Getting more aerodynamic on your bike can dramatically improve your speed in a triathlon.
Dan Bigham, Aerodynamicist (ex Mercedes-AMG Petronas Aerodynamic Performance Engineer) and Cyclist (HUUB Wattbike & Ribble Weldtite) recently talked to us about aero gains for Triathlon.
Top Aero Tips for Beginners
Tri Bars are on the best investments you can make to improve your speed in a triathlon.
With 80% of your wind resistance coming from your body, it makes sense to minimise your drag as much as possible.
When setting them up, get on the turbo trainer or rollers, and video yourself riding from the side, and front on. Try and make sure you’re using the tri bars to get lower than your normal position, but not too low to start with. Getting too narrow may affect handling - so this is best to done gradually. Higher hands than your elbows tends to help get your head down.
Also avoid baggy clothing garments; if it’s visually flapping in the wind it will be creating a lot of drag. A close body-fitting Tri Suit will ensure you're aerodynamic for race day.
Top Aero Tips for Intermediate Triathletes
For Intermediate triathletes, think about keeping your bike set-up clean.
Triathletes are known for putting a lot of accessories on their bike! Where possible, keep anything extra out of the wind. Behind the saddle is a good place as it is low wake; anything on the front of the bike needs to be as minimal or integrated as possible.
Aero helmets can come with great aerodynamic benefits, but think about which work best for you. The Poc Tempor helmets used by HUUB Wattbike Track Team are brilliant in a wildly aggressive position, but will actually be slower on you if your head is up in the wind.
So again you can use some common sense with a side on video shot on the trainer, and look at what helmets help you to nicely integrate your head into your body. If you still struggle with this, a short tailed aero helmet may be best for you.
Aero wheels are for everyone. There is a common misconception you should only be using deep section wheels and disc wheels at high speed - this is not true. You will still get an aero benefit when below 30km/h. And although by the laws of physics you will save more watts at higher speeds, you will actually save more actual time the slower you go, as you’re out on course for longer!
Top Aero Tips for Advanced Triathletes
Once you get to an advanced level there are a lot of aspects that you will need to test yourself, but hopefully this gives you some guidance before dropping any cash on the wrong product for you.
There is no fastest wheelset, this will actually be whichever integrates the fastest into your bike - and the best thing to do, is to test that.
The same applies for helmets, and even shoes depending on your unique pedaling dynamics. If you are after those final gains it’s worth testing and finding out what works for you. Pay attention to the smaller details. Once you start optimising body shape and equipment there are still most likely other areas to focus on. Overshoes and calf guards typically offer very good watts per dollar savings.
Other good savings, but not necessarily from being aero, include looking at larger chain rings to help reduce drive chain losses, and waxed chains. The two combined can help you find 2-3% savings of your total power. There are even gains from oversized jockey wheels, although they start to get quite expensive!