What is important in cycling, and what isn’t, to your average road cyclist….
This game is pretty simple and easy, as it pertains to your average (even above average, technicslly) road cyclist. For example, skin suits don’t matter. You’re not fast enough to need a skin suit if you have to pay for your cycling clothing. Not only that, if you don’t have the physique of a pro cyclist, chances are you’ll look a little gnarly in one. A lot can be overlooked in cycling clothing. It’s tight-fitting, it is what it is. Not so with skin suits. Sorry.
Shaved legs matter. Shaving the guns saves a lot of time – they’re big-time aerodynamic when shaved down (No, seriously, science says so). They look better too. You won’t realize how off a Yeti looks in a pace line till you see one. Then you’ll be like, “Ohhhhhhh-h”. Shave the guns. Treat them well.
The bike…. doesn’t matter. At least to an extent. Steel frame, aluminum, titanium, bamboo, wood, graphene, or good old-fashioned carbon fiber. If you like it and it feels good to you, you’ll probably be able to make it go fast.
Doesn’t matter, I’m just as fast on either bike, though speed is more comfortable on the fourteen years newer Specialized. Oh, and there’s a four pound difference between the two. Four pounds. And I’m just as fast in a group. I just can’t pull as long up front…. and yes, I can feel the four extra pounds on the bike.
Components matter. Seriously, especially if you’re trying to keep up with a group. Modern integrated shifters are a must, Shimano 105, Campy Record (maybe Chorus), or SRAM Rival at a minimum. 9, 10 or 11 speed. Etcetera. You will not be just as fast with old down tube shifters. Don’t kid yourself.
The helmet doesn’t matter… as much as one’s diet. A $300 aero helmet won’t fix a decidedly un-aero body. Push yourself away from the table, eat less and pedal harder. After that, the helmet really does matter. Also, don’t bother with a ventless aero helmet unless you’re competing in a time trial. In a group, they’re silly. Go for something a little less suffer-inducing.
Wheels matter. Wheels don’t have to be carbon fiber to be good. It helps, but isn’t required. A good set of aluminum wheels will go a long way to helping you be fast. Those carbon fiber aero wheels only start to shine above 25 mph. You don’t have to push quite as hard to maintain your speed. Look for good hubs and good bearings first, then worry about carbon fiber if you still have money to burn.
Your ego doesn’t matter. Check it at the start line and enjoy being a part of the group. Or don’t, and wonder why you never get invited to unpublished group rides. Also, just as a side note, don’t blow the group up to show everyone how fast you are. If you find yourself off the front, go to the back and get a handle on the pace. Once you know the place you can pull again.
The saddle matters. Fizik has an app for that. Seriously. I’m between a snake and a chameleon, though I ride a bull saddle on the Venge. Go figure. Specialized has a special fitting process, it’s very nice, if obtrusive…. You’re going to spend an @$$-ton of time on your saddle so make sure you have one that agrees with your heinie for each bike. ALL SADDLES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.
The shoes don’t matter. Comfort over carbon fiber. Comfort matters. Carbon and real leather are a bonus. Don’t sweat it if you can’t afford $400 for cycling shoes. Want to trumps carbon fiber soles.
The number one thing that matters…. The number one thing that matters is want to. Peter Sagan is the best cyclist since Lance Armstrong (and arguably A LOT better because Sagan is clean) because he has the most “want to”. I am as fast as I am because I push to the edge of my “want to”. I could be faster, but I don’t want to. Embrace, then wrestle to the ground, your want to.
Be a friendly, good representative of the sport… That’s sexy. We are quite often the object of scorn on the road. Represent the sport well. Being a good ambassador now could save someone else’s life later. If you’re confronted with an ugly motorist, be a Penguin of Madagascar: “Smile and wave, boys. Smile and wave.”
Look good, feel good, ride good. That’s sexy too. Not proper grammar, but it works. You don’t have to be a supermodel to look good on a bike. It helps, but definitely is not a requirement. Dressing the part will go a long way, no matter your body style/type. Remember, don’t feel self-conscious if you’re not perfect yet. You’re out there doing what needs to be done to get that body in shape. That’s what really matters. Always. If you don’t look, feel, or ride good, fake it till you make it.
Ride hard my friends.