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Review: Faster

Elaine Bothe's picture

We Liked

Everybody wants to go faster. Runners, swimmers and cyclists. And, guess what, triathletes do all of those and want to get faster in each one, as well as their transitions. I am not a triathlete. I wasn't sure what I'd get out of thisFasterbook, since I don't swim, run as little as possible these days unless it's in a cyclocross race, and I cycle a lot. A transition, to me, is where I land my dirt jumper on the backside of a tabletop!

So, should a cyclocross racer (let alone mt. biker) buy this book, Faster, by Jim Gourley? Well, triathletes ride bikes, too, and the cycling chapter brilliantly discusses the physics behind riding. If you have heard of some of the concepts of physics and have even a rudimentary understanding of traction, wind resistance or mass, you'll learn a lot about the forces acting on you as you ride, making decisions based on real-world conditions, and what the true value of expensive upgrades may be to your bike, based on the kind of riding you do.

You'll learn a lot about how physics affects you personally, such as the difference in heat dissipation of a heavier rider vs. a lighter one, and what you can do about it.

Faster is also a fun approach to myth busting and how physics affects us athletes. For example, the conversations of heavier riders descending faster than riders with less mass, once you take air resistance and friction into consideration, and even vents in aero helmets become quite interesting. In need of party conversation? Get this book!

A particularly interesting section compares the weight penalty of aerodynamic parts such as wheels have on a bike if the rider is a triathlete, where drafting is forbidden, or for a peloton rider in a road race. This example clearly helps clarify the concept, and a reader can apply it to the type of riding he or she actually does. If you train or road race and end up alone a lot, such as in a time trial or triathlon, you'd benefit from heavier aero designs. If you are a good climber, or end up in a pack, less weight is your friend, on yourself or on your bike.

I love how easy to read and informative the bookFasteris. I blew through the whole thing on a 3 hour flight, and have referred to it frequently since. I enjoyed the swimming and running sections as well, since I also enjoy reading about sports and learning.

And I enjoy Jim Gourley's entertaining tone. He really is a rocket scientist who rides bikes and races triathlons. Fortunately for us, the technology in bicycles is a lot more meaningful in our daily lives than in a rocket.

We Didn't Like

I'm sure if I asked him, Jim Gourley would have plenty to say about rotational mass. However, this concept does not come up in his bookFaster.Tire and wheel mass is discussed, but from the point of view of the triathlete, who generally gets up to speed once and stays there for the whole bike segment. The rest of us cyclists need to accelerate lots of times, in and out of corners, up hills, chasing down breakaways, bridging gaps, etc.

But that demonstrates the triathlete's point of view of the book Faster vs. a general cyclist. Each cycling discipline has its own quirks and needs, and this fact does not diminish Faster as being very relevant to cyclists who are not triathletes.

The Final Say

Even if you are not a triathlete, Faster by Jim Gourley is a book well worth reading. It's entertaining and educational, and will save you money when it comes time to shop for bike parts or even a whole bike. I love how Jim Gourley puts the marketing verbiage and hype into real world perspective. Any cyclist will learn something.

I would like very much to see Jim Gourley expand on his ideas using other cycling disciplines! Or other sports, too, such as cross country skiing. Until then, we will need to extrapolate a little with Faster. It's very real world physics without all the math or multiple choice tests. Overall, for cyclocrossers, this book gets well deserved four cowbells. If this was TriathleteReview.com, it would get five... um... Ironman tattoos?

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