Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why Banning Aero Gear is Good for Collegiate Cycling

Ok, first I'm just going to state that I am fighting for the little guy. I'm talking about all of those small collegiate teams out there with limited budgets, a couple of elite riders and even fewer resources.

Now on to my rant.

Eliminating aero gear from collegiate cycling is what best serves the collegiate cycling community as a whole. Primarily it is in tune with the basic principles that are outlined in the collegiate cycling mission statement, most notably:

"(d) Ensuring that the sport we love is low cost and accessible to any student who wants to race a bike."

Simply put, eliminating aero gear cuts costs all around and in turn levels the playing field between larger and smaller programs. And hey Big teams, there's a reason collegiate entry fees are fixed, to keep costs low, why shouldn't we roll this out to equipment as well?

The most obvious cost difference is that of the equipment itself. On the high end of the cost spectrum is full on time trial bikes, used only for time trials, which can run in the thousands of dollars per bike. Additional equipment that can be added to a mass start legal bike, such as carbon wheels, which can be in the thousands as well per wheel set, and clip-on aero bars are certainly less expensive but not free. So for two TTT teams there's a minimum of $800 dollars more ($100 clip-ons x 2 four person teams) and a maximum of $16,000 extra ($2000 bikes x 2-four person teams).

Now on top of the equipment costs there is also a significant increase in transport and travel costs for teams that need to lug around this extra equipment to and from races, most notably at nationals. If team show up with TT bikes for both the men's and women's squads, that's an additional 8 bikes that need to flown, shipped, hauled across the country to wherever the national championships happen to occur. Likewise, this has an impact on racing within each conference as it does cost real money to bring two bikes per rider to each event, which may result in extra, unnecessary vehicles or trailers brought to each event.

In short, having TT gear costs a lot, and while it is unfortunate that teams who have already invested in aero gear are losing on their investment, they can still sell of some of that gear and recoup some of their costs. Simply put, it sucks for those teams, but frankly it's a lot easier for the few varsity/sponsored/large teams to bite the bullet than to have the hundreds of smaller teams spend more money in order to close down the gap.

Say, for example a new, small team just happens have one or two elite riders and then your team grabs a B rider to join the TTT squad. This could easily happen on any one of the hundreds of teams out there, who did not plan six month's earlier that they'd need aero gear to be competitive; rather it puts them on the same level as well funded, well established programs right away. This kind of opportunity is already available to individuals in mass start events, who if they are talented make their way to the top, so why shouldn't it be the same for teams. I can attest to this from personal experience, when I entered a few individual time trials as an "A" category rider this year.

(Here I am at the Rutgers No Aero TT, happy as a clam, photo: BRob)

In addition to cost arguments from teams that are taking a hit, I've also heard many times the argument that "taking away aero gear harms development of elite riders."

Sorry, but I just don't buy that, time trials are not mass start events, the skills learned in a TT can be learned on a training ride, it is not the same as riding in the pack or in a break, and that is why TT's are not used for upgrade purposes. While it's important for collegiate to be a elite development program, riders at the top are going to be racing beyond the 10 week collegiate calendar and will have opportunities to use aero gear. They use collegiate races as quality, fast and fun events to help them prepare for the rest of their season.
If they are going to be racing outside of collegiate cycling, they are going to have more opportunities aside from collegiate to ride time trials, with aero gear.

In summation, yes big teams, who have spent money are getting screwed, but they just have to take one for the team, because now we've just made it fair to all those small teams out there who didn't have the means to buy their way onto the podium.

Eliminating aero-gear best embodies the spirit of collegiate cycling, while still retaining the tough competition. The best riders/teams will win because they are the fastest and not just because they've got the best gear.


  1. I would second this and also apply the same logic to junior racing.