How To Make Your Old Bike Go Faster.

13 August 2013

Over the years I found the single most effective way of making your bike go faster is to pedal faster. If you’ve tried that and it hasn’t worked then it’s time to blame your bike. Before you raid your shoebox and rush out with £2000 in your desperate mitt, let me tell you this one thing:

image I’ve discovered lots of people online who are comparing their old cheap bikes to their new expensive bikes in an attempt to find out if there is any difference in performance. Every single one of them that I’ve found so far doesn’t report a significant increase in speed with their fancy new machine.

Here’s a couple:

Science of Cycling

Road Bike Review

So, if the sole reason you’re buying a new bike is for speed, here’s a few cheaper things you can try first.

Pump your tyres up.

Anything over 100psi for a road bike will make a difference. If you’ve got some big fat tyres, invest a bit of money in some decent ones. If you can spare £70 (for two) the Continental Grand Prix 4000 Folding Tyres are good.

Clean your gears and chain.

If your chain is rattling around among your gears, it’s not only annoying it’s not going to be transferring all your efforts efficiently to the road. Get some Muck Off, get your Dad’s toothbrush and get among it. Don’t stop until your Dad can see his teeth in them.

Shed a bit of fat.

I’m going to be blunt here. If you’re fat, don’t buy an expensive bike for the weight reduction. People used to come into our shop in Keswick and buy expensive titanium tent pegs that saved them 20g of weight in their rucksacks. Some of these people had 20Kg stomachs over hanging their jodhpurs, it’s the same on a grander scale with bikes. There are cheaper ways of losing weight.

Just have one bike.

24 hour record holder, Andy Wilkinson, who did 541 miles in 24 hours, that’s averaging 22.54 miles per hour all day according to my calculator, only has one basic steel framed bike. He likes it, he’s used to it, it’s comfy and those factors make him go faster. Love the bike you've got.

Drink Fruit Juice

Fruit juice is mainly glucose and fructose which are the most easily absorbed mixture of sugars. Nip down to Morrisons and get yourself one of their own brand fruit juices, pour it into your bottle with a bit of water and you’re ready to go. Have a few glugs about half an hour before you set off just to get some into your system. If I’m riding home from work and I’ve had nothing to eat or drink all afternoon, it kills me. You need fuel.

You are a drag.

First I call you fat, now boring… No, this is about ‘minimizing your frontal area’. On average the rider accounts for 70% of the drag on a bike, adopting an aerodynamic position will go a long way to speeding you up. However, it’s not that comfy. Cycling on the drops or with tribars takes a bit of getting used to but it may knock a few more seconds off the commute.

Note: These last two you’re going have to fork out a bit.

Buy a bike computer

A computer will tell you the facts about your performance. I use the Garmin Edge 500 which is about £140, a little extra with the heart rate monitor and cadence sensor. Once you’ve got one of these, there’s no hiding. Even better, download your statistics to Strava and then you’re competing against the world. If you want to go faster, facts and competition are good.

Get a bike fit

Getting professionally fitted for you bike could be anywhere from £150 to £250 but if your bike doesn’t fit you, you might not be transferring all your power and efficiency to the ground. Saddle height and position in relation to the peddles could cause problems, so could stem and crank lengths. If you’re getting pains in your knees or neck or back or doodahs, it could be the bike fit. If you don’t want to spend the money there’s loads of videos online.

Here's a couple of good ones:

Basic Bike Fit 1

Basic Bike Fit 2
There – I’ve just save you £2000 and made you faster, please transfer my 10% fee into my paypal account:

Thanks for reading.

Ian Young

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