There’s nothing quite like taking the Maserati out for a casual Sunday drive. That’s what I bought it for after all. You know, something to have so I can scope out the local Farmer’s Market. Something to slow things down. A car for the lighter things in life.
Perhaps my purchasing decision sounds silly to you. And it should. You don’t buy a Maserati to go Sunday driving. You drive a car like that to go fast.
Likewise, you don’t ride a triathlon bike to sit up and enjoy the scenery. Doing so defeats its purpose. You ride a tri bike to be aero. Saving time against the elements is what it was designed for. When you’re not in the correct position, you sacrifice its intended use.
Interestingly, the importance of staying in your triathlon time trial position goes beyond just battling the wind.
Did you know that you’re not using the optimal leg muscles when sitting up on your triathlon bike? It’s true. Ideally, when you’re in the aero position on a triathlon bike, your hip angle should be the same as if riding on a road bike. So if you sit up on your tri bike, especially on flat land, and think you’re riding in the same position as if you were on your road bike – think again.
This isn’t to say you’re not doing work in an upright position. You are. However, you’re not fully utilizing those powerful muscle groups that are ideal for the most speed at the least amount of effort. As an analogy, just imagine you’re riding on your road bike, sitting up with no hands on the handlebars. It’s a fun trick but pedaling isn’t quite the same is it? Sitting up out of the aero position on your triathlon bike is in much the same vein.
Granted that you’ve been fitted correctly on your triathlon bike, whenever you exit the aero position you become less efficient and, of course, you completely forfeit the aero advantage. At that point, you’re actually better off riding a road bike than your expensive triathlon machine. The lesson is simple: if you want to generate the most power, stay in the triathlon aero position at all times that is feasible.
And speaking of the aero advantage again, it’s actually quite substantial. In 2012, Bike Radar reported an experiment performed by Specialized at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in North Carolina. They intended to find the big difference between riding a road bike versus a time trial bike.
The testing revealed that a rider could potentially save 60-70 watts transferring from a normal road setup to a full time trial setup. This translates to about 5.5 minutes every 40km!
The testing also showed that position alone accounted for half the time savings. That’s something to consider if you’re having trouble staying down in your aero bars.
If you feel uncomfortable staying in the aero position for prolonged periods of time, this is most likely a result of an improper bike fit. It’s highly recommended that you seek help from a professional in order to make the adjustments needed.
Hopefully these facts are a friendly reminder (or eye-opener) to why staying in your triathlon bike aero position is so important. So get out there and ride how you should be racing.
Be safe. Work hard. Train happy.
TRIDOT TAKEAWAY: The importance of staying in your triathlon bike aero position is twofold. Not only do you receive a substantial advantage against the wind, but this is also your optimal position for maximal efficiency.
TALK WITH TRIDOT: Do you have trouble staying in your triathlon bike position? What reasons are keeping you out of the aero pads?
JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.
Sources: Jones, Jeff. “How Aero is Aero?” Bike Radar. Immediate Media Company Limited, 30 Sept 2012. Web. 27 Apr 2016.