Forget the ‘old-school’ fun, enjoyment and health aspects of cycling, it’s all about the watts in these marginal-gains obsessed days…
Generating more watts on a bike is hard. It demands a lot of training, will-power, sweat and a fair bit of heavy breathing. So, just like those astronauts on Apollo 13, if you can reduce the watts required – you might just get home from your trip around the dark side of the moon, or even your long ride around darkest Lancashire…
Here’s our guide to saving watts – performance gains for little or no cost.
No beard = 0.25W Saving
The beard thing is over. Hipsters wanting to look ‘different’ have kind of ruined it for those wanting to look ‘different’… So shave it off and enjoy the 0.25 Watt saving. You will also love the feeling of fresh air on your chiny chin chin.
Tyres at 109 psi instead of 73 psi = 5W per tyre saving
Run your tyres at the manufacturer recommended pressures to enjoy the best watt saving performance. Don’t be tempted to over inflate though – bouncing around on rough surfaces (eg Most UK roads) doesn’t help performance. Tyres which have a lower rolling resistance use less of your power.
Bin the Bag
No Saddle Bag = 0.5W saving
If you can stuff the contents of you saddle bag into your back pocket, you will save another tiny bit of wattage, all these tiny bits do add up – also worth minimising what you carry too.
In the Eye
Glasses = 1W saving
Eyes are just so un-aero. Wearing glasses will smoothly deflect the air over your eye sockets and eyebrows, this will save you a whole watt, possibly more if you have a monobrow.
Lid on It
Helmet with covered vents = 5 – 10W saving
Using a helmet without vents or with the vents covered will save 5 – 10 watts. This can also make your head much warmer, fine in cooler conditions, be careful not to overheat in summer.
Shaved arms and legs = 15W saving
While shaved legs are worth 11 watts, why not go the whole hog and shave up your arms too? An extra 4 watts can be gained, possibly more if your arms are like Chewbacca’s.
Sit there and shut up
Rider behind = 12W saving
Rather than get angry at the rider sitting on your wheel and not doing a turn, be happy. They are saving you power. The rider sitting behind you helps smooth out the airflow as it leaves you.
Get your Lube on
Clean and Lubricated Chain 1 – 3W saving
Keeping your chain clean and lubricated can save money, prolonging the life of your chain. A clean chain and cassette will also save watts – through being more efficient and creating less mechanical drag.
Oof, thats tight
Tight fitting aero clothing = 15W saving
Wearing close-fitting clothing without wrinkles can help save watts. Be realistic though, clothing has its limits, you also need to be comfortable and know your clothing isn’t going to split, just as you launch your big effort.
Riding with forearms flat / hands on the hoods = 30W saving
Adjusting your riding position from sitting up on the tops of the bars can save a decent chunk of power. With a bit of practice, riding with flat forearms can be comfortable too, even for extended periods.
Ride 30cm behind another rider = 150W saving
Big savings in power can be had when you are sat on a riders wheel. Bigger riders are even better, get used to riding around 30 cm behind and get the maximum aero benefit. Studies suggest than even 7 to 10 metres behind a rider can still offer a decent benefit.
Riding in a bunch = more than 150W saving
The biggest savings are through being in a big bunch of riders. If you are smaller and the bunch is full of bigger riders, you will save even more watts. The longer you can stay sat in the middle of the bunch the more watts you will save.
*The above approximate figures above are based on tests conducted by Specialized – 88 aero settings were tested for riders based on 80 kg rider at 40kph producing 300 watts.
Even riding on your own, if you were to; shave your beard, pump your tyres up, ditch the saddle bag, wear glasses, wear an un-vented helmet, shave your legs, wear tight clothing, clean & lube you chain and ride with flat forearms – You could be looking at saving around 60 watts! A 60 watt saving could get you to the cafe a minute quicker to bag that prized last muffin!**
**Depending on how far away the cafe is, and the size of the muffin batch
Alternatively forget about performance gains and enjoy riding your bike for fun, enjoyment and health…