The speed you can achieve on your bike is determined by two factors:

  1. How much power you can produce
  2. Wind resistance.  The faster you go, the more wind drag you need to overcome.

One excellent article all about which aerodynamic equipment benefits you most during an individual time trial was published a few years back in Velonews (Vol 39, No 3) but these measurements are still true today and always worth thinking about.  Especially when at the start of the season you are looking to invest in new equipment or clothing but have a limited budget to work with.

The following chart shows the aerodynamic savings according to aero equipment used 


Image sources

So where should you spend your money?

  1. Using aerobars that allow you to get into a tuck position will be the cheapest thing you can do for the aerodynamic benefit.  You can get a set of aerobars for £40 upwards. Always look for ones where the ski bars fit under your handle bars rather than above, as this will allow you to get down lower.
  2. Getting a skinsuit will provide massive benefits.   The only disclaimer is that the testing shown here was done on a specially designed skinsuit for Nike, not a standard skinsuit.  But so long as you find a tight fitting one when you’re in the tuck position and ideally with an aero pocket for your race number too you cannot go far wrong.  You can get good quality skinsuits or speedsuits as they are often referred to from £120 upwards.  Skinsuits are worn by most sprinters in the Pro Peloton these days as they too recognise the advantages that a skinsuit will give them as opposed to standard Bib-shorts and a cycling top with 3 rear pockets.
  3. Deep section wheels or Time Trial disc and tri spokes Wheels.  Now we are getting into the expensive end of equipment spectrum, but they do provide some good time savings.  Having an aero front wheel will make the most significant difference and will cost the least of the two and ranging from between £350 and £550 you’ll find a good choice out there.    A rear disc wheel is one of the last items you should spend lots of money on if you’re looking for big savings.  However, if you want to look cool and like the sound of a carbon wheel whizzing around this should be the first item on your list.   There are numerous studies found online looking at the different advantages and drag factors associated to different wheel shapes and design and here is one to get you started LINK
  4. Upgrading from a regular helmet to an aero helmet could save you over a minute for a £150+spend.  You need to ensure that the tail of the helmet fits you and sits close to your back when in the tuck position.  If the tail sits up off your back the aero advantage is lost and you have wasted your money!
  5. Shoe Covers will cost you £15-£50 and have some advantage, but I am not convinced myself about the 29 sec quoted above.

So for me I will first look at my available budget this season and then think about my current equipment and what might need replacing or upgrading, then using the above data decide where I can buy myself some FREE SPEED when riding at my threshold power.