Going fast on anything is a formula of power, weight and aerodynamics. More power, combined with the least amount of weight, with lowest amount of aerodynamic friction will result with the fastest forward speed.
Power: Cyclists that want to go fast, will train hard and often work on the power portion of this equation, building the strongest engine they can. If your smart, you work on all aspects of your power; shear muscle strength, muscle endurance, quick muscle power and of course cardio and nutrition to support those muscles. To improve cardio most cyclists could train smarter by mixing in more interval and time trial training. More miles are good, but a sound training plan that combines distance rides with hill rides and sprint rides and of course rest days is, in the end, going to make your engine strongest.
Aerodynamics: There are a few big points on being aerodynamic. First, if your jersey or jacket is making a flapping sound in the wind, you are wearing a parachute and it is causing you to work twice as hard as everyone else around you. Get tight, slick jerseys and jackets that do not flap and your body will be as aero as possible. Second, dropping into aero bars or in the aero position will cause your speed to go up instantly. On your next solo ride try this: in a normal riding position get a good strong steady pace going into the wind and then note your speed. Then, while keeping that same pace drop into your aero bars and note the speed change, it can often be a mile or two an hour. Getting down is huge. Note: many people feel aero bars are dangerous on a group ride. You do not have the same control and reaction time when you are in the aero position. Having said that, just don’t use them while in the group. Use them if you are doing a breakaway or use them if you get dropped.
I’m very skeptical of most other aero features on road bikes. The wind profile of your body is huge and the profile of your bike is relatively small. Making small changes to the shape of your bike tubes, or hiding a brake caliper behind a tube is going to make very little difference in overall wind drag… just my opinion.
Weight: The weight portion of this triangle is controversial. We could talk about the benefits of reducing spinning weight before overall weight, but lets keep this more basic. First to note, if your like me, I know I could stand to loose five more pounds off my body. This would save me money by spending a little less on the food and beer that keeps that five pounds there, and it would save me a ton of money on the price of the bike components I would have to buy to save five pounds… which I’m not even sure if that is possible. Today, buying an entry level carbon bike is a HUGE weight savings over a road bike bought at Walmart. Thereafter, every ounce you save becomes progressively more expensive. I mean you can buy an aluminum water bottle cage for $4.50 that weighs 54 grams, or you can buy a specialized carbon fiber water bottle cage for $55.00 that weights 20 grams. Saving about 1 ounce just cost you about 50 bucks, and that might be one of the more cost effective weight saving options you could choose. You could literally save the same weight by leaving out one ounce of water in your water bottle, since a fluid ounce of water weighs about one ounce.
If you have the money and the desire you could spend a small fortune on a bike that weighs 2 lbs less than everyone else’s bike. Just to note: If you and your bike together weigh around 180 lbs., that is just about a one percent weight savings… you let me know if that makes a difference. Happy riding.