Before we look at the various components of the rider-bicycle system and how you can improve them, let’s have a look at factors we hardly can change, the environmental factors, influencing your cycling performance – and why it can be a good idea owning several bike models specifically made for coping with the various courses.
The route probably has the highest impact on the type of resistance you are faced with when cycling. Having long steep climbs will make gravitational resistance more important. If you are riding mainly on flat terrain, aerodynamic drag will contribute to most of the resistance you will feel, while other factors will have less impact.
The layout of the course is also having a big impact. Are there many curves with 90-degree or U-turns, stop- sand yield signs which cause you to brake or even stop and accelerate again? You will notice the difference, whether you ride with normal traffic or whether you ride on a closed course. On a closed course you reach much higher average speeds, than if you are riding with normal traffic, simply because you don’t need to brake at each intersection.
The roads surface is also having a big impact. On rough roads you will have more rolling resistance and the right choice of tire and air pressure becomes essential. Those of you who use a power meter may already have noticed that when you ride on a rough pavement, you will need more power to ride at the same speed as compared to a fine-grained pavement.
Elevation and Temperature
The higher elevation and temperature, the less aerodynamic drag you will have, due to reduced air density. This means when you are riding in cold temperatures, improvements on aerodynamics will have a bigger impact. In turn the reduced oxygen levels at high elevations and high temperatures have a negative impact on the rider’s performance.
Choose the right Bike for the given Route
You cannot do much about these environmental factors, except choosing the right bike for the given route and terrain. It would be impossible to win a time trial with a gravel bike and you would have problems with a TT-bike on gravel roads. Choosing a specific bike for a given course is basically what the pro’s do. For each stage they use a specifically configured bike which matches the profile of the stage. On flat stages they use wheels with higher rim profiles and thus less drag. On mountain stages they use lightweight configurations with low rim depth. If there are rough roads, such as in the Paris-Roubaix, they use wider tires and lower air pressure. In time trials they use disc wheels and an extreme aero position.
Therefore, Vélobsessive offers different specialized models for different applications. If you don’t want to own different bike models, you can also configure an all-round bike for the most preferred types of routes. For example, if you like to ride on roads and sometimes also take some gravel sections, you could use bigger tires on your road bike or use a gravel bike with tires also ridable on normal roads. To allow flexible and quick configuration changes you could use one bike with different wheelsets. For example, you could use a wheelset with higher rims and a cassette with 11-28 configuration for flat routes and an additional wheelset with lower and lighter rims together with a cassette configuration of 11-34 and wider tires for mountain routes. This would allow you to simply change the wheelset depending on the planned route. However, this has its limitations because most road bike frames are limited in the maximal tire width they allow.
That’s why it might be the best choice to purchase different bike model for the various applications.
In the next article we will look at aerodynamic drag and why wheels are one of the most important components of the road bike. Stay tuned!