If you're averaging 17-plus mph on the bike, it's time to think about aerodynamics. The faster you go, the more wind resistance you incur, so reducing aerodynamic drag becomes increasingly important. Your body is approximately 80 percent of your aerodynamic drag, so improving your position is the best way to drop time.
Most riders set up with a comfortable and efficient position in the aero bars will see a 1- to 2-mph increase above their standard road bike position. However, if you can't comfortably maintain your aero position, it's useless. This is why fit is critical.
If you become serious about triathlon, owning two bikes -- one used primarily for training and one for racing -- is not uncommon. While faster, the aero-specific position used on a tri-bike may not be appropriate for the bulk of your training in which handling the bike in groups and traffic is important.
In either case, a fitting with a certified specialist will help guide you through the process. Ultimately, a tri-specific position that balances power, comfort and aerodynamics will be the most important factor in improving your times.
I hear so much about women-specific frames today. What makes them different? And are they good for all body types, or for just lighter, smaller women? I'm 5-foot-10 and weigh about 160 pounds. Should I stick to a standard men's frame?
Typically bicycles dubbed as "women-specific" have shorter top tubes, taller head tubes with slacker angles, narrower handlebars, and short-reach brake levers. These designs are based on women's average anatomical proportions and have generally helped women achieve greater comfort and enjoyment on the bike.
However, like any standard frame, the women-specific design makes assumptions, not only about a rider's body type, but also about her riding style. This not only affects the cyclist's comfort and efficiency, but it can also adversely affect the handling of the bike as well.
Ultimately, any bike not properly fit to the individual rider can do more harm than good. The best frame geometry is the one that's constructed for and that compliments your body, riding style and goals. Remember, bikes should be rider-specific, not gender-specific.
The Serotta School for Cycling Ergonomics has instructed more than 500 technicians in the art and science of professional bike fitting since 1998. To learn more, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.