Do cyclists spend too much money on upgrades? GCN Tech Show

Cyclists are always splurging their money on fancy new equipment in an attempt to go faster, but is it a waste of money?

Clock06:48, Friday 9th February 2024

The GCN Tech Show returns this week with Alex Paton and Ollie Bridgewood back in the studio to discuss the latest tech news and trends. It’s been a busy seven days since the last episode in which we’ve created a homemade bike generator, provided some cost-saving maintenance hacks and put one very average cyclist to the test to find out how much speed money can actually buy - as it turns out, not much.

That got Alex thinking, do cyclists rely on equipment upgrades a little too much? As a sport, cycling is obsessed with speed and there is a constant pursuit for ways to go faster, even among amateur riders. Upgrades naturally soon hone into view, as they’re the easiest and most attainable source of speed - although not particularly friendly on bank accounts. The problem is, upgrades don’t actually make you that much faster. Sure, a shiny new pair of wheels may help you glide along the flat a little quicker, but not by much. And, unless you’re racing, is all of that money actually worth it?

Alex and Ollie don’t believe it is for a couple of reasons, although we should add a caveat here that our presenters are the first to grasp any opportunity to test out a new piece of equipment, but that’s to satisfy their tech nerdery rather than gain speed.

The first problem with the upgrades philosophy is that a bike will only go as fast as the rider. You can have the most expensive bike kitted out with pro-level tech but its speed will always be dependent on your fitness level. Building fitness is therefore the best way to go faster. In the words of the great Eddy Merckx, “don’t buy upgrades, ride upgrades”.

Those familiar with the industry’s marketing lingo will also know that every new product is always better in some way, usually by shedding weight or being more aerodynamic. While those claims may be true, the differences in performance between a new product and the one it’s replacing are usually so small that the average cyclist would never notice them out on the road.

Ollie thinks, for many cyclists, it’s better to wait until parts reach the end of their service life to upgrade them, rather than jumping on any new product as soon as it’s released. That shouldn’t be too often, which will be a welcome reprieve for your bank account.

Do you agree with Ollie? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Hot and spicy tech

It’s been a busy week in the world of bike tech with lots of new products hitting the market, plus some interesting new studies. Here’s a roundup of our top picks.

Wearing a turban is safer than not wearing a helmet

We start with a unique study by Imperial College London which has found that wearing a turban reduces the risk of injury compared to not wearing a helmet. The tests, conducted on crash test dummies, also showed that, in some instances, turbans could provide protection that was comparable to bike helmets.

Check out the full report here.

Wahoo and Zwift join forces to launch Wahoo Kickr Core Zwift One

Wahoo and Zwift have teamed up to launch a new turbo trainer named the Wahoo Kickr Core Zwift One. As the name suggests, it’s a new take on Wahoo’s popular Kickr trainer with Zwift’s virtual shifting cog added to the recipe.

A unique design that helps to make indoor cycling more accessible, the Zwift cog was released last year and is compatible with any 8-speed groupsets and above.

Vittoria releases TT tyres used by Jonas Vingegaard at Tour de France

Vittoria has added new Speed time trial tyres to its Corsa Pro range. When we say ‘new’, that’s not strictly true as they were used frequently by the WorldTour peloton during 2023, including by Jonas Vingegaard during his stage 16 demolition job at the Tour de France. Add to that a Belgian time trial title with Wout van Aert and the new tyre has already built an impressive palmarès.

Hunt’s new SUB50 Limitless created with lofty ambitions

Meanwhile, Hunt’s ambition to create the fastest all-rounder race wheel up to a 50mm depth has culminated in the new SUB50 Limitless. If its testing in a wind tunnel is anything to go by, it appears that the mission was a resounding success.

On trend with modern thinking, the wheels are notably designed specifically for 28mm and 30mm-wide tyres.

Bike vault

Before we delve into the submissions for this week’s bike vault, a quick reminder that you can enter your own bike via the GCN uploader. If you’re unsure how to do this, check out our article which will guide you through the process, linked here.

With that out of the way, let’s turn our attention to the bikes and this week Alex has decided it’s an anti-disc brake special. Not because he dislikes disc brakes; we simply received lots of great rim brake submissions, starting with a 1990s beauty in the form of a Trek 730 Multitrack.

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