Longtermers: Alex Ballinger’s Giant Trinity Advanced 

Next in our series of staff bikes, CW digital news writer Alex learns how to build a bike the hard way 

My Giant Trinity is newer than the other ‘longtermers’ that have appeared on these pages so far. The product of a lockdown project, I raced it throughout the summer months last year, including to a time of 20.34 at the National 10 mile time trial. I’ll race it throughout 2021 too, and have a few spec changes in mind. 

I spent several months foraging for the ingredients I needed to cook up my dream time trial bike, all based around the familiar curves of the Giant Trinity Advanced frame and the allegedly rapid Cadex aero wheelset. 

Owing to coronavirus lockdown restrictions and the fairly hefty price of asking a trained mechanic to build up my bike, I realised I was going to have to go all Blue Peter and knock something together at home. 

I’ve never built a bike before, ‘but how hard can it be?’ I thought. As I set out to build this dream machine, I asked for the guidance of one of our CW colleagues who reassuringly told me “if you can build that, you can build anything”, and so with the help of a few YouTube tutorials I got started on the build.

Shockingly, things went far more smoothly than I could have imagined.

After a few trips back and forth to my local bike shops after misjudging the length of cables and a week of tweaking (particularly with the rear break set-up, notoriously fiddly on the Trinity), I had created something that looked like a bike.

Frame of choice

While choosing my set-up, I opted for the Giant Trinity as it’s one of the most ubiquitous frames out in the British domestic TT scene, while also maintaining world-class pedigree at the highest level, with Tom Dumoulin winning a world title on this bike back in 2017. 

It was also the frame used by my coach George Fox at the time, so I’d had reliable feedback on performance. 

The Cadex wheelset are fairly new to the market so don’t haven’t yet undergone the same kind of extensive testing by everyday time triallists as brand like Zipp or HED, but the initial feedback I’d heard from fellow time triallists was extremely positive, so I wanted to test these out first hand. 

As testers will know, one of the most important details when building your TT bike is tyres. How many agonising hours, I wonder, have been spent debating the pros and cons of running tubeless, tubular, or clinchers, and which brand is fastest?

Thanks to the extensive rolling-resistance research carried out by the team at Aerocoach, I opted for the tubular Vittoria Corsa Speed tyres, which while expensive, were long considered the fastest by testers (only to be recently usurped by Veloflex Record C tyres).  

Mechanical shifting cuts the cost

For the groupset, I opted for the reliable shifting of mechanical Shimano Ultegra, which was more than enough to get me rolling towards my goals, while still leaving the option open to upgrade to electronic shifting with Di2 in the foreseeable future. Electronic shifting is smoother and brings with it many benefits, but it also has significant implications on cost (especially in the event that a rear derailleur needs replacing after a ride in the boot of the car).

Controversially for a time trial bike, I’d also stuck with the semi compact 52/36 gearing. I’d call this “standard” but I’m aware a generation ago, that was a 53/39. How times change. My choice of chainrings simply wouldn’t be enough for the true powerhouses of the TT scene, as they risk spinning out on the faster stretches of British dual carriageways. But without wanting to overestimate my own legs, I decided to stick with the standard gearing (for now). 

I’ve paired the drivetrain up with a single-sided Avio Powersense power meter in the non-drive crank arm, which is a reliable and accurate power meter, but does leave room to upgrade to a dual-sided meter to really get the most out of my performance in time trials.   

Making my selection for the essential aero extensions, I went with the brilliant Aerocoach 30-degree bars, rounded off with some 15-degree shims and high-sided arm rests go help really dial in the position on the bike when pedalling full gas. 

Saddle choice for a TT bike has proven surprisingly difficult, as I’d initially chosen the Fizik Tempo Argo.

But after testing out the saddle I found the Argo didn’t suit my position on the bike and was consistently uncomfortable for me even in short spells, so I’m still on the search for the perfect saddle.

I’m keen to stick with Fizik saddles having found great fits with this brand in the past, that also look super-sleek on the bike. 

Last year the Trinity carried me to managed some strong performances in Open time trials, helped me qualify for the National 10-mile TT Championships and came within touching distance of a sub-20 time for a 10.

Future upgrades

The joy of time trialling is that there should be some time on offer with a few choice upgrades.

Most immediately on my wish-list of new additions to the bike are a bigger chainring for those rare occasions when my speed overcomes the legs, and a dual-sided power meter to help me manage my effort even more precisely. 

While my 52/36 gearing is more than enough for most speeds, there were a few occasions where I found myself over-spinning to try and keep up with the bike on faster downhill sections - turning a harder gear might have given me a few fractions speed that could make the difference by the finish. 

A single-sided power meter is a great tool when first diving into the world of power and works fine for the purposes of training, but when it comes to the demands of a short time trial, every watt counts.

Having a power meter that takes watt readings from both legs could be the easiest way of guaranteeing I’m getting the most out of myself and also giving me the most accurate power from both legs at the end of a race.

In the long term, I have my eye on a few luxury changes to the Trinity, including a fully integrated aerobar extension set-up, now common amongst the fastest pros, and electronic shifting to save a few watts with smoother gear changes at the pivotal moment. 

Maybe with these upgrades, combined with some hopeful performance boosts through training, I can finally break through the 20-minute barrier for a 10-mile TT.

My Riding

This bike is my pure time trial race machine so I use it exclusively for training in the time trial position and in race events. 

After building this bike in spring 2020, I raced the Trinity in five events (fewer than hoped due to the coronavirus pandemic) and managed my best finish of seventh place in the Medway Velo Club 10-mile open in Kent and a 20.19 PB in the Leamington C&AC 10.

This bike also carried me to the RTTC National 10 mile Championships in Hampshire last season, where I managed 72nd place with a time of 20.34. 

Since then I’ve swapped out the Cadex race wheels for some Miche training wheels and the bike spends most of its time on the turbo as I try to dial in the power and position for 2021. 

This year the plan is to race as many 10s as I can get to, in the hopes of breaking the 20-minute barrier and once again qualifying for Nationals.  

The Specification

  • Frame: Giant Trinity Advanced Pro
  • Wheels: Cadex Aero Disc Tubular and Cadex Four-Spoke Aero Tubular
  • Chainset left hand: Shimano Ultegra with Avio Powersense power meter
  • Chainset right hand: Shimano Ultegra R8000,  52/36
  • Chain: Shimano Ultegra
  • Front mech: Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical
  • Rear mech: Shimano Ultegra R8000 mechanical
  • Cassette: Shimano Ultegra R8000
  • Brakes: Giant Trinity
  • Tyres: Vittoria Corsa Speed tubular, 25mm
  • Bars: Aerocoach 30 degree aerobar extensions and carbon arm rests
  • Saddle: Fizik Tempo Argo R1
  • Pedals: Shimano Ultegra

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