CLIP-ON OR FULL-ON?
Time-trial bikes will come with a full-on stealthy set of aerobars like the Vision Metron TFAs – aka the fastest aerobar on the market. These include a stem and sit comfortably on your headset. To transform your road bike into your streamlined best friend, a pair of clip-ons will serve you well. A pair like Vision’s Trimax Carbon Clip-ons clamp onto your existing handlebars. If used correctly, both will have you in a position to cut through the air like a hot knife through butter.
Look at the Metron TFA full aerobar as a proven option for getting the best aero positon.
Or consider clip-on bars such as Vision’s Trimax Carbon Clip-on to transform your road bike, available with r-bend or j-bend options.
YOUR AERO POSITION
Okay, you’ve determined which bars you have – now it’s time to nestle into a position you’re comfortable with. Firstly, sit a long spirit level on your saddle and rest it over the top of your elbow pads. Those seeking an extreme aerodynamic edge should have a clenched-fist’s worth of space beneath the spirit level and the elbow pads. However, if you’re new to time-trial, aim for the bars to be level – or close to level – with the saddle. You can achieve this raising or lowering of the bars via the spacers on your headset. If you’re looking for a truly relaxed aero position to start with, you can flip your stem upwards, or try out stems with lesser or greater drop, and try flipping those. Once you’ve set a bar height that looks comfortable to you, hop on and ride in the aero position. Ideally your forearms are level. Though wind-tunnel data suggests slightly titled-up forearms cut drag ever so slightly, level arms give better feel and balance.
If you can ask a friend to photograph you side-on, you should note that the angle between your forearm and upper should be around 90-110°. Any more or less than this and you should fine-tune elbow-pad height, or choose a longer or shorter stem. The closer your back is to horizontal, the more aerodynamic you are; that said, many of us are limited by an inflexible lower back or hamstrings. But with a bit of work, that can change.
FLEXIBILITY AND STRENGTH
Core strength and flexibility are incredibly important for the keen time-triallist. Being able to hold a still upper body and transfer all your power to the pedals is the efficient aim. That’s why an exercise like the plank should become a staple part of your TT training. You simply lie down as you would a press-up but then support your weight on your elbows and forearms. Look to keep a straight line between legs, torso and head and hold for 45-60secs. Repeat three times. It’s trickier than you might think. A Swiss ball and cycling-specific stretches are also beneficial. Try and squeeze in a bit of core and/or stretching for 10mins two or three times a week.
Your time-trial set-up suits courses that are relatively flat, meaning you’ll be looking to generate a high gear. Historically, that meant choosing a long crank length – between 175mm and 180mm – to really push the power. However, there’s a school of thought that a shorter crank length – 170mm to 172.5mm – is more suitable for many so that they’re not tucked up too much when the pedal’s at the top of the stroke. Experiment with what feels comfortable to you. Check out crank length options, on the Metron TT crankset, for example, here.
OTHER AERO ESSENTIALS
In no particular order, you should also: hold your hands in the V-position on the extensions to improve aerodynamics; constantly shrug your shoulders. Not only does this ease tension in the muscles, but it also encourages you to narrow your shoulders, which improves aerodynamics; and remember that if you’re looking to compete in any UCI competitions, the nose of your saddle should be at least 50mm behind your bottom bracket – so this set-up should be kept for your training rides too, so it’s familiar, comfortable enough and efficient.