Last weekend, I had the pleasure of going to the LA Velodrome at the StubHub center to do aero testing. Over the course of two days, I learned how to ride on a velodrome (do not slow down on the curves! Keep pedaling) and more about aerodynamics than two years of physics. Unlike other camps, this was not a fitness or volume focused camp, although I did get a good workout in doing 2500m repeats at 70.3 pace. Rather, the goal of the camp was to dial in my position on the bike as well as my gear and in doing so, bring down my drag coefficient (CdA) and thus allow me to push more watts with less resistance.
The camp was a data geek’s dream. I started off the test by doing 10 laps with my normal bike fit, which we had analyzed the day before to make sure that, at least on paper, my angles were good. This gave me a baseline. Over the course of the next four hours, we did test after test, changing only one minute detail at a time. We lowered my cockpit; we pushed my aerobars forward; we tried four helmets and three tri kits; we played around with my hydration setup. Everything was analyzed and scrutinized. I left that day having improved my race pace by 30 watts, which is quite a big jump in only 4 hours. Needless to say, I learned a good deal not only about cycling and aerodynamics but also about triathlon and racing in general that could be applied to swimming as well. Here are three things that I took away:
- Everyone is different: You have heard it a million times before, but just because a tri kit is more “aero” for one person does not make it more aero for you. The only way of knowing is testing it out for yourself. Do not be suckered into buying an expensive piece of equipment thinking that it will instantly make you faster.
- Testing is for everyone: Regardless of whether you are a beginner or advance you should do testing. Typically, people say: “Oh I will do it when I am in better shape” or “after I lose 10 pounds” or “I am too slow to do testing.” They could not be more wrong. In fact, the less fit you are the more it helps because if you are going to be spending 7 hours out on your bike, anything to make your day easier and save energy is worth it. It does not have to be on a velodrome, in fact there are a couple ways of testing this at home which I will share with in a later post. (No, it does not involve cycling in front of a giant fan).
- Details make all the difference: You would be amazed at the difference that moving my aerobars in 12mm made. Just 12 mm. Or the difference between one helmet and a near identical one. The small changes that add 5-7 watts add up and can add time or take away time from your split. The same is true for swimming or running. If you adjust your entry position just a little bit wider, it could mean the difference between maintaining balance or having your legs splay. Or moving your thumb inwards so that your hand is more paddle like. Never overlook or discredit the effects of a small change. The details add up!
- Just because you are “textbook perfect” does not make you perfect. Before the aero testing, I had a perfect fit numbers on paper. My arms were bent at just the right angle, my hips were tilted, and my legs extended to the ideal length. Then when I tested, those numbers were actually not so perfect. What this means is that a perfect fit is not so perfect without testing it out in the real world either on a velodrome, wind tunnel, or on your favorite, neighborhood loop.
In the coming weeks I will be giving you some awesome tests you can do yourself both in the pool and on your bike so that you can test out the effectiveness of equipment, so stay tuned.
Coach Chris and Kev