How to teach yourself to adopt a more aero position on the bike
Achieve good aerodynamics
Adopting a good aero position on a TT bike is key to good performance. Triathlete Will Clarke explains how to achieve good aerodynamics on the bike to make a big difference to the cycling element of your triathlon.
Written by Will Clarke
Will is a British triathlete. He's a former U23 World and European Champion, competed at Beijing 2008 and has twice been British national champion. He now competes on the World Ironman 70:3 circuit.
Aerodynamics is one of the most crucial factors to consider when trying to go fast on a bike and is for some (myself included) one of the most frustrating parts of the sport. Some people are very natural cyclists but many spend years getting comfortable on a TT bike. The training is of course very important and you have to have put in the work, but you’ll only go so far in the sport if you’re riding around with a bad position. Likewise if your position is brilliant but you haven’t done the training then you’ll also not be going anywhere very fast.
For this reason you have to heavily invest when trying to find a position that works for you. In endurance sport efficiency is very important so as well as working on your overall fitness and strength, you should pay a lot of attention to your aerodynamics, constantly looking to evolve your position, and become more aero without sacrificing your power too much.
Aerodynamics is something I’ve spent a fair bit of time focusing on recently. As a case study, I raced in Ironman Lanzarote. I pushed 287w average on the bike and finished 10mins behind the leader by the end. I know how much he pushed, and actually it was the same power as I did…and at a similar weight, so the difference must have been down to my riding style but for the most part, position! What a waste!
First steps - get a bike fit
The first stop for you as a cyclist, no matter who you, are is to get a good bike fit from an expert. It needs to be an expert because bike fitting isn’t a straightforward matter. It’s not a case on slamming the seat up and bars down. Lower doesn’t necessarily mean faster at all and this is not an exact science, a position that works for one person will not work for all.
A good fitter will perhaps spend half the time working out the position of your cleats. In addition, they will analyse where your seat bones are and what saddle will best work for you, frame size, seat position, aero bar position, plus helmet suggestions. It’s all very well getting a bike fit, but you also have to be able to ride it for a long time so you have to cross reference that with how you feel in the position and whether you can indeed push enough power to make the bike go fast. That is where you have to make smart choices and come to an optimal position for aerodynamics and power.
Aero position will at first be uncomfortable
For the most part the position you’re riding won’t be comfortable at first. Most people complain about a sore behind as your hips should be rotated forward in order to get low. However that will hopefully get more and more manageable, especially if you find the magic seat for you. You can help yourself out with stretching and mobility work to get more flexible so eventually you can relax in the position. Every day I’d advise any exercises and stretches that free up the area of your glutes, hips, hamstrings and you should be able to hold it, more comfortably for longer.
Practice regularly in race position
Finally, you’ll never know what you can do until you spend time practicing in your race position on a regular basis. If you train on a road bike with a different position and expect to jump on your race bike and be instantly comfortable then you’re probably mistaken. Time Trialling requires very different muscle groups and unless you practice you won’t be comfortable.
Sometimes when the roads are wet, sometimes icy, it may be cold enough that you have to layer up which means you feel more restricted than you will in an actual race. Plus you have many tricky roads often with hazards like potholes so it can be difficult to spend a chunk of uninterrupted time on the bars riding in time trial position. However you should still try to do your best, find straight roads to train on and stay in your race position for as much of the training ride as you can.
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