How much is modern cycling tech really worth in terms of speed?
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  1. #1
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    How much is modern cycling tech really worth in terms of speed?

    After having a look through the Milan-San Remo results archives(a race held every year of similar distance on a similar course with only small changes) a few things stood out: Fausto Coppi's win in '49 had an avg. speed of 39.4km/h, Merckx in '67 still has one of the 3 highest average speeds recorded at 44.8km/h, both were faster than the winning avg. speed for 2011 of 38.3km/h. Bugno in '90 still has the highest avg. ever. It makes me wonder how much aero wheels, lightweight carbon frames, power based training, etc. is all really worth.........

    http://bikeraceinfo.com/classics/Mil...emo-index.html

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    On flats - aero dynamics of a solo rider might be worth a few seconds a mile.

    In pack riding, modern on-bar shifting may make the difference of staying with the other riders or being dropped.

    In climbs, dropping 5 pounds over 1980s weights might be make a difference to a pro on major climbs. Sean Kelly swore by his ultralight Vitus back in the day.

    For you and me - nada.
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  3. #3
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    you would probably get better comparisons for average speed looking at time trials. In mass start races like that, speed doesn't matter at all, just who crosses the line first.

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    The Poggio and Cipressa climbs were added in the 60s and 80s in an attempt to make it less of a sprinters race, and another hill was added recently. So the average speeds are not comprable. Not that average speed is a good metric for a bike race. A year with favorable winds is going to be faster than a year where there's a headwind.

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    Speeding up

    Quote Originally Posted by slegros
    After having a look through the Milan-San Remo results archives(a race held every year of similar distance on a similar course with only small changes) a few things stood out: Fausto Coppi's win in '49 had an avg. speed of 39.4km/h, Merckx in '67 still has one of the 3 highest average speeds recorded at 44.8km/h, both were faster than the winning avg. speed for 2011 of 38.3km/h. Bugno in '90 still has the highest avg. ever. It makes me wonder how much aero wheels, lightweight carbon frames, power based training, etc. is all really worth....
    Bicycle Quarterly did an interesting analysis (Volume 8, No. 4) comparing running times with bike race results. Basically, the improvement in running times (roughly in the last 60 years) is just about the same as the improvement in bike race times. IOW, much of the improvement seen in the past 50 years is due to improvements in training and nutrition rather than equipment. Obviously weight savings is meaningful for climbing (about 10 seconds saved per hour of climbing on a 6% grade if you reduce weight by 300 grams). On the flats, an aero frame or top of the line aero wheels are worth about 0.3 mph at 20 mph (0.5 km/hr at 32 km/hr) but weight is pretty much meaningless. There is precious little evidence that any changes in the bike or equipment have improved rider efficiency (calories burned per watt delivered to the rear wheel).

  6. #6
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    As Kerry said, training, nutrition, and a more thorough understanding of biomechanics tO achieve a more efficient fit.
    I might gain .1mph with a $10,000 bike, but a pro fitting has added about 2mph.
    I have a single track mind

  7. #7
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    Talking Is there still hope?

    Quote Originally Posted by Peanya
    As Kerry said, training, nutrition, and a more thorough understanding of biomechanics tO achieve a more efficient fit.
    I might gain .1mph with a $10,000 bike, but a pro fitting has added about 2mph.
    Yeah!

    On a "false flat" I got passed by a guy about 20 years younger on a carbon bike. I grabbed his wheel and stuck with him all the way to an intersection. I was riding a 24 pound lugged steel bike from the 80s with 28C tires and fenders. We waited. Then a young guy on a mountain bike and I, drafted him for another 3 miles on a very slightly rising bike path next to a creek. We were doing 18 mph.

    Just goes to show, with grit and determination, equipment handicaps can be overcome.

  8. #8
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    Merckx's incredible time may be due to the M-S R being almost all in one direction (s-s/w) and having a tail wind in his favour. It also may be due to him being GOD.
    In all seriousness, I get the feeling on flat or gently undulating roads that if I had more weight and momentum in my bike then I would be able to maintain a steady speed with less effort. I also get the feeling on a heavy bike when climbing that it would be so much faster without the weight. So many contradictions.... another is when descending at speed on a light bike, I wish that my bike was heavier and more planted, and somewhat compensating for the wind resistance created with speed. I get the feeling that they all cancel each other out to the point of insignificance. Rolling weight is another matter though.. at least as far as acceleration goes.

