Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The Poor Man's TT Bike

Cadel - Leaving the clownery for charity days.
The tile is a little misleading, I don't mean financially poor, I mean 'you poor bastard' if you have to ride a time trial on a road bike. Road bikes are not designed for cutting into the wind.... but with some attention to detail and a few tweaks, you can get more speed with the same power, on your road bike.

We'll start with an ambiguous definition: "Mass start event equipment only".

From that I have to make a few assumptions. UCI legal equipment for mass start road races. I'll ignore the grey area of certified frames and wheel sets, sticking to what we see at crits and road races from club level up to national events here in Australia.

The three P's of time trials are: Position, Position, and Picking races that allow time trial equipment. Failing the last one you'll have to focus on the first two. The commonly quoted statistic for wind resistance is 90% rider and 10% bike..... This is probably only vaguely in the ballpark, but illustrates how important position is. Whatever the real figures, both rider and the bike add up to 100% of wind resistance so we need to focus on both as a single unit.

Free Speed:

- TT helmet: They CAN be used in mass start events, they are AS/NZS certified. Although you wouldn't wear one in a bunch, you can, so you'd be crazy not to have one for a individual race against the clock. Not all TT helmets are equal, not all helmet fits match the rider. It'd be safe to say any TT helmet is better than a road helmet. Get one.

- Clothing: Skinsuit. Make it tight. Aero boot covers. Make them tight. Socks as high as you can find (for style, and just to piss the UCI off).

- Remove Unnecessary Equipment: Remove bottle cages/pumps/saddle bags. Nothing in your pockets (tricked you! You're already in a skinsuit with no pockets!)

- Deep wheels: As deep as you can get. Use 80mm, 90mm, Zipp 808's or 1080's if you can find them and get away with them.

- Fast Rubber: If you're on tubulars then you know what you're doing. If you're on clinchers do your research, or just fork out for Vittoria Open Corsa Evo CX with latex tubes.

and saving the most detailed one for last....

- Drop your bars: Drop them LOW. Slam your stem. Get yourself a -17degree stem or an adjustable one. You can't go full retard on this as your drops have to still be above the top of your front wheel, most people will have 2-3 inches to play with, easy. "But that is insane and uncomfortable".... Have you ever done a comfortable TT? Since you're not allowed to use clip-on's (commonly known in other circles as strap-ons, just don't Google that), we have to get creative. Double bar tape or triple tape the tops of your bars to make them super-soft, soft enough to rest your elbows on..... and enough so they can rest there while your forearms are pointed forward and your hands are in 'space' and on those imaginary TT bars. This will lower your back, head, and streamline your arms and shoulders..... it will give you a TT bike position. Saddle height may have to be adjusted up and forward depending on a few things. Try it in training first.

Dave Z knows what's up.

That covers the basics of TTing on a road bike off the top of my head, the rest is up to you. If you're investing in riding a whole tour, regardless of the grade and regardless of the TT distance, you'd be mad not to spend a few minutes and a few $ on making sure you put yourself in the best position for the TT stage. Lance was right, every second counts.

Anyone who does their homework can easily debunk the 'level playing field' theory with attention to detail, and spending a LOT of money on equipment that still falls within the limitations of "mass start event equipment". In doing so, they'll create a bigger time-gap spread across the same grade. Not exactly fair is it?

Allowing TT bikes and equipment actually LEVELS the playing field by regulating what equipment can be used.

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