Time trial racing on road bikes – if it were easy every man and his dog would be doing it…
The TT on GS/839 this Sunday was my first ever go at 2-up TT – my club promotes this race for ESCA. It’s a not-quite-a-25-course for reasons I can’t quite work out (surely we could start a mile down the lane and do a proper 25, but I’m sure there’s a good reason for it), still, as it’s quite lumpy, 24 miles is as near as damn it in my book. I was riding in the mixed pairs cat with my girlfriend – more of a test of our relationship than our legs as she pointed out beforehand! We were pretty much the only pair to turn up on road bikes and we weren’t using clip-ons…mostly because clip-ons look daft.
What we did have was four of the most boss looking wheels available. Reynolds hooked me up with a set of Assaults to match Pip’s own Strikes. The Assaults went like mustard in my Addict frameset making a massive difference on the open stretches. We were always going to lose time on the TT bikes on the flat open sections, but the wheels helped narrow the gap, thus allowing us to attack on the three small hills.
The wheels both feature a “Swirl Lip Generator”. This sounds like something out of Star Trek to me… I don’t really go in for all those Americanised selling points as they all sound a bit stupid to me, but what the “SLG” does is reduce drag and turbulence. This is important because in the real world (as opposed to the wind tunnel…or America) the wind hits the wheel from lots of different directions and of course the wheel itself is spinning. The SLG is a lip that goes all the way around the rim and helps to reattach turbulent air thus creating a smoother airflow, regardless of how the wind hits the rim.
So the SLG sounds like sales patter but in the real world, compared to other sharp edged and flatter rims I’ve used, I actually can feel the difference – Reynolds say that it’ll save 12 seconds on a 40km TT…I’m not sure about that, but if it makes the wheel feel both faster and more stable, then the rider will be more relaxed which I think will make far far more difference than the aerodynamics alone…I’m sold on them.
Back to the TT, and we started out well – we were riding closely to one another after the first 500 metres and settling down to our pre-race plan. The first section of road is nice and wide so it’s easy to get comfortable without cars dive bombing you when you’re trying to swap around. After the first left turn we pushed as hard as we dared whilst remembering that we’d need to keep going for a whole hour and not burn ourselves out.
The second quarter is much the same – nice wide roads and mostly flat. We were losing time here to the TT bikes, but not too much. The pair who started behind us came through in this section and we pretty much kept them in sight all the way to the halfway point. The third quarter is where the course gets tough, with three hills to test the legs with. This is where we could make up a bit of time, but it’s important to keep working well together so we kept changing like we’d decided before the start. In retrospect it’s probably this section that we should have really worked harder on, however by the turn into the last quarter Pip’s heart rate monitor was chiming like the Sunday church bells so I guess we’d pretty much done all we could on the hills!
Into the final quarter I tried to do longer turns on the front – Pip was still riding nice and close on my wheel and doing strong short turns, everything was working really well. We both knew where the final hill was and when it came into view we gave it the beans. Over the last couple of km I don’t think we could have gone much quicker and Pip managed to stay glued to my wheel over the top and past the finish board to record one hour and two minutes over the lumpy course – not too shabby for a couple of road bikes.
Martin put on a great event, Doug and David did a fine job with the timing and a whole bunch of wheelers gave up their time to help marshal, start and organise the event so thank-you to all of them. Cheers to Reynolds for my wheels. As for 2-up TT racing, we definitely need some TT bikes – watch this space!
Photos by Bob Taylor, Pip Jenkins and Glen Whittington
Glen rides for the Southborough & District Wheelers. He races Mountain bikes in the UK National XC Points and Eastern XC Series, Road bikes in the Surrey, South-East and Eastern Leagues, TT in the South East Region and ‘Cross in the LCCA League. He receives personal support from Helly Hansen, The Velo House, and the.æight.bicycle.cømpany @eightbikeco #aeightracer
Glen runs The Velo House with Olly, a coffee shop, workshop and bike shop welcoming all cyclists and even well behaved non-cyclists. We’re based at 5 St.Johns Road, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9TN – 01892 554 505 – firstname.lastname@example.org. @thevelohouse #thevelohouse
 Clip-ons are against the rules, but long before the popular website came about they were also against my own rules – they look stupid, scratch your handlebar and people confuse you for a triathlete. From a serious point of view they don’t take into account that to go from a road bike position to a TT position you have to rotate the whole body through about 4 to 5 degrees rather than simply stretch everything out – the saddle position needs to drastically change and the angles of the frame won’t ever allow enough movement. The stem length and position both need to change and the relationship between the rear wheel and BB is completely different. So in conclusion, if you want a TT position save up for a TT bike rather than making your road bike look silly.