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    I'll take a chance and say it-

    The biggest performance upgrade you can do is dope.
    They simply didn't test much back then. It was all part of it.

    Perhaps my comment belongs in the doping forum - but I felt it was related to the topic.
    "People ask me what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike - busting my ass - six hours a day. What are you on?"
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by skygodmatt
    I'll take a chance and say it-

    The biggest performance upgrade you can do is dope.
    They simply didn't test much back then. It was all part of it.

    Perhaps my comment belongs in the doping forum - but I felt it was related to the topic.
    Your comment may be true, but it has nothing to do with cycling technology or weight as in the OP.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oasisbill
    Rolling weight is another matter though.. at least as far as acceleration goes.
    rolling weight hasn't changed much, practically the same tubulars and boxed alloy rims were and stay light. hub weight doesn't mean much.

    As for TdF, average speed went up to, from 35-37 in the sixties and seventies to 39-40 in the 2000s. But there are some aggravating factors like tiny support teams, worse roads, lots of split stages. But there should be something in tech that helps them ride faster, tiny bits but they all add up: aero stuff, lighter wheels and bikes, gears and shifters, radios.

    I don't know but I think riders' positions changed too. Modern position has a very low front end, I'm not sure but in the sixties and seventies handlebars were a bit higher.

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    Another thought from watching "Stars and Watercarriers": just look at Merckx leading the whole peloton to pull back a lone rider, have you seen any modern GC racer doing THIS?

    Such racing hasn't happen for quite a long time and will never happen again.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fredrico
    Yeah!

    On a "false flat" I got passed by a guy about 20 years younger on a carbon bike. I grabbed his wheel and stuck with him all the way to an intersection. I was riding a 24 pound lugged steel bike from the 80s with 28C tires and fenders. We waited. Then a young guy on a mountain bike and I, drafted him for another 3 miles on a very slightly rising bike path next to a creek. We were doing 18 mph.

    Just goes to show, with grit and determination, equipment handicaps can be overcome.
    You drafted him, which requires less energy, which still makes you slower. Good job! If you'd have had a lighter bike you might have been the leader and not the follower
    "I felt bad because I couldn't wheelie; until I met a man with no bicycle"

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by dot
    rolling weight hasn't changed much, practically the same tubulars and boxed alloy rims were and stay light. hub weight doesn't mean much.
    I agree. My wheels in 1983 were lighter than my current wheels. i could buy some marginally lighter wheels but they would only make an insignificant difference.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Oasisbill
    Your comment may be true, but it has nothing to do with cycling technology or weight as in the OP.
    If training and nutrition are "cycling technology" then so is dope.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by looigi
    If training and nutrition are "cycling technology" then so is dope.
    New training and nutrition knowledge may be called cycling technology, but dope is neither training nor nutrition. I get your point though.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dot
    Another thought from watching "Stars and Watercarriers": just look at Merckx leading the whole peloton to pull back a lone rider, have you seen any modern GC racer doing THIS?

    Such racing hasn't happen for quite a long time and will never happen again.
    Bingo we have a winner!

    Racing has slowly but surely lost it's testosterone with those that will sacrifice everything to pull at the front. What we have now is a bunch of strategist figuring out how to do the least amount of work possible and still stay in contention.

    Get rid of the race radios and let men race like men again.

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    Today: team strategy, lead outs and domestiques. Back then, it was different ala Merckx and Coppi and such. Since I am a bicycle commuter, I relate more to a lone rider facing the hill and route alone than a team rider benefiting from a another rider killing themselves so I can win the stage or the race. ;)

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Oasisbill
    Your comment may be true, but it has nothing to do with cycling technology or weight as in the OP.
    It has a lot to do with the responses that suggest that speed increases have been rather limited over X period of time. If (and I'm jusy saying "if") the "old school" was disadvantaged in bike tech and training knowledge, but advantaged in doping applicayion, then it makes it difficult to conclude that advances in bike tech haven't had much of an impact on race speed. Maybe they've just offset decreases in doping application. We just can't know.

