Becoming more aero, and faster

Something that has bothered me for a while and I can’t seem to address or fix is getting more aero and increasing the average speed on a ride. I’m large at 6’4" and 185-190lbs, but have fairly decent flexibility.

On average my endurance-paced rides (@ 190-210w average power) are around 17.5-18 mph overall at the end. However, if I want to chase the elusive 20mph average speed I’m riding high sweet spot most of the time and that becomes quite taxing.

I’ve noticed that many smaller riders with FTPs that are 30-50w lower are dusting me in average speed on our local terrain at any given wattage. I’m failing to understand how someone can do a solo 50 mi ride with an average speed of 20 mph at only 180-200w average power. While I’ve yet to average 20mph or more on any ride over an hour in length, despite an FTP of 330w.

Equipment:

  • Round tubed steel bike with comfy geo (~22lbs)
  • 42cm bars
  • 120cm stem
  • 25mm deep aluminum wheels (~2100g w/tires)
  • 35c Specialized Roubaix Pro tubeless tires (35mm measured, ~375g ea)
  • ~2oz tubeless sealant per tire
  • Tire pressure always measured between 50-60psi
  • Kit fits snug, not baggy
  • Giro Cinder MIPS helmet
  • Giro VR90 shoes

Other than just trying to get lower on the bike is there anything I can do to become smaller and more slippery?

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Aero gains in general: skinsuit, leg shaving, helmet, then handlebars, wheels, and frame. That is assuming you are in a sweet spot for power vs reducing frontal cDA.

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Yeah I’m aiming to do a century on Sunday trying to average 20mph. last year I averaged 196/210 NP and averaged 19mph. This time around I’m doing my aero helmet, which in informal testing gave me a 0.8mph increase vs my usual kask mojito (that’s probably the high end, it’ll probably be lower). I will shave my legs as well. Unfortunately I don’t have a pocketed skinsuit otherwise I’d use that. But I’m also going to try and concentrate on staying in the 210-220w range as well. I’m about 160ish and 5’10" and pretty narrow build btw

I am in the same boat. 200lbs and 6’3

Our weight, and size impacts our ability to go fast. Our CDA is bigger and the weight impacts us, we have to make up for those things with a high FTP which raises our endurance zone to compensate.

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You could try using the Chung method to evaluate aero (and I think also rolling resistance) Golden cheetah (free software) has support for this. It’s on my list of things to try out, have not gotten around to it yet.
Don’t ignore rolling resistance - gatorskins at 110 psi with butyl tubes could be costing you 15 watts or more (total) compared to fast tires and tubeless or latex tubes (my recollection is likely off a bit). Not sure of the exact numbers, but from near-worst to near-best is quite a difference. As I understand it, this is linear with speed, so not as bad as aero, but still increases with speed. CRR (coefficient of rolling resistance) can be thought of as riding up a constant slope.

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I’d start with all the usual aero tweaks.

aero road helmet
race fit jersey
deep wheels
low rolling resistance tires
aero road bars
shave legs
aero frame (last and least bang for the buck)

I did it all minus the frame/bars - it all seemed to make a good bit of difference. Hanging on group rides felt easier.

I am not sure what kind of elevation you’re facing on your rides, but the lack of aero wheels and using wider tires is likely a big factor here.

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perhaps a dumb question given you mentioned you were flexible and “get lower,” but are you in the drops the whole time?

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I’m a 3 inches shorter and 20lbs heavier, this is what it takes me on group rides in gusty wind conditions:

Here is a solo 2 hour effort above 0.9 IF:

no winds, temps in mid 50s.

Stop looking at small slippery guys numbers? On our group rides the peloton starts moving at 25-30mph and the slippery guys are doing 50-100W less. There is a guy about 5’ 6" and mid 50s that was ex-rodeo guy in his 20s, so a muscular build but looks more like a cyclist these days. His power numbers look like mine despite him being on a race bike with slammed stem and mid aero wheels.

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I switch it up, but prefer to be on the hoods with forearms parallel to ground. I can get fairly low in this position, but maybe need to practice staying more aero (lower) for more of the ride.

Something for clarification - lower stem/bars or being in the drops does not necessarily make you more aero. It’s more complicated, but suffice it to say this might be one of the last things you change

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I’m from Minnesota, and typical rides are 30-50’ of elevation gain per mile ridden. So fairly flat rides on average.

I puppy dog it a lot. Hands are together just in front of the Wahoo to try and keep the shoulders narrow. Way more aero than drops. Hard to do for hours on rough roads and if I could find some descent mini clip ons that worked with my bars I’d do it. Also, if hot, sweat on the forearms can make the tops slippery so even adding extra tape where you rest your forearms helps a ton…

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I’m also a bigger rider at 6’0.

We’re in the minority and we pay attention to the guys doing similar watts/kg while going faster. There are plenty of smaller riders doing similar watts/kg while going slower… we just don’t pay attention to them.

By the way, do your routes include stoplights or any other kinds of slowdowns?

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Its all about the weight to power ratio in this case…
yes you can get more aero… but at the end, you are a tall person… it will take more power to carry you…

For context…
I am “5’6” and 155… I have done 50 miles with end average speed of 20 mph with average power of upper 170s (coldish weather tho flat)

From the sounds of where he lives in MN, and where I live, it sounds more like Watts-to-CdA ratio.

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Maybe a combination…

Mentally I compare riding bikes with cars…
Mustangs (big people with high FTP)
Miatas (smaller people, smaller FTP)

I know the Mustang will be faster, but it will also use more energy and effort to get to the same speed…

Not sure if this make sense… but thats how i rationalize it in my mind.

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Yes. It takes me 30-45 min minimum to get outside the city and avoid lights. Lots of slowing down, and speeding back up.

Checkout this analysis I did on my first 2021 group ride about 2.5 months ago:

1st and 2nd wheel are about 5’ 6" and 135-145 lbs, basically what I call small wiry guys on Tarmacs with mid aero wheels that are naturally very aero.

Just went back to my last “fast” ride which was a gravel race a few weeks ago. 19.9 (we’ll call it 20) mph average over the course of 53 mi. However, I bounced many physiological checks to pay for this “speed”…

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