Sunday, March 22, 2009

Return on Investment

Seek professional help, or dump money on technology? A couple of seasons ago I decided I was ready for a new CX bike. After my first season I was hooked, and I wanted a sweet ride that would reflect my passion for the sport and be better, faster and lighter. What I quickly figured out was that I had become "that guy." The guy who's wallet exceeded his talent. I vowed to get fast enough to be worthy of the bike.

In March of last year I started working with Doug Bush at Endurance Factor. I had taken all winter to build a good base, or so I thought, and I was ready to make my big move to Cat-4. What I quickly discovered was that despite very good intentions and a fair amount of time on the trainer, I really hadn't made significant gains over the previous season. It wasn't for lack of trying, it was all about structure. Doug told me I was getting a late start on the season. At the time I was kind of surprised to hear that since I thought I had done some solid work over the winter, but I would soon find out that I was destined to get dropped in a bunch of spring races.

What Doug knew after testing was that I was no where near my potential relative to other racers with similar physical attributes. I was sick during a few key weeks in spring, but by the time CX season rolled around I was feeling much stronger than the previous season and the results were pretty good for a joe average dude. I stuck with Doug over the winter to keep the structure and focus. 51 weeks later, it was time to test again. I was almost certain that I would be stronger than last year, but you never know. The numbers don't lie as they say.

At the end of testing, my Threshold Power was up 30 Watts over last year. An 11.32% gain. A set of Zipps or sub-1000 gram frame will never get you that kind of gain. I'm all for bling and spend hours reading Cycling News, Velo News, etc. looking at the latest technology for the pro peleton, but for the average person, your best return on investment has to be hiring a decent coach. At some point when you've maximized your potential, then get the bling. Nothing makes me happier than dropping some dude in a road race with a $6,000 bike and Zipp 404's. Maybe I should get a stack of Doug's cards to hand out during races.

I still have a lot to learn about racing intelligently, but I'll be racing with an extra 30 watts this year while I continue to learn. If you want the Zipp's, go for it, but if you want to be appreciably faster for what is likely less money, seek professional help.

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