  20. #20
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    Talking Thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by nOOky
    You drafted him, which requires less energy, which still makes you slower. Good job! If you'd have had a lighter bike you might have been the leader and not the follower
    I rode a friend's aluminum bike the other day. Carbon fork, about 18 pounds weight. The only plus I noticed was that it went up grades better. That of course is where I get dropped! On flats, my old 22 pound steel replica of what Eddy rode has momentum the lighter bike doesn't, so there's no trouble keeping with the pack. The old bike also accelerates and climbs really responsively, even though at a weight disadvantage. On a good day, I've wound it up past younger guys on lesser frames. With steel, it's like the harder you hit it, the more responsive it becomes. With mid level aluminum and carbon that's just the reverse. Several times I've heard wondrous testimonies at how so and so high end carbon works so much better than the mid-level bike it replaced. That was the same with steel bikes, but the old good stuff still rides as good as the new good stuff, even with the slight weight handicap. IMO.

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    Thumbs up Yeah!

    Quote Originally Posted by heathb
    Bingo we have a winner!

    Racing has slowly but surely lost it's testosterone with those that will sacrifice everything to pull at the front. What we have now is a bunch of strategist figuring out how to do the least amount of work possible and still stay in contention.

    Get rid of the race radios and let men race like men again.
    When men were men and women were women. Champions raced to win all season. They didn't key on just one race.

    Eddy was a great example. He had good teams working for him, but he wasn't afraid to gamble on his strength, and leave the pack in the dust miles before the finish. As impressive as Mark Cavendish is, he's a spoiled kid compared to Merckx and his compatriots.

    Hinault might have been the last of the all-rounders. None of the teams care about that anymore. Heroes are a thing of the past. Now it's all the team. Bo-ring!

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by vancouver-rider
    Today: team strategy, lead outs and domestiques. Back then, it was different ala Merckx and Coppi and such. Since I am a bicycle commuter, I relate more to a lone rider facing the hill and route alone than a team rider benefiting from a another rider killing themselves so I can win the stage or the race. ;)
    Suggest you check up on history then. Merckx and Coppi both had domestiques who buried themselves in their interests. The footage we see of them is the big attacks they made after their teams had laid the foundations. Jos Bruyere was Merckx's faithful lieutenant at Faema, Molteni & Fiat from 1969 to 1977 and was only one of many very able riders at his side. The USPS model was nothing new at all, Armstrong employed the same method as Merckx in assembling a super strong team. Only difference was he only targeted one race.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Kontact
    In climbs, dropping 5 pounds over 1980s weights might be make a difference to a pro on major climbs. Sean Kelly swore by his ultralight Vitus back in the day
    More a case of made do with what he was given. Plus they reputedly only lasted a couple of races, or one P-R or Ronde!

  24. #24
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    Look at so many other pro sports over that same time period. For instance, hockey played in the 60's and 70's looks like my old man Friday night sessions, compared to the level of play of pro hockey now. There are simply more athletes with better training regimens and less parity amongst the ability of players.

    Stephen Jay Gould analyzed Baseball statistics thoroughly and came to a similar conclusion that the natural progression is more and better athletes over time, and it becomes more and more difficult to break the records. We're just getting closer to our limits.

    Also, isn't the current state of doping that it matters much more in the ability of a rider to operate at a high performance level day after day, and less so that it makes that rider go faster in a single day?

    I guess I'm saying that it has so much more to do with a larger pool of really well trained athletes, and much less to do with tech.

  25. #25
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    One thing I've found interesting was re-reading the B.Hinault book Road Racing: Technique and Training. Even though the book is over 25years old and most of the info in it is almost 30 years old its still very relevant. Things like the advantages of aero frames expressed in watts and time were reviewed back in the late '70s and are discussed. Hinault talks about working out positioning based on efficiency and aerodynamics tests conducted in the wind tunnel and at the Renault sports lab. The latest stuff about Specialized and Scott introducing 'aero' road bikes is nothing new-the advantages were known 30+ years ago. Hinault when discussing training zones his 'perceived effort' is very much in line with Charmichael's from TCTP and perhaps not surprisingly correlates to watts output. They knew in the labs what riders could output in watts as far back as the late '70s(maybe even further back), just recently has power based training become more common with the advent of reasonable onboard power monitoring technology.....

    One thing I took away from re-reading it is that maybe training methods at the top levels haven't changed all that much, and that the technology has had a greater effect at the amateur level, allowing amateurs access to better equipment, knowledge, and training methods.....

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