What Makes a Fast Bike?
I am going to take a couple minutes here to breakdown my new ride, explain just what I find valuable about it and why I made some of the decisions I made in the build in the hopes of helping some athletes out there think about bikes in a slightly different manner. The bike is a tool for the athlete to execute their race, the best bikes allow the athlete to perform at their best, but what makes a bike great?
First, let’s examine what a bike is NOT. (Warning this is a big pet peeve of mine)
I absolutely hate it when I see a bike referred to as a “fast bike.” Let's be clear, a bike is not fast. An athlete can be fast, but the bike does not create any propulsion and therefore a bike itself is not fast. Rather, the best bikes are bikes that impede the athletes efforts the least (i.e create the least drag) and that allow the athlete to best apply themselves to the demands of their efforts. The best or “fastest” bike is a bike that is set up in a way that gives the athlete the ability to focus solely on their effort and does little to impede their progress.
But, a poorly setup bike or one that is not built thoughtfully with the athlete in mind is undoubtedly going to leave areas of opportunity or areas of hindrance. Take gearing for example. Many athletes grab their bike with an 11/25 cassette, hit the hills near their house and think “man I suck at hills; they are so hard." In reality, it is not the hills that are hard; it is the bike that is not allowing that athlete to apply themselves to the hill correctly. The gear we choose matters. It allows us to work with the equipment rather than against it!
The goal of this post is not necessarily to show what features make a bike "fast" but rather it is to help athletes understand the thought that goes into intentional bike decisions and how you can use adjustments to your current setup to make your bike work more optimally FOR YOU! Every bike equipment choice is personal and should be intestinal, THAT is how you get a "fast" bike
This bike was chosen and built up with the single intent of creating the best platform possible for me to produce power and do so in a way that impedes my progress the least. So let’s take a closer look.
New for this race season I am riding the TriRig Omni Complete Frameset built with Flo Cycling Wheels (60 Front, Disc rear) and a Sram ETAP AXS drivetrain. Every piece of this bike was an intentional decision.
TriRig Alpha One w/ Scoops Ultimate
The front end or cockpit of the triathlon bike is a CRITICAL component to the bike's efficiency and the athletes position, comfort and aerodynamics. This portion of the bike is not only the leading edge of the bike and has a big impact on the aerodynamics, but it is also the most adjustable point on the bike and the area in which we can create a more aerodynamic and comfortable position for the rider.
The cockpit on the Omni is the complete TriRig Alpha One. This bar is sleek, aerodynamic and very easily adjustable. It allows me to adjust and refine my position in a snap. Paired with the TriRide Scoops Ultimate extensions, I have honestly never felt so stable and comfortable on a bike in my life.
This frame has an incredibly unique shape and has been shown to create very little drag on its own, but most importantly for me, this frame was designed with the triathlete in mind and includes all of convenient storage options that allow me to customize my setup depending on my race length. From the front it has a built in bento and built in BTA (on the alpha one technically) as well as multiple bottle bosses for either additional fuel storage or flat repair, and the Beta 45 bottle carrier gives tons of behind the saddle storage options.
Storage is a critical piece of a bike for me, and the ability to store things in a sleek manner is even more critical when racing. This frame does that incredibly well.
Dash Cycles Stage Narrow
I went with the Dash saddle because I have used it for several years. This saddle is lightweight and firm. It keeps me just comfortable enough for my event durations while not sacrificing weight.
Flo Carbon Clincher 60mm Front
Flo Carbon Clincher Disc Rear
General rule, the deeper the wheel the less drag it creates. A rear disc wheel has been shown again and again to be the fastest wheel from A to B and the 60mm front wheel gives me a good balance of reduced drag with little impact on handling in adverse wind conditions. These wheels are also optimized around a 25mm tire which is ideal for the majority of triathlon surfaces and produces minimal rolling resistance (Conti GP500 tires) when set up with latex tubes or tubeless
Sram ETAP AXS
I built up the bike with SRAM Force ETAP AXS, which I have loved!! Not only do I have complete control over my shifting style (have been loving the sequential shifting btw!) but it also allows me to very easily shift from a 2x to a 1x setup depending on the demands of the course I am racing. With no cables to remove, it is as simple as removing the front derailleur and swapping the crankset (takes all of 20 minutes to swap). The wireless system also keeps my front end incredibly tidy and simple for both aerodynamic purposes and also travel/ breakdown for races.
I did build it up with one SRAM Red component, the chainrings, so that I could get a 50/34 Chainring on there. Paired with the 10-33 cassette, this shift from my previous 52/36 chainring and 11-32 cassette gives me an even wider range of gearing options with some increased top end speed to maintain some power on long descents.
Honestly, so far I love this bike and these are the things that make this bike great for ME.
My intent with this post is not to tell you how much I love my bike, it is to show the thought and consideration that should go into every component of a bike. My bike may not be right for you, my gearing may not be right for you, but the process of evaluating what you need as an athlete is no different than my process.
Many athletes I see at races buy a bike off a rack at a store and never consider the small and relatively simple changes they can make to that bike to make it a better tool for them. Simple changes, like changing your gearing, updating your aero bars or arm pads, and choosing gear with intent ca