Q&A: best buys for a time trial bike upgrade

I have a fairly new road bike that I use for club rides and commutes and even local sportives, but I’ve been getting into the club TTs (25s and 50s) and want to take it a bit more seriously.

I’m feeling dismayed at the specialist bikes and equipment of the other riders and wondered what the best options are for upgrading my bike and kit to get the most benefits. Do I go for aero bars or a pointy hat? Rollers or a turbo for training?

And is a heart rate monitor essential? Unfortunately space and money doesn’t allow a dedicated TT bike but I do have budget for some upgrades and a trainer.
Ken Prince

Ken, this is a fairly common request and there are a number of ways to modify your bike and kit to be more competitive. Aerodynamics is key but a good set of aero bars is not practical as you need to use the bike for other duties, so look at the various clip-on aero-bar options that you can quickly fit and remove as events and training require.

Pointed aero helmets are very efficient so long as your head is constantly in a position where the ‘tail’ is running along your back and you’re in a low, aerodynamic ‘tuck’ position and riding on the bar extensions, but comparative newcomers (and indeed many more experienced riders) are rarely able to maintain this position for the duration of the longer TTs and often courses don’t allow for it.

You may have noticed the high number of riders in the recent World TT Championships and Grand Tour TT stages who opted for non-pointed helmets, so you might be better investing your money elsewhere.

An aero-section seatpost which allows for a bottle cage means you can remove the down tube-mounted cage and will sufficiently reduce drag to make a slight difference in the longer events. Next consider a set of either disc or tri-spoke wheels that you keep solely for the purpose of TTs.

You can pick these up second hand at bargain prices on the various time trialling forums online and they provide great aerodynamic benefits. Be aware, though, that they can compromise handling so you need to consider the technical factor of the events you most regularly enter.

You should also take into account your position when the bike is in TT mode, you’re looking to be lower at the front than your standard road riding position and this has the effect of rotating your hips further forward over the bottom bracket so it’s common practice to adjust the saddle position slightly.

This all takes a little getting used to and will inevitably affect your power so I’d recommend a turbo trainer over rollers that you can practise riding in the aero position. Add a heart rate monitor which allows you to target training within programmable zones suited to your TT ‘threshold’ pace and all in all these changes will add up to significant performance increases.
Huw Williams, BC level three coach

This article was first published in the November 15 issue of Cycling Weekly. You can also read our magazines on Zinio and download from the Apple store.