More watts, less speed

I’m finally starting to hit the sort of 20-minute power numbers that I should have been hitting four months ago. Better late than never, I guess!


The problem is that I’m still hopelessly slow. Much slower than I was last year for the same reported power. On both P881 and F11/10 I’ve had power PBs in the last month only to go slower than a slow thing.


The obvious factor to consider is weather. We all know how wind direction, wind strength, temperature and air pressure can all affect speed on the road. But on paper, the conditions on both ‘slow’ days weren’t that bad. Not ideal, but not bad.


Then I started thinking about the bike. After it fell and cracked the frame at the end of last season (and not being able to source a new frame), I sent it off for repair at the start of this year (being without it for so long is likely a contributing factor to why I had a poor start to the year), getting it back in March. The bike was disassembled and reassembled by my local bike shop, itself no stranger to Giant Trinitys being an authorized Giant Dealer.


So in theory – and I’m sure in practice – the frame is perfectly good (it certainly seems like the repair was very well executed) and the bike was reassembled in good working order (again, everything seems fine!). I can’t feel any undue flex in the frame when mounted on the turbo trainer, so I have to believe it’s all ok.


I did make a change to the cockpit in April, swapping out the old Drag2Zero ‘classic’ extensions for the newer ergonomic versions. This new design more closely follows the contours of your forearm and wrist, eliminating the gap between pole and rider’s arm. So, in theory it’s a no-brainer. The poles are a slightly different shape, which means my hands sit a little higher now. But again, in theory that should be fine as it reduces the gap between my head and hands. It should be a change for the better, but it’s a change nonetheless (and right now, my speeds are slower…).


I’m still tempted to have the bike looked over by someone that really knows how TT bikes should behave. I can’t escape the nagging doubt that something in the frame or drivetrain is robbing me of speed that used to be there and now isn’t!


Of course, a poor workman always blames his tools.


So, after a disastrous start to the season with some very poor opening efforts, I tried to buy some speed. I bought the fancy Drag2Zero Endura Encapsulator skinsuit (I got it in the Wiggle sale, in my defence). On the sizing chart I seemed to be within the limits of the XS size (36” chest, 30” waist), however, I seem to have ripped off half the fancy silicon echelons on the bicep panels just getting the suit on and off at various races.


As for whether it’s any faster than the Velotec skinsuit that now often sits in my bag as an unused spare, the jury is out. It’s a nice suit, don’t get me wrong. But maybe the suit is a little “too fast” for me. Endura and Drag2Zero say that that suit is optimized for speeds over 45kph, and what testing I could find (check YouTube) seems to have been conducted at nearer 50kph.


Being honest, unless I have a strong tailwind or I’m going downhill, I don’t often hit 50kph! Testing conducted by Cycling Weekly with Dan Bigham in the velodrome suggested that the Encapsulator saves 4 watts over the Velotec at 40kph and 5.5 watts at 45kph. So, it should be faster on the road. I guess the velodrome can’t account for varying wind angles, but how much that really affects skin suits I’m not sure (Rule 28 will claim it makes a big difference, hence it has developed a new ‘wingsuit’ for TTs!).


And it wasn’t just the skinsuit that got changed. After four years of relying on the venerable Bell Javelin long-tail helmet, I got offered a HJC Adwatt (sometimes Alan Murchison having a big head has its advantages….) short-tail helmet. Then shortly after a bright orange POC Tempor came onto the market. So, obviously I bought them both.


You can read the back-to-back testing I did on the Bell, HJC and POC here. The results of the test are pretty conclusive, but of course, I’m still having my doubts. Is the POC really the fastest or should I give the HJC – or even the old Bell – a runout in a midweek 10 just to try?

Of course, you can’t really compare separate runs, even on the same course. The conditions are never identical, so the best you can do is what I did for the testing, several runs back-to-back with minimal gaps in which the conditions can change.


UPDATE 29/7

For the last two races – a midweek 10 on the very familiar H10/3R course and a weekend 25-miler on P881/25 – I’ve gone back to the Velotec skinsuit, paired with the HJC helmet.


For the midweek 10 I actually scored a minor course PB, shaving just six seconds off my previous best. For that ride, I also swapped my usual Parcours disc rear for my ‘training’ Enve 8.9.

And then at the weekend I raced in the wet on P881/25 – a familiar road, but not a familiar course as it was my first time riding the 25-mile format. This time I had the disc back on but I struggled for power having already raced twice in the preceding seven days. The result was a very average 53:29, but I was relatively pleased given the low power.


It all suggests that the HJC helmet and Velotec skinsuit are not a ‘slow’ combination by any stretch.


Looking forward

The season is really nearly over. I have just three more open entries pending acceptance. So the strategy now is to knuckle down to some uninterrupted training in the next few weeks and hit September in the best shape I can be to secure a last-gasp 10-mile PB before 2021 is done.