TT / Aero / Power thoughts and questions

Hello all,

I just completed a local stage race that featured a 3 mile flat TT. I do not own a TT bike so I ended up borrowing a friends TT and did the best I could to get the fit correct.

I lost the GC podium because of the TT. I was almost 30 seconds off the lead group of TT times and even though I was 2nd in the RR and 4th in the crit, it wasn’t enough to overcome the bad TT.

Now what was remarkable was that the guy who won the GC came in 3rd on the TT on a ROAD BIKE so this got me thinking, is there a point where the power required that it makes more sense to do a TT on a road bike? Granted, I was not properly fitted to the TT bike I was riding but riding hard just felt much harder on a TT bike where riding easier felt much easier.

Anyone have any ideas / recommendations about this?

It is less about power requirement or cross over (if I understand your question). It is more about your position, with two main issues.

  1. Position with respect to aerodynamics. An improperly fit TT bike will place you in a position that wastes the potential aerodynamic advantage. Depending on how well or poorly you were set on that bike, you may have been giving up lots of power. To be 30 seconds off in only 3 miles is pretty big to me. I suspect you were not well positioned for drag.

  2. Position with ability to produce power. Tandem to the aero above, is the need to produce power in the aero position. Too low and you may be limiting your power production and significantly altering the loading on your muscles. Too high and you may be getting great power, but losing in the wind.

The whole process of fitting a TT bike is about balance between aero and power. It is tough to measure the aero benefits or losses, while power is a bit easier. But you can follow some general rules and looks to get a reasonable position that is fast and still powerful.

My gut says you needed better setup, but that is a guess without more info and pics of your setup on the bike.

I’m certain you are right that I needed a better fit and time to dial it in. I did what I could with a borrowed bike!

Adapting to a TT bike and putting out power in that position can take quite a bit of getting used to. Now obviously if you had a TT bike of your own that you’d ridden a lot and a flat 3 mile TT presented itself you’d be straight on it as the weapon of choice, personally in your position I wouldn’t have dreamed of getting on a totally alien bike for 3 miles, or about 7-8 minutes of effort.

Anything of this short duration in the future I’d just use your road bike but aim to get aero on it, so holding a solid position, number pinned correctly , anything removed that’s not needed etc, this way you are taking out so many variables. (power output, safety etc).

Out of interest do you have access to the course to have another go on the road bike?

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For 3 miles I’d say you would have been better off sticking on your road bike than moving to an unfamiliar TT bike (easy to say with hindsight of course). Especially if you could pimp it (and yourself) up with a deep front, disc rear, speed suit, TT helmet, shoe covers, etc. You can get very aero on a road bike if you sit right on the edge of the saddle, bend your arms to get low over the stem and tuck your elbows in. It’s not very comfortable and you probably can’t sustain it that long but you’d be fine for 3 miles.

A good TT position beats a good road position, so if you had enough time to do a few training sessions on the TT bike, dial in the position and do some power/speed analysis then you could likely have been faster on the TT bike but doesn’t sound like you had that luxury. So I guess you had a bad TT position that cost you power and/or wasn’t very aero. Also, an aero TT position that sacrifices a bit of power can work out well in a triathlon or longer TT where you’re at sub-threshold intensity, but for 3 miles you need to be chuck out a lot of power so having your hip angles too closed or other issues could cost you a lot of time.

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If I do this same event next year I will likely not have a TT bike but until then I won’t have access to the course. It would be interesting to go run it on my road bike and see what the difference would have been. At 3 minutes in I was hurting in places that I didn’t even know I could hurt and I’m not unfamiliar with hard training!

Yeah I think you are absolutely right. I thought I was being smart on going with a TT bike and that it would give me a huge leg up but obviously it didn’t. I think I really screwed myself.