anerobic capacity is also comparably lower, and as a result the relative (i.e. percentage) difference between the mean maximal power output of a 60 minute ride compared to a 56 minute ride is similar for an amateur as someone more experienced. The general rule of thumb for rides of between 20 and 60 minutes is that as duration doubles, mean maximal power drops by about 5%. So the relative power difference for rides of 56 to 60 minutes tends to be much less than 1% whoever you are and whatever your experience.

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Your body's surface area against the wind is many times that of a bike and the difference between your body sitting up versus leaning over is huge. The difference in aero savings between a Specialized Venge and a 1980 Schwinn is minor by comparison.
... And that is exactly what my program says....so... I'm not sure what your point is? (But I do value your responses which hopefully are making interesting reading for everyone else on here!).
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