Aerodynamics are Key
It’s no secret anymore, if you aren’t paying attention to your aerodynamics, you are leaving big gains on the table. If you are in an event where time/speed is the deciding factor, you need to look at this.
I work with a few Time Trialists and Triathletes, and there is no way to ignore how important this is. In the picture on the left, I’m aero testing my hands a little higher than usual. It’s at an outdoor velodrome on a nice still day, found a few gains that day…but this position wasn’t faster than my normal position with hands about 4 cm lower (normal position is in the photos adjacent to strategy 1).
The reason getting aero is so important in cycling is because of the speeds involved. You’re going pretty fast in a TT and because aerodynamic drag increases at speed cubed, the faster you go, the less impact small increases in watts will have and the more impact aero drag will make. We spend so much time and effort increasing the power we put into the bike, and that important too, but we need to look at the other side of the equation also.
Dan Bigham, who is probably the best-known aero expert out there, has spent most of his time looking at this problem from the other side of the equation…the energy outside. This includes aero drag, friction, drive train losses, rolling resistance, etc. With aero being the biggest of these. And since over 80% of that drag comes from you, the rider, your position on the bike is where some really big gains can be found.
Strategy 2 – Real World Testing
There’s really no substitute for testing.
On the right, you can see testing results from 3 position changes (Baseline, test 1, test 2, test 3). I think this was from changes in stem length from memory. As you can see, one was very close to the baseline, one was a decent bit faster, and one was a decent bit slower. This is just one test, so I would tend to go back another day and test again, or A, B, A, B test the two best.
This is a great way to test. You have to be fairly methodical, making sure you do things in a logical order and being careful not to confound variables.
There are a number of ways to do this, most based on the Chung method, though direct measurement with an aero sensor is also possible if you have access to one.
The Chung method is more accessible for most and can be done with minimal equipment. Essentially, all you need to do is repeat the same experiment over and over while trying to change only one variable.
This could be as simple as repeatedly rolling down a hill and comparing the distance you travel in each position. The method I have used the most is on an outdoor velodrome. Repeating efforts at similar power, with one change in position each time. You can see the results of one of my tests on the right.
I used Golden Cheetahs’ AeroLab feature to analyse the data after the event. It’s free to download online and is extremely good. Again, it’s important to reinforce the importance of a methodical approach. I used to do a baseline, then all my tests, then put the bike back to baseline and check the consistency.
You can use this method to check equipment or position, and as you gain experience you can get very accurate results. Each step forward can be built on and you go faster as a result 🙂
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions, always happy to help.