There’s tight and there’s aero tight. As a rider, you create far more drag than your bike does, so slimming your profile by reducing flapping material is perhaps the best upgrade you could make in the quest for speed. A close-fitting aero jersey and shorts will also be a lot cheaper than an aero frame or wheels.
Getting a bike fit
If your bike doesn’t fit properly, you’re missing out on your potential as cyclist. Buying speed doesn’t come any more cost effectively than creating harmony between rider and bike. There are loads of fitting options out there, but the fitter’s expertise is key in finding the best possible balance between power production and comfort.
Save your ass
An Ass Saver is a simple plastic shield that attaches to your saddle, but is well short of being a full mudguard. It might not make you a faster cyclist, but it’ll keep you comfortable when the rain comes down or the roads are wet by stopping spray soaking into your chamois – something that’s at best uncomfortable and at worst a source of rubbing that could end in painful saddle sores.
A whole new groupset might save a few grams, but they’re expensive. If chainring / sprocket teeth or the chain itself are worn, you could experience miss-shifts, dangerous slipping while climbing and a loss in efficiency. Getting a new cassette, jockey wheels, chainrings and chain will get the whole system running as new. Recabling is another great way to improve shifting and braking if the cables are a few seasons old.
In the past, it was all about skinny tires, pumped until they’re bulging dangerously. Nowadays, going wider is preferred due to lower rolling resistance when run at the same pressure as narrower tyres. Wider rubber is also more comfortable and, along with wider rims seen on modern deep-section wheels, can be more aero too.