More Bang for your Bentís Performance Buck
By Jose A. Hernandez
I'm sure you like to get your money's worth. That's why you looked for a recumbent bike that looked good, was a joy to ride and appeared to be a good value. It was not an easy decision. There were so many models to choose from, and so many factors to consider. Your value equation was not limited to money, the physical properties of your bike or its handling characteristics. It also included a number of subjective variables, not the least of which were intricately tied to your emotions, or simply put, how a particular bike made you feel. Yet, the complexity of choosing your recumbent bike did not deter you and, one happy day, the dim light at the end of the bent decision tunnel grew brighter and promised to transform itself into the bike of your dreams. But as soon as you managed to pedal out of this tunnel, you found yourself lost in an incomprehensible maze of bicycle components and accessories. The cycling world is ostensibly saturated with a plethora of propaganda about components and accessories that promise to enhance your performance. You've seen the sales ads that claim to turn you into an Olympian biker as long as money is no object and you happen to be the most gullible biker in the world.
I felt that there must be an easy way to find out how to get the most bang for your performance buck. So I put together a panel of experts, asked for their input and immediately discovered that this subject is even more complex than I initially suspected. There are no absolutes and the value formula is plagued with an infinite number of variables. I realized I was in "trouble" the moment I asked the panel to "identify which components can best improve a bikeís performance for the money". I immediately realized that I had to limit the scope of my "mission". At the time, I did not realize that the term "performance" meant a lot of different things to different people. Some of our experts felt that enhanced performance can be equated to enhanced comfort and some felt it could be equated to improved handling. Of course, they were right. Performance is all of those things and more. But I was looking for components that would give you the most SPEED for your money and I obviously needed to simplify the selection criteria. I wanted to find out how I can go FASTER without spending a fortune. So I rephrased the question and, in an attempt to simplify my quest, challenged our panel of experts to limit the amount of money they could spend to NO MORE than $100. So we ended up with: "What components will give you the most speed for less than $100 bucks?"
This is what our experts had to say:
Bryan J. Ball of BentRider Online fame:
For $100? Hmmmmm... Tires. Faster rolling and lighter tires. Or a cheap set of clipless shoes and pedals. If you're inventive then you might consider coroplast fairing. I hate the looks of the stuff but people make some pretty amazing fairings out of it. Even though $100 won't do much in this department, the BEST place to throw money at a bike is in a good set of wheels. Wheels are by far most important place to loose weight. Lighter or more aerodynamic wheels will be felt much more than a fancy rear derailleur. A total drivetrain overhaul to gain two or three more gears or 100 grams will cost a lot of money. Also, really look at your bike and try to decide if it's really worth it. Sometimes it is much more cost effective to save up and replace the whole bike in one shot. What else is there? Well, how 'bout a Heart Rate Monitor? It's an essential tool for training if you want to get faster quicker. or is it quicker faster?
Peter Stull, The Bicycle Man:
These are my first 4 thoughts: 1) Clipless shoes & pedals, you can sometimes get used Look pedals & closeout shoes at a wedgie shop for under $100. 2) Recline seat further for distance speed, recline less for sprint speed. 3) Build a coroplast tailbox (especially if you could use some luggage room). 4) Build a simple coroplast fairing (especially good if it's cold and/or wet.)
Mark Mueller, the man behind the awesome Windwrap fairing:
I would say that for $0 to a few dollars you can improve
aerodynamics these ways:
First, Iíd consider a home built fairing and second, my
vote goes for narrow high pressure racing tires.
There are many factors that affect speed, exclusive of rider capability, but the most important ones are:
1. Bike weight (especially rotational weight)
2. Wind resistance, and
3. Pedaling efficiency.
Making the bike lighter would be the next best thing, so take the $100 and enroll at Weight Watchers to lose 20 lbs. :-) It's true that making the bike lighter, either by component changes or losing weight, will be the next big thing, but light components are EXPENSIVE, and .25 grams here, a half a gram there seems silly when one is several pounds overweight. Now, rotating weight is the more important weight to be aware of, so lighter wheels would make the most of your money. You might want to think about lighter hubs, tires or bladed spokes. You also might want to consider disk wheel covers. Check the bike catalogs for prices. My opinion. That and $2.50 will get you a nice latte! :-)"
BJ Strass, otherwise known as "Brother BJ"
Make your own tail fairing. Fairings are the way to make a bike fast other than losing weight and riding more (2 sheets of coroplast, razor knife, zip ties). Or get panniers to go touring. Donít worry how fast your going, slow down and see the countryside. It it all fails, just send the money to me, I will ride with you slowly and yell "WOW! Youíre really going fast!
Well there you have it. Do you agree with our panel of experts? I must say that I agree with most of what they said except for one thing: The suggestion that getting rid of my perfectly round gut would improve my speed is contrary to something brother BJ taught me many moons ago when he said, 'Hey, you're not fat, youíre just more aerodynamic".