Thursday, 30 October 2014

Banning TT bikes at the National level..... not the answer.

There is banter around TT bikes for the 2015 NRS season. Will the NRS organisers flip the switch and allow TT bikes for the men and ban them for the women? I don't know the answer, but I did run some numbers about what happens when you introduce even more rules to an already rule-riddled discipline.

Back in 2012 TT bikes were banned from our 3 Day Tour, the reasoning was something about people forgetting to change their transponders. (IMO - a simple DFL time would have sufficed). I wrote an article about making your road bike as fast as possible, The Poor Mans TT Bike.

The conclusion to that article still holds true today - Allowing TT bikes and equipment actually LEVELS the playing field by regulating what equipment can be used.

Without any UCI regulation as to what constitutes a 'road bike' TT set up, it is open slather with big budget teams using disc wheels, deep front wheels, TT helmets, swapped out stems, and their mechanics with the know-how are happily setting their riders up.

The smaller teams without the equipment/budget, the very teams that the TT bike ban is meant to assist, are left at a HUGE disadvantage. If they were to race the TT stage with their road-legal equipment they'll have to ride a lot harder to make time cut, and to stay within GC contention/position.

Barriers in TTs.... unwelcome.

The Numbers..... 

A few assumptions made here. I've used estimates of the Women's NRS, however the theory applies across the board. I've guesstimated the top women TTers are putting out 315W over 20km, and the lower end of the field are around 210W. No wind. Flat course. 

Case 1 - Road bikes. (No TT equipment at all)

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   40.6km/h 29:33            +20% cutoff is 35:27
210W   35km/h   34:17  +4:44     1:10 inside cutoff

210W is 66.6% of the winners power, 35km/h is 86.21% of winners speed. In other words, 2/3rds of the winners power gets you more than 3/4 of their speed. Not bad!

Case 2 - TT bikes. (UCI regulations)

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   43km/h   27:54            +20% cutoff is 33:28
210W   37.1km/h 32:21  +4:27     1:07 inside cutoff

Again, 210W is only 66.6% of the winners power, 37.1km/h is 86.74% of winners speed. Same 2/3 power and >3/4 speed.

Things are pretty even here with a true level playing field for equipment in both cases. In the example above, the 210W rider can be either on a TT bike or a road bike with clip-ons with their position optimally configured (a negligible difference for these examples).

Case 3 - Tricked up Road bike (315W rider) vs Standard Road bike (210W rider).

This is the 'reality case'. Top teams with the strong riders and strong budgets to match pimp their roadies with all the go-fast equipment. Lower budget / first time riders are typically on standard road bikes and equipment.

Power  Speed    Time   GC Diff   Notes
315W   41.5km/h 28:55            +20% cutoff is 34:42
210W   35km/h   34:17  +5:22     0:25 inside cutoff

The example rider on a standard road bike putting out 210W is A LOT closer to getting time cut, and a lot further down on GC.

Banning TT bikes means the equipment used is a HUGE deciding factor. The GC time gaps are greater. The result is the racing is less even.

Throw in a course with wind, corners, dead roads, hills, that cutoff will be a tour ending reality for more riders in 2015, and that isn't fair.

"I'm a bike racer damn it, give me a real bike to ride!"


Is it as easy as increasing time-cuts on TT stages? Not quite. GC time gaps are still greater when there is a disparity of equipment in use. This could also encourage riders to conserve more on a TT stage and 'save their legs', the whole reason time cuts exist.

Do they need to better define what can/can't be used in a 'road bike TT'? Maybe. It'll be outside the already comprehensive UCI rules, then they'll have to ensure commissars are skilled up on the new rules, and enforce them. Do TTs need MORE rules?!

The most logical solution? No change. Allow TT bikes, as per the published UCI regulations. Those who can't afford the cost/logistics of TT bikes can use clip-on aero bars. That'll set them back $50 per rider, add another $100-$200 for a 2nd hand TT helmet.

If you're a low budget team, then invest in training time and know-how to make the most of what you've got. This is all part of the sport. And an assumed task if you're competing at the National level within Australia.

If the organisers choose to ban TT bikes/bars in the NRS, they are choosing to put the very teams they're trying to help at a disadvantage, not to mention stunting the progress and professionalism of the sport at the same time.


Bleve said...

Another option - ban TT's!

GGT said...

Whilst i would prefer TT bikes!!!

I've pondered the idea of: The equipment used in the road race before or after the TT is the equipment you use for the TT, à la parc ferme for motor-racing (qualifying set-up used for race day). There are obvious enforcing issues. However, any alteration to wheels, helmets, frame (switching aero to climbing) unless aproved by a commisaire(possibly a time penalty) and other team managers whom sit on a panel, carries a strict DQ, no questions asked.

Or we can just ride TT bikes and forget about enforcing rules in order to make it "level".

Darren Searle said...

I think there is one factor you are forgetting here.....not everybody has a TT bike at their disposal. Some of the bigger teams will be able to provide their riders with TT bikes, but some might not be able to afford it; and not all riders, even at an elite level, have their own TT bikes.
By banning TT bikes in the NRS, yes, the bigger teams are at an advantage by using "tricked out" road bikes. But allowing TT bikes may result in some riders being on TT bikes, while others are still on their standard roadies. This, of course, will give even more of an advantage.
That being said, I think that not being able to use a TT bike in a time trial is just plain silly!

Shane Miller said...

Cheers for the comments Darren. I've thought about re-wording this article over the past few weeks to clarify a few things, but I'll let it be for now. $50 clip-ons will get most riders pretty close to optimal aero body position, so cost isn't a factor. But. They're banning clip-ons too.... So technically, they're banning riders being in an aerodynamic position. Which doesn't make sense for any individual (or team) race against the clock. It'll be interesting to see if CA/NRS make the call and what ramifications it will have.