We’re not going to fool you, if you really want to ride faster on the bike, then the best way to achieve it is by properly planning your training and nutrition. But you can also increase your performance and speed by making the following adjustments. Some are free, while others incur an extra cost, but the vast majority are changes, readjustments and upgrades that everyone who rides a bike has to make sooner or later.
Clean and lubricate the chain and drivetrain
Maintenance, cleaning and lubrication of the drivetrain are paramount if we do not want to lose efficiency. There is no loss of power if the entire drivetrain is clean and properly lubricated. In addition, you extend the life of the chain, cassette and chainrings. All you need is a degreaser, a couple of stiff bristle scrubbing brushes, some sponges and water with dishwashing liquid. You can also use a chain cleaning tool for an extra thorough cleaning.
The variety of chain lubricants on the market is enormous. You can find products ranging from oils to spa-like wax baths for chains, there are also special options for wet and dry conditions… Finding the one that fits your needs is all trial and error. Just don’t overdo it by bathing the chain in lubricant because excess is counterproductive and ends up attracting more dirt. Lubricate, wait a few minutes for the product to reach all the nooks and crannies and remove the excess with a dry cloth.
Use gears properly
If there is too much tension and/or friction in the chain, cassette, chainrings and rear derailleur pulleys, the drivetrain loses efficiency. Using the gears in an inappropriate way leads to cross chaining (e.g. large front chainring+large rear cog combination) and causes the chain to bend at several points, generating more tension and friction.
Arrange the cables properly
If your bike is not new, the cables are probably exposed and visible under the handlebars. Manufacturers have made the cables disappear in more recent models by routing them inside the handlebars, stem, head tube and frame. These designs are not the result of the perverse minds of engineers who want to make life harder for mechanics and users every time something needs to be changed or repaired; it is simply an improvement in aerodynamics. The cleaner and better organized the front part of the bike, the lower the drag coefficient. So, trim the cables as much as possible and bundle them with cable management sleeves.
When you have to change bottom bracket bearings or wheel hub bearings, think about upgrading the ones you have. They don’t have to be ceramic bearings. Quality steel bearings are cheaper and offer really good performance compared to regular bearings. If the ones you have are still in good condition, remember not to over-grease them (only 30% of the free space in the bearing should be filled with grease); too much grease means the balls will slide instead of spinning and you will lose efficiency.
Tires and inner tubes
The difference between high-end tires and regular tires is massive. It is true that they cost considerably more (around 30-50 €), but the change is noticeable. Not only in terms of speed, but also in terms of safety and puncture resistance. There is a huge variety of models available, but we can surely recommend the renewed classic Continental GP 5000, whose tubeless version is being used by more and more pros.
The friction between rubber butyl inner tubes and their casing is much higher than in the case of latex or polyurethane inner tubes. The higher the friction, the bigger the energy loss and therefore the lower the speed or the more power required to reach the same speed.
Use the right tire pressure
We have published a related article where you can find all the details. Too much pressure will result in the tire not adapting to bumps on uneven surfaces. Too little pressure will cause more friction than needed. Take a look at our article, use the online calculators and get a pressure gauge or a pump with a pressure gauge.
Adjust your body position
Bend your elbows and tuck them in bringing them towards the body. Draw your shoulders in and lower your head. This alone will put you in a more aerodynamic position without having to go through the biomechanics test because you are the biggest obstacle to the air flow. If you reduce the area that creates wind resistance, you will naturally be able to go faster.
Lowering the stem height by getting rid of spacers is another option, but not everyone can or should do it. Sometimes it is better to have narrower handlebars, improve flexibility as well as core and upper body strength to bend more easily and hold your position longer.
Now, how long are you able to hold this position and how much pain or discomfort can it cause? If your overall riding position is not correct, the cure will be worse than the disease. Therefore, have a biomechanical study done to assess your flexibility and see to what extent you can improve your position to make it more aerodynamic.
Helmet and cycling clothing
Unless you have a time trial or triathlon bike, you don’t need to switch to a time trial helmet. Although in theory it allows you to reach the highest speeds, aesthetically it does not look good on a road bike, even less so if your posture is upright instead of the one mentioned above. A simple aero helmet with fewer vents offers significant improvements in performance that only get greater the faster you go.
The same goes for clothing. The number one most aero option is a time trial jumpsuit or skinsuit, then a race suit that allows for more ease of movement and has rear pockets, and finally a well-fitting jersey and bib shorts. The fewer wrinkles, creases or seams, the better.
Finally, simple aero socks are surprisingly more efficient than regular cycling socks. This small marginal gain, together with all the things mentioned above, is a considerable improvement. In conclusion, if we have to change or update the equipment (both ours and our bike’s), it is worth looking for solutions that could help us become more efficient and ride faster.