Free speed: ride faster with these aero tweaks

In a duathlon, a few seconds can mean the difference between a podium spot and a forgettable place in the age group ranks.

Smart, consistent training is really the only (legal) way to get faster on the bike. But with a few adjustments to your equipment, clothing, and position, you can shave several seconds or more off of your duathlon time and reclaim your spot on top.

Jonathan Lee, a professional cycling coach, bike fitter, and Cat 1 racer based in Santa Rosa, California, has few equipment suggestions to help you get more aero on the bike. Even better, you don’t have to spend a few thousand dollars on a new set of wheels to reap benefits. Even taking off your gloves can save precious time!

Do you have any aero tips or favorite gear? Share in the comments below!

In order of priority, here are a few highlights from his aerodynamic checklist.

  1. Aero helmet. Several companies make helmets that will help you cut through the wind like a jet. Louis Garneau and Giro are popular choices. I’m partial to my Rudy Project Wingspan. If a new helmet isn’t in the cards right now, you can tape over the vents on your regular helmet. Lee says it really does help! I’ve done it!
  1. Front wheel. A good set of wheels can save up to 50 watts, according to John Cobb of Cobb Cycling. And the front wheel takes all the wind, making it a more important aero swap than the rear. Zipp 1080, Hed Stinger 9, and Zipp 808 are a few of Lee’s top choices. Be sure to pair your wheels with good tires that offer low rolling resistance.
  1. Aero bars. Straight extension or S-bend aerobar extensions will allow your hands to lay flatter (and more aero) than the J-bends that are popular with triathletes.
  1. Aero fork. A more aero fork will reduce drag from the front wheel without much drag on your wallet. Jetstream, Aerus, and Easton are a few brands to consider.

Other easy tweaks

  • If you bike doesn’t have internal cable routing, secure cables to the frame with zip ties.
  • Mount your water bottle (aero of course) on the seat tube rather than the front tube.
  • Swap quick-release skewers for bolt-on skewers. Lee says this simple change will save a few seconds off of a 40K time trial.
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Me at a duathlon in Folsom, California. Am I aero enough?

Clothing

  1. Get the skinsuit. They really are faster. Find one that allows for minimal air flow without compressing you like a sausage. One side-by-side test showed almost a two-minute savings in a 40K time trial compared to a standard jersey and shorts.
  1. Ditch the gloves. Those Velcro straps hang out in the wind, costing you precious time. According to MIT wind tunnel tests, wearing regular cycling gloves in a time trial will slow you down more than riding without an aero front wheel. If you race in the cold, invest in a pair of aero gloves.

Body tweaks

  • Make yourself “small.”
  • Keep your arms and elbows as close together as possible without restricting your breathing.
  • Roll your shoulders forward like a turtle.
  • Keep your knees close to the bike.
  • Keep your head down low so that the tip of your aero helmet touches (or almost touches) your back.

The best time to rethink your aero equipment is in conjunction with a professional bike fit. Your body accounts for 70 to 75 percent of the aerodynamic drag created during forward movement. If you can get more efficient, aero, and comfortable on the bike, you can gain more power. Even modest power gains can lead to big results!

To find out more about Jonathan Lee’s coaching and bike-fitting services, email him at jonathan@leemail.com.

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