“Welcome aboard everyone this is your pilot. Just wanted to let everyone know that today is my first flight on a real airplane. Not to worry I have trained on a simulator and they tell me that flying a real plane is exactly the same” Would you rather have a pilot that has only flown on a simulator or one that has actually flown a real plane? You know the answer.
This is what cyclists and triathletes do when they buy or borrow expensive aerodynamic racing wheels for their bikes. They are in effect the same as the pilot training in the simulator.
What most athletes are referring to when they talk about race wheels are special aerodynamic wheels. These wheels have deep rims that slice through the wind and can help you ride faster. Leading to faster race times and better placing in races. But there is a problem.
Aero wheels take time to master
Riding aerodynamic wheels takes time to master. Your bike will handle differently than you are accustomed to especially on windy days and on climbs. Wheels dictate how a bike is going to handle more than any other aspect of the bike. For this reason it takes your body time to learn all the nuances of handing the bike in various conditions. The best way to learn do this is to ride your special wheels every day.
Train on your race wheels
I am suggesting that you abolish the concept of race day only wheels and ride daily on your special aero wheels. During your daily training rides is where you will really learn to handle the wheels in all conditions. How they ride over bumps, how the wheels feel in corners and how they feel when a strong cross wind kicks up. This not conscious learning but rather subconscious. Essentially you are learning how to make micro corrections to your body to handle or balance the bicycle.
Better handling means faster speeds
Riding your aero wheels daily will give you much more confidence because your bike will ride as it always does in training. Riding a bike is a very complex task for your brain. Much of your energy goes into the subconscious thought processing that your body has to do to keep your upright. It takes time for your body to build the pathways for new tasks. Even a simple task such as holding a different phone for example takes time until it is comply engrained. Think of what you are asking your brain to do when you use completely different wheels on your bike. Surprises are good at birthday parties not on the day of your big race such as a ironman triathlon.
But I want to feel faster on race day
Do you want to feel faster of do you want to go faster? By training daily on your aero wheels you will ultimately ride faster on all of your rides including the at your big race.
If you just use your special wheels on race day you will not get the full benefit and you may even ride slower because you lake the confidence to properly handle the wheels.
But my race wheels are expensive and delicate
A good set of race wheels are tough and light. It is easy to assume that the lighter wheels are just not as strong or durable as your daily training wheels. This is not the case with good racing wheels. In most cases they are much stronger than standard wheels. They can take an incredible amount of abuse. If your race wheels are not as strong as your standard wheels you should question weather you would want to use them at all in an important race that you have trained so hard to do well in. The only down side of using your expensive wheels daily is that if you crash and damage your wheels it is a bit more painful on your wallet. Ride your good wheels every day.
I don’t think that anyone would feel comfortable on the flight with the pilot only trained on a simulator. Don’t just save your expensive wheels for race day. Ride them every day in all conditions. Over time the wheels will become second nature and you will be a faster rider because your body has adapted to the fine motor skills required to balance and handle the bike. A good set of race wheels is strong and light and a built to withstand tremendous abuse. Put those race wheels on your bike and start training on them every day.
What to learn more about cycling? Sign up for our newsletter for great tips that will help you improve your riding