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Teach me how to Bucky
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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay there are innumerable threads speculating on how much faster a high end bike will make you compared to an entry level bike. Depending on who you ask and how much you spend the conventional wisdom answer to the "How much faster will I be on bike X?" question ranges from lots, to some, to not at all.

Well I'm a big fan of Mythbusters and since it was beautiful day, but I had to stay close to home I decided to test my two bikes against the clock and compare. I have not put any miles on my old Giant TCR-2 after buying a used Madone 5.0 this spring. To test them I choose a 3 mile loop near my house that has only left turns so I new have to stop or yield to traffic I rode two laps on each bike and recorded the stats with the same bike computer. I did the course twice with each bike, starting with the "old" bike, taking a quick half mile cool down in between to go back to the garage to switch bikes.

On each circuit I blinded myself to my average speed and concentrated on maintaining maximum sustainable effort.

The test equipment:

Me:
Age: 42 Height: 5' 10" Weight:167#

Bike 1/ Old Bike:
2003 Giant TCR 2
MSRP: $1400
Upgrades over Stock: Tires
Frame: M SL aluxx Aluminum Alloy
Fork: Compsite Aero
Grupo: 2003 Shimano 105 - crank 53/39 - cog 9 speed 11-23
Wheels: Mavic CXP-22
Tires: Michelin Krylion Carbon
Weight: 19.5#

Bike 2/New Bike:
2007 Trek Madone
MSRP: $2549
Upgrades over Stock: Tires, Wheelset $1200, Crank, seat
Frame: OCLV 120 Carbon
Fork: Carbon Aero
Grupo: 2007 Shimano Ultegra + FSA Gossamer crank 59/39 - cog 10 speed 12-25
Wheels: Spinergy Stealth PBO aero carbon
Tires: Continental Grad Prix 4000s
Weight: 17.5#

The ride data:
Trial 1, "Old Bike"
Distance: 5.7 miles
Time: 15:48
Ave MPH:21.65

Trial 2, "New Bike"
Distance: 5.7 miles
Time: 15:46
Ave MPH:21.69

Trial 3, "Old Bike"
Distance: 5.7 miles
Time: 15:46
Ave MPH:21.69

Trial 4, "New Bike"
Distance: 5.7 miles
Time: 15:58
Ave MPH:21.43

Discussion:
Holy Crap! My newer, carbon everything, fancy aero wheels, bike appears to be not one damn bit faster than my old bike!

My perceived maximum sustained effort is remarkably consistent over the first three 6 mile loops. I was starting to tire on loop 4.

Myth: More expensive = Faster
Status: BUSTED!!!!!


In true Mythbusters style, after this surprising result I took both bikes to the Alameda bomb range. I covered both frames with C4 wrapped with det cord, attached a JATO rocket to each.

They blew up reeaall goooooooood!!!!!!!:devil:

Actually I just made up that last part...

I recommend more people go out and try a similar experiment. Discuss amongst yourself.
 

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To me what's even more interesting is the difference in wheels compared to the lack of difference in results. Notice I said interesting and not surprising.
 

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Brad the Bold said:
In true Mythbusters style, after this surprising result I took both bikes to the Alameda bomb range. I covered both frames with C4 wrapped with det cord, attached a JATO rocket to each.

They blew up reeaall goooooooood!!!!!!!:devil:
 

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You must be kind of bummed about blowing that $2500 for the Trek then?

I've tried similar "tests" with wheels and tires. Even with power data the lack of controls made the tests laughable and non-conclusive. What I found interesting was trying to mentally convince myself I was being objective. Deep down I really wanted "x" to be faster than "y".
 

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I bought an expensive ($2500) bike because it makes me feel good, not because it may be faster, I like high quality things. It gets me out riding more, so worth every penny to me, I love riding it, looking at it and thinking about it, my wife is jealous :)
 

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Teach me how to Bucky
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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
woodys737 said:
You must be kind of bummed about blowing that $2500 for the Trek then?

I've tried similar "tests" with wheels and tires. Even with power data the lack of controls made the tests laughable and non-conclusive. What I found interesting was trying to mentally convince myself I was being objective. Deep down I really wanted "x" to be faster than "y".
Nah, not really bummed. I didn't actually pay $2500 for the bike, or $1200 for the wheelset.

I bought it all used for $1600 on eBay! :thumbsup:

Both bikes look pretty hot. And they say the number of bikes you own should always be n+1. (where n=the number of bikes you currently own)

I agree it is tough to be objective. The best I could do was cover the computer so I did not know my actual speed until I stopped. Power might have helped.
 

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Is it the future yet?
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Who says a more expensive bike is faster? People who think that way are either, new to cycling or, think people who can afford an expensive bike, think that way.

I get passed by people on basic $2500 Trek Madonts every once in a while. Do I feel stupid my bike costs more? No.

I pass people in Mercedes and BMW's in my MDX all the time. Am I proving anything?
NO.
There are many reasons why I spent and bought what I did. Thinking I was gonna be the fastest was not among them..
 

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one of the fastest guys I ride with (not a pro but he can easily cover a century in under 5 hours) rides a 30 lb monster with entry level components
 

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I think you should repeat this experiment at least 100 times to verify the result. 2 tests is far from conclusive. In addition, you should use a heart rate monitor and peg your heartrate exactly the same each lap. Your body position should also be dialed in to be exactly the same. Also, it may make a (measurable) difference if you had a up/down hill on your loop.

It is a fair experiment, but I feel like you need to isolate you as the varible and repeat it many, many times.
 

