How Do I Time Trial Faster?

posted Feb 18, 2010, 11:00 AM by Donald Vescio   [ updated Sep 12, 2011, 8:10 AM ]
Frequently, I'm asked, "What can I do to go faster in my time trials?"  I generally respond as follows:

The biggest gain is to be found in optimizing your position; there normally is a fine tipping point when increase aerodynamics is canceled by decreased power output. Absence all other considerations, a lower position is  more preferable than an upright position, but this rule of thumb has a huge amount of variation among any group of riders. This is why I think that it is worth the cost (if one wants to approach TT'ing in a systematic fashion) for an hour in a wind tunnel--a lot of what actually is aero might seem counter intuitive. Think of the cost as a one time investment--you'll end up with a solid position that can be adjusted over time.

This said, it also is important to training properly and develop your power--this is the other half of the competition equation. But I'd suggest that a rider should work on both power and aerodynamics together; there is no magic 10m time that triggers a trip the the tunnel, in other words. In fact, the case can be made that the *slower* rider would benefit the most from systematic aerodynamic testing than the fastest riders--a good position on the bike will make up for a number of genetic shortcomings, while having lots of power will shadow some aerodynamic shortcomings.

So, if you've the money and the time, go for a test; also hire a coach.  Once this is done, I'd address the remaining variables in the following order:

Simple progression from my experience in gaining aerodynamic advantages:

1. Body Position (this includes aerobars, of course)
2. Helmet, skinsuit
3. Good aero fork and aero front wheel
4. Attention to details, such as exposed cables, show covers, etc.
5. Rear Wheel
6. Frame

The top four items will get you most of your aerodynamics. Of all six items, only tunnel and field testing will determine for certain whether you have an effective position on the bike. Comparisons with top testers is a very good start (what does Cancellera do), but what works for them might not work for you. Deal with the first four items above and then you can decide whether the return on a full aero frame and rear disc is worth it for you.