I recently met many friends while manning a display booth at the Buffalo Springs Lake Triathlon in Lubbock. Lots of folks were interested in the way they could get performance and comfort gains with a custom bicycle. They liked the idea that their triathlon times would improve, but many were perplexed regarding the timing of the bike purchase and the fitting that preceded it. This is a very good question and of course the answer is, “When you think the time is right,” which does not really help most people. What does help, however, is the knowledge of what is happening to you before, during and after the racing season.
Triathletes as a whole tend to be leery of changing anything. From shoes, to diet, to training routines to bicycles, any change will impact the other events and can be difficult or even counter-productive. As such, many people postpone any change as long as possible. I usually hear, “I can’t change before the season starts because I am building up for the season.” Then the story changes to, “I can’t change during the season because I can’t afford any interruption in my training.” Finally, I hear, “It’s the off season and I am recovering, plus I made it through this season, so I think I will keep things the same for next year.” Are you beginning to see a pattern here?
I believe the issue is, people have had such bad luck with change that it doesn’t work that they don’t have confidence that a positive change will in fact occur. They fear that the potential change will not outweigh the risks of training interruption, learning new technique or mastering new equipment. This is totally understandable because there are tons of stories out there describing bike fittings gone bad, running shoes not working, diet changes ruining races, etc.
The points I suggest to people are as follows:
1) If your position on the bike is less than optimal, you are subject to:
a. Limiting your performance on the bike and the run.
b. The potential for overuse injury.
c. De-motivation to train on the bike, instead substituting time in the pool or running to compensate.
2) The key component of our fitting system is moving from a less “natural” to more “natural” position for you. This means that changes in position can happen immediately with minimal adaptation time in most cases.
This means that you really have the ability to change bikes for the better at almost any time in the season. Keep in mind the lead times for custom, however. If you need a new bike, typical lead times are anywhere from six to 14 weeks depending on the frame manufacturer and if there is any custom paint involved. Many people fail to take this into account when considering their bicycle program.
At the end of the day, the bicycle is the one part of your triathlon program that costs the most, lasts the longest and provides the biggest way to improve not only your finishing times but your comfort while training and racing. I have never seen anyone regret improving their bike program but I have seen plenty regret delaying and procrastinating as the need for a new bike sneaked up on them. That said, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If you are truly comfortable, efficient, fast and really enjoy all aspects of your current bicycle, a new one would simply be an expensive way to look cooler as you have already optimized all that can be improved. Your current bike is fine and you can just train and enjoy your cycling experience.
If, on the other hand, you feel you have not met your potential in the bike leg, you have issues with comfort or efficiency or you are ready to upgrade, consider making your hard earned dollars go as far as possible, with a bicycle designed so well that it feels like a part of you.