In last month's edition of The Everyman Tri Gear Guide, we discussed why Swedish goggles make you look faster and, when choosing a wetsuit, avoid neon colors. Now, let's make our first transition and move on to bike equipment.
The bike itself is, without a doubt, the most expensive, debated and crucial piece of triathlon gear (you can't do a tri without one, right?). Countless words have been written about the pros and cons of the multitude of types, styles and brands of bicycles available to triathletes. Much has been debated about the various components, frames and wheels that make up the perfect triathlon bike.
I say forget all that.
Only one thing really matters on a bike -- the paint job. Yes, it may seem trivial at first, but ask yourself: would you buy and ride a really ugly bike? Of course not.
Now flip that question around. Would you buy a really cool looking bike even if it didn't have the best components, wheels and tires? Of course you would.
Because for the Everyman and woman, it's not about how fast we go, but how good we look while racing (remember my position on goggles?). "But Roman, that's so shallow. I think you are dead wrong," you might say with righteous indignation.
Let's face it gang, on any given weekend most of us are not exactly racing for the podium. Thus, if we can't win, we might as well resemble the folks who are by having the coolest looking bike in the race. As I'm sure you've noticed, nobody wins riding a bike with a banana seat and tassels.
Your bike should say, "even though I'm not leading the field, I could if I decided to really push the pace. So watch out!"
Over the last several years, the once simple bike helmet has morphed into an aerodynamic accoutrement of the highest caliber. More and more age-groupers are donning the same high-tech helmets the pros are wearing. Do these people spend their days just figuring out how to become more aerodynamic or is there actually some training going on, too?
What's worse, these aero helmets start at several hundred dollars. Today, you can easily spend as much on a carbon aero helmet with a fancy Italian name as on a basic road bike. That's why the Everyman Tri Gear Guide recommends you go old school.
Do you remember those old leather strap helmets that great riders of the past wore? Nothing says hardcore like a few skimpy leather straps barely tethered to your head.
Unlike all those other weekend warriors who wear the wimpy full head helmets, you're ready to risk serious and lifelong brain injury by protecting your head with only a half-dozen flimsy straps of leather.
When the other riders ask, just tell them, "If it was good enough for Eddy Merckx, it's good enough for me." Then ride away on your snazzy bike. You can't help but respect someone willing to risk life and limb just for a weekend triathlon.
Plus, they'll know that not only are you a bit crazy, but you don't give a damn about the shape of your head, just the size of your thighs.
It used to be, the more you spent on sunglasses, the better they were. Manufacturers spent millions of dollars producing the best eyewear known to man. It wasn't uncommon for you to spend as much on an entry-level Japanese car as on that perfect pair of designer sport sunglasses. Of course, within a week you would forget them in a rental car or someone would sit on them.
The Everyman solution is simple: get a pair of throwaway sports sunglasses. Today, just about every sunglasses manufacturer makes a descent plastic solar-blocking lens, which you can find for under $40 just about anywhere. On the other hand, if you really want to look like Paris Hilton at a hockey game just wear your designer glasses during a race.
Let's face it -- something about the way bike shorts are designed promises to make even the tightest and firmest butts look big. Take a look at professional riders and see what I mean.
Perhaps it's the way the elastic around the waist and thighs squeezes the skin, making even one percent of body fat bulge and turn into cottage cheese. Or maybe it's the combination of tight shorts and tighter tops that make the butt seem so massive in comparison.
My solution is clear (so to speak) -- skin-toned bike shorts. Not only would these create the illusion of sheer form and flowing beauty, they'd also be a huge boost to rider safety. You can bet that most drivers would finally notice cyclists and gladly slow down just to get a closer look.
Aero bars on your bike are the equivalent of a billboard on your back proclaiming "I'm a triathlete."
Some of you may be wondering, "Is it really worth investing in aero bars if I only plan to race once or twice this year?" The answer is simple. If you want people to think of you as a triathlete, you need aero bars. Chances are your fancy bike already came with them. If it didn't, a trip to the bike store to buy and have them installed legitimizes you even before you've put them to use.
Now it would seem obvious that they belong on a road or tri bike, but at the Chicago Triathlon last year I passed a young lady with aero bars on her mountain bike. Did I tell her she really needed a road bike to have aero bars? Of course not.
Did she need a road bike with aero bars? Of course she did.
Four words: knee-high tube socks.
Let me explain: do you still wear knee high tube socks? Because if you do, I think you really need to keep those traditional cage or platform pedals on your bike. Perhaps even keep the leather pedal straps and really go for the retro-cool seventies look.
Otherwise, you probably want to consider investing in bike shoes and clip-in bike pedals. These go hand-in-hand with aero bars as a legitimizing component to your race gear.
The lesson of the second leg of The Everyman Tri Gear Guide is this: anything that is part of your bike must be uber-cool -- the bike itself, aero bars, pedals. This is where you define yourself as a triathlete. Anything that is part of your appearance should define you as a hardcore muscle machine.
Roman Mica is a amateur Clydesdale triathlete who lives and races in Boulder, Colorado and has his own Web site; www.EverymanTri.com. He is also one of the founding members of www.raceAthlete.com and last year had his first book published, entitled My Training Begins Tomorrow: The Everyman's Guide to IRONFIT Swimming, Cycling & Running.