I am now the proud father! On January 9th, Bonzai Sports gave birth to a brand new Felt DA2 with a SRAM red Quarq crank, Dura Ace di2 shifting, Reynolds race wheels, and an aerodynamic whicker basket up front (I wish). Now don’t get me wrong; I am not one of those age groupers who think that a faster bike will instantly make me a pro. In the words of Lance Armstrong “its not about the bike…[it’s all about the steroids].” As nice as this bike is, I know it will not make me a professional. In fact, it alone will not even get me to the podium.
Working in the triathlon retail business I see too many age group athletes—some who have been in the sport only one or two years—drop serious cash (upwards of $10 grand) on equipment when its not necessary. The reasons for buying a new bike and new gear are numerous. There is an actually need like when the water is going to be 60 degrees so a wet suit would be high advised or your bike broke so you are looking to upgrade. When I was at Interbike last September I heard an interesting statistic. According to the American Triathlon association, the demographic who spends the most money are not the beginners as you would think since they are just getting into the sport and therefore need the gear nor is it the seasoned Veterans and pros who you would also think spent serious cash to get the best gear (even with sponsorship).` I think many people see it as an easy way to buy speed and to some extent that is true. A lighter more aerodynamic bike will make you go faster but only if you use it properly. Like anything, training gear is a tool and when used correctly can yield great results; if used incorrectly though it can actually hurt you.
Take aero helmets for example. Aero helmets have been shown to reduce drag significantly when you are looking straight forward or down. Look to the side though and all aerodynamic advantage disappears. When I race (since I am usually towards the back) I see lots of athletes sporting these cool looking helmets but they are constantly looking from one side to the other. Aero bars on a TT bike are another great example. I see people buy really expensive tri bikes but never ride in the aero position; they are always on the hoods and ride it just like a road bike in which case there is no point in spending the money for the TT bars.
I also think people buy gear to look the part and I fall prey to this all the time. They see professionals in Triathlete and Lava magazine and associate them with success and power and therefore want to look like them, so they race out and buy everything that they just saw with the unrealistic hope that it will turn them into Craig Alexander or Pete Jacobs (I wish this was true!).
Lastly and most dangerously, people buy gear to fill insecurities. When I begin to doubt whether I have what it takes to go pro or achieve my goals my mind strays to gear; it could be an occupational hazard really. I spend all my day looking and reviewing the best gear but cannot have it. I am like a diabetic in a candy store! I used to think though that if I just spent 2 grand more I might be able to have that extra edge to shave off minutes. With the swipe of a credit card (or a home mortgage) and like magic, I would be the top of the field. In reality though it does not work. You get a thrill from buying the latest gear but that thrill dissipates. What does not go away though is your passion to train. That is the real super engine that will take you to the podium and beyond.
My new bike is nice, and I love it a lot! Whenever I look at it or even think about it, I want to go out and ride it, put some sweat on it, and crank out some watts. I know that it will take me places and to a level that my old bike could not, however my weekly millage will not get any easier and my intensity will not drop. I still have to keep overhauling and fine tuning the proverbial engine that when put in the right car will make hopefully take me to the podium and beyond.
I think I will call her Dharma...but more on that in the next post