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Even with a powermeter, your data would have been inconclusive due to an uncontrolled environment. Little things like wind speed/direction, inconsistency in power output on your part, and such make "time" an unreliable measure.

To get anything conclusive you'd need to do it in a closed environment with consistent power output. In other words, every other factor that is applied directly to the bike has to be equal in order for "time" to be an accurate and reliable measure.
 

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I first got into cycling in the late 80's, but stopped after a few years as my interests changed as I got out of high school. Now roughly 20 years (since last year) later I've started riding again. Honestly I was shocked at how much prices have skyrocketed on the high end bikes. I'm not one to drink the kool aid though, and I'm not gullible enough to think a 15lb multi-thousand dollar bike is going to turn me into a pro or even be the difference between winning and losing in the lower Cat levels when compared to a 20lb bike.

What does disappoint me though is the young kid in middle school, high school, or even struggling college student who might not be able to afford to even get into the sport, and heaven help him/her if they stumble upon this website owning a Trek 1.1 or 1.2. Right off the bat they'll be told to get a new wheelset. Next they'll have to do something about those Sora shifters because we all know 105 is the bare minimum.

Unfortunately cycling gear has turned into a status symbol for some.
 

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Brad the Bold said:
Nah, not really bummed. I didn't actually pay $2500 for the bike, or $1200 for the wheelset.

I bought it all used for $1600 on eBay! :thumbsup:

Both bikes look pretty hot. And they say the number of bikes you own should always be n+1. (where n=the number of bikes you currently own)

I agree it is tough to be objective. The best I could do was cover the computer so I did not know my actual speed until I stopped. Power might have helped.
Right on. It agree it is fun to try. Just don't live and die from the data you collect as it's not really accurate or conclusive.

I found it interesting using the same wheels/tires and testing out different bikes/fits. For example, at one time I was interesting in verifying (hoping) my TT frame actually put me in a position that would yield a faster speed than compared to my road frame. I've also tried to determine if a deep rim was faster than a shallow one while riding the same frame...The results were interesting for the TT v. road frame and the wheel test was a bummer.
 

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Really, 5.7 miles is considered a decent test for bikes that are mainly built and tested for 100+ mile stage racing by pros. How about a 50 mile ride? How about 100? I don't think my brand new carbon bike is really faster than my old aluminum bike, but my fillings aren't loose after a ride over a patch of rough pavement.
 

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My old bike weighed 28 pounds, compared with 17-ish for my new one. That's going from a bike that was 20% of my total body weight to one that's about 13%. Trust me, I'm faster on the new one.

But I bought it because it's cool, not because I'm faster :)
 

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Teach me how to Bucky
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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
oroy38 said:
Even with a powermeter, your data would have been inconclusive due to an uncontrolled environment. Little things like wind speed/direction, inconsistency in power output on your part, and such make "time" an unreliable measure.

To get anything conclusive you'd need to do it in a closed environment with consistent power output. In other words, every other factor that is applied directly to the bike has to be equal in order for "time" to be an accurate and reliable measure.
Instead, I choose to dare you to do it better. :D

And you know as well as I do that we will never be able to control all the variables. That doesn't make the results less interesting. Try it. Use a powermeter and heart rate if you think it will help. Post it here!

But honestly if the "little things" you list are so much more of a factor than the variables I changed in my experiment, doesn't that support the overall conclusion that the bike doesn't make an overwhelming difference.

I assumed it would be easy to prove my new areo bike was faster. It was not. Try it!

Here is the route I used, by the way.
http://www.mapmyride.com/route/us/wi/waunakee/391128433625832174

Weather was sunny and 74, steady breeze from the west at 5-10.
 

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Teach me how to Bucky
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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
ncsu said:
I think you should repeat this experiment at least 100 times to verify the result. 2 tests is far from conclusive. In addition, you should use a heart rate monitor and peg your heartrate exactly the same each lap. Your body position should also be dialed in to be exactly the same. Also, it may make a (measurable) difference if you had a up/down hill on your loop.

It is a fair experiment, but I feel like you need to isolate you as the varible and repeat it many, many times.
That where I need your help. Get out there and do a few loops! :)

And actually body position is a factor in these two bikes. The "old bike" has spacers on the steerer and the stem is angled up, so even in the drops, I am more upright than on the madone. That should have made me less areo. I think that should stay as a varaible between the two.
 

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Teach me how to Bucky
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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
heffergm said:
I'm faster on the new one.
Awesome. Now prove it.

I thought I was too, and I thought it would be easy to prove. Turns out, not so much.

I was surprised.
Lou3000 said:
Really, 5.7 miles is considered a decent test for bikes that are mainly built and tested for 100+ mile stage racing by pros. How about a 50 mile ride? How about 100?
Sure I'd love to but...
roscoe said:
now do it again and ride the new bike first...

doing successive efforts will make you tired
If I did longer trial fatigue would play an even lager factor.

And if I did those trials on different days then wind and weather are even more uncontrolled.

And to Roscoe, since I assumed the new bike would be easily faster I rode the old one first. I will try again with the opposite rotation.
 

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Brad the Bold said:
Awesome. Now prove it.

I thought I was too, and I thought it would be easy to prove. Turns out, not so much.

I was surprised.
There was a 2 pound difference in your old and new bikes. There was an 11 pound difference in my case.

And I did prove it over my usual route to myself. I don't need to convince anyone else. The gains are all in the climbs, of which there are a lot near me.
 
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