Time Trial racing; Added areo bars to my road bike: initial thoughts.
My March 25, 2015 blog, Bike racing: various musings, was sort of a stream of consciousness centered around my current racing aspirations. Since that blog was written, I’ve continued to give the subject of bike racing considerable thought.
By morbid coincidence (a portentous coincidence?), the following video was posted on the very same day my blog was posted. This video is from a local Masters Circuit Race (considered to be relatively safe, by amateur racing standards). I’m going to pick up the action moments before a pretty bad wreck:
I don’t know the full details on the aftermath of that wreck, but I heard that six people were transported by ambulance to the ER. Suffice it say, many bikes and bones were shattered.
I’ve decided that I want to compete, but not doing crits or road races (at least not yet, I may change my mind). What I want to get into is Time Trial racing. Time Trial racing is much safer than road racing and it plays to my strengths as a cyclist.
I don’t (yet) own a time trial bike, but I plan to change that. In fact, I’ve been talking with a bike manufacturer who may be interested in a sponsorship deal. I’ll keep you all posted on that.
In the meantime, a couple days ago I added a set of aero bars to my road bike. I went with the Profile Design T3+ aero bars, which are well regarded and, at a hundred bucks, a fairly inexpensive way to get aero on a road bike.
I’ve only done two rides since adding these to my Madone. I’ll post my initial thoughts a little further down, but first here are a handful of photographs:
The bars are extremely easy to install, and very adjustable. I did the initial installation and adjustment using my indoor trainer (the Kurt Kinetic Road Machine); doing so made dialing in a good fit much easier than trying to make adjustments while riding outside.
After my first road ride, which was about 50 miles, it was clear that a couple minor tweaks to the bar position were required. I made those adjustments (again, super easy–just a 5mm hex wrench and a couple minutes in the stand), and on yesterday’s 25 mile ride everything felt perfect.
Before I added the aero bars I spent 90% of my time riding in the drops. I am pretty flexible, and I have no belly to get in the way. I can flatten out very well without discomfort or breathing issues. So, with that in mind, here are my initial thoughts about riding in the TT/aero position:
- I did not notice any significant speed increase in most situations. As mentioned above, this is probably because I tend to ride in a very aero position anyway.
- I did notice some improved speed when riding into a headwind.
- The main benefit I noticed–and this is huge–is comfort! Settling into the aero bars and using my forearms to hold my upper body is MUCH more comfortable than riding in the drops, and it also feels less fatiguing (which makes sense). On long solo rides these two things should translate to improved speed.
- Steering is very twitchy! Riding on the aero bars shifts the rider’s position and weight forward. When I first started riding in this position the twitchy steering really took me by surprise. I’d recommend getting used to aero bars on wide open roads, as it will take some time to get comfortable with how the bike responds.
- The aero riding position uses your core differently. My abs were a little sore the day after my first ride!
- Some people said that my neck and shoulders would be sore, but that’s not been the case. This is probably because I already did most of my riding in the drops.
- The bars are remote-shift ready, and that’s something I’d like to add so that I don’t have to remove a hand to make a shift.
A dedicated time trial bike would be ideal for me (and I will undoubtedly add one to my stable of bikes), but these clip-on aero bars are a pretty damn awesome bang-for-the-buck interim solution.
Obviously aero bars have no place in a group ride, but I do a lot of solo training and so these bars will be great for me–especially on very long rides. I may even wind up doing some racing with them if I don’t have a TT bike pretty soon.
I’ll post some more thoughts down the road, but so far I’m digging these bars!