Aero Evolution

AeroEvolutionYes, another picture of my new bike. I’ve spent the last week doing all my riding on it and tweaking the setup. Slowly but surely the saddle has been pushed forward. It’s now as far forward on the post as it will and about 2/3rds along the rails. God knows what the effective seat tube angle is. I find I feel far more comfortable if I’m well over the bars so my elbows are at right angles. It now is feeling as good as the P3. Certainly it must be comfortable as I did 222km and 209km rides on the 3rd and 4th outing.

AeroEvolution1Getting the QR frame and forks has allowed me to get my ideal front end set up…. well what I think will be ideal. It’s important to remember this will be my only bike for the next 5 months so having a flexible set up is key. I’ve got Oval aero bars – the key point here is they have a flat top. This means that I’ve set up my elbow pads direct on the bar using some pipe lagging. They’ve very comfy and still allow holding the tops of the bars when climbing. I’m using the Oval SCCS stem system which allows changing the face plate to set up aero bars. For this I’ve got the “Under Only” system which means it just mounts the aero bars underneath. For the moment I’ve gone with STI shifters as this allows me to remove the aero bars and just ride it like a road bike. This will be perfect for the “Five Passes Tour” in New Zealand straight after Kona. Since I don’t have bar end shifters I’ve put an aero bridge on which really helps with the comfort. Having the drops gives great stopping feel and loads of different positions for you hands. It also has the advantage of great control on descents, more confidence whilst staying aero in strong cross winds and also (I tested this in Lanza) my terminal velocity is higher when hunkered down on the drops then on the aero bars.

For Kona I plan to race just like this. For Busselton I plan to put a bar end shifter one for the rear derailleur. After that race I’ll be able to say whether I feel it makes much different.

Many moons ago having found out I’d got in to Half Ironman UK I decided I’d better buy a road bike. My luck or judgement I went to Bike Park and had a proper fitting. It felt like the right thing to do. Since then I’ve had one other fitting but I’ll be honest I’ve never not been comfortable on a bike. In fact, before buying my Indie I did a test ride on a XS which was clearly too small for me but still did 125 miles straight off without any problems. I think I’m just very tolerant of position on a bike.

AeroEvolution2For my first season I just whacked on clipons. I’ve looked for a photo but I can’t find one but I feel pretty sure I’d have been more aero on the drops. The next season I bought Hed Aero bars and Hed Alp wheels as that seemed the thing to do. I was planning to switch my road bike to use them for the season but soon realised this was impractical so I got a previous years Giant TCR Aero frame. It was cheap and it was probably a size too small.  With hindsight I think this was luck – it was compact and I could get pretty aero. From early on I just tried to got as low as possible. This seemed more aero to me and though there’s often said you need to be comfortable for Ironman my feeing was I should just get comfortable in that position by riding in that position. The photo is me at Ironman UK heading towards my first Kona spot.

roberts-2Heading to Kona I decided to take my Touring bike. Yes you heard right ! It was the easiest to travel with. Back to clipons, forward pointing seatpost and a 45 deg MTB stem on upside down. Here’s a piccie. Thats still my best Kona performance which shows it’s not about the bike.

I went the next two seasons with the Hed full on aero bar set up but moved the bike underneath it to a P3C. The second of those seasons I did both Lanzarote and Kona and at both I concluded that the bull horns were not great for some of the descents and cross winds. I think some of it may have been particular to those bars – the integrated brake levers didn’t give a confident feel. The bull horns were small and smooth. I ended up putting MTB rubber grips on them.

Following that season oval came out with their SCCS system. I put that on my P3C with normal drops and the “Under Over” face plate – this put the aero extensions under the bars and the pads above. This pushed me further forward getting my elbows at right angles and it was noticeably more comfortable. The main issue with this system was that the pads covered so much of the tops of the bars it wasn’t that comfortable to ride with hands on the tops or the corners. My other line of thought was that by having drops the bike became more comfortable for day to day riding and I would use it more. Riding it more regularly seemed like a good thing. With hindsight I can see that proved the case as by the time I cracked this P3 I’d done 20,000 miles of riding in 3 years.

AeroEvolution5I was so happy with this setup I got an oval stem on my road bike and at the National Relays raced with the under only face plate and home made padding on the tops of the standard drops. That 15k TT was enough to hit home you absolutely need flat bars top for it to work. All hunky dory till Ironman Germany and the under only face plate snapped. Luckily just the aero bars and not the handle bars falling off. I was assured that it was correct by a change in design and the new face plate looked better. Then in the run up to Ironman New Zealand this year it started to go again. Oval were superb in getting me a replacement. I’d lost confidence and on return I decided to invest in the 3T Zefiro bar. This is a superb set of bars. It has flat tops with gel inserts and a ITU legal extension. The gel inserts aren’t good enough for longer efforts but you can replace the extension with full extensions. These can be mounted below the bars giving full access to the bar tops and slightly less comfortable when aero (only gel inserts for padding) then for racing can be mounted above with proper pads.

AeroEvolution6These bars are so comfortable – if I had the dosh I’d have a pair on my road bike !

The only remaining issue was bar end shifters. Ideal for racing but when this is my bike for all my riding (it has been for several winters now) it would be good to not have bars ends most of the time. Clearly electronic shifting is the answer but it’s expensive and I’m on campag so not an option.

Instead with this final change I decided to try out including STI Shifters and then re-cable for bar ends. I’ve bought some dia-compe friction shifters and am very interested to see how they work.  This is how it looks now:

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