Things have been going well in 2023. Or at least they were until I got sick a few days ago. Hence why I have a little time on my hands to finally write a new blog for the site.
My last post in September 2022 touched on what had been a great year, finishing with an all-time Personal Best of 19:23 for 10 miles on the super-fast F11/10 course. Going into winter, I was skeptical that I'd ever go faster (time waits for no man and all that, and I'll be 50 in a matter of months now) and so the plan for 2023 was to focus on 25s, 50s and maybe even a 100-mile time trial.
But as always (for me, at least) the year started with a few low-key local club time trials. And from the off, I was doing better than I normally would expect early season, getting close to course PBs. Maybe I shouldn't ignore the 10s after all...
I also felt like this was probably the last year I'd be able to really go all-in on time trials, with some life changes coming up, so I wanted to get my setup as fast as I possibly could.
Of course, I could just train harder and smarter, but where's the fun in that?
So I've focused my search for speed on three areas:
bike and position (I've combined these for what will hopefully become obvious reasons below)
kit (which kinda is also position-related!)
I've run a selection of different wheels over the years, including FastForward, Parcours and Enve. Last year I ran mostly on a Parcours clincher rear disc and an Enve 7.8 front (tubeless ready, running as clincher, built by Darren at Strada Handbuilt Wheels), both with latex tubes and a mix of Michelin TT front and Vittoria Corsa rear.
Having had the Parcours disc for a few years, I had the freehub serviced/rebuilt and the shop noticed I had damaged the wheel in a few places. Not catastrophic, but probably not running as fast as it once did. So I called up Darren at Strada and he kindly offered my his demo disc (which he described as "pretty beaten up, but give it a try!").
There's no much difference in the weight between the Parcours and Strada discs (maybe 10-15g at most), but I've certainly been running well on the Strada disc (as we'll see below), which is running a Michelin Power TT 23mm tyre with a latex tube (or was till it blew on me this week when I clipped a stone in the road...).
I've been sufficiently impressed that I've asked Darren to build me my own disc with a go-faster hub and bearings. I'm hoping that will arrive imminently!
Based on some advice from Wattshop, I'm going to try swapping the 25mm Michelin TT front tyre to 23mm, but I would expect any gains to be marginal.
What I am potentially more excited about is trying a trispoke on the front. Working with Strada, I hope to be testing that in the coming weeks, certainly before the season is done!
Bike and Position
To be 100% clear, I was not at all unhappy with last year's position, but a time triallist is never satisfied. I'd been thinking for a while the while the position of the cockpit was good, it could be cleaner. Having liked the look of Wattshop's "Anemoi" system, I scrimped and saved enough to make a fairly substantial investment in swapping out the risers, clamps, poles and arm rests. Wattshop's system is very modular and highly adjustable, but it does come at a price (hence the title of this article!).
To really go to town, I also opted for two hours' of aero testing in the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub wind tunnel. Jamie at Wattshop kindly agreed to fit the new cockpit before starting the clock on the wind tunnel (once the clock starts, that's you paying - so we couldn't test the old vs new setup in the tunnel). We set up the new bars to mimick the setup of the old (reach, height, angle etc.).
The bike was set at a 5-degree yaw in the tunnel and we tested at a simulated 48kph (30mph) with enough power in the drive train to make it feel like an effort (and thus force my body to behave / shape itself how it might in a race).
In the tunnel, Jamie was immediately impressed with how good my CdA was but we played with the fore/after of the setup and the adjustable risers, managing to find maybe 2-3 watts. We found more watts by playing with the width of the bars and arm rests. Having confirmed the optimal setup by losing watts when we changed the height/reach, we were happy the cockpit was good (although one interesting/surprising finding was how much the position of the Garmin affected the CdA!).
We also did a couple of tests on the Giant Trinity frame, with and without bottles. And with the aftermarket downtube storage box sold by Absolute Speed.
Still in the tunnel, we then turned our attention to the kit I was wearing. We cycled through 4-5 different helmets, determining that the one I had been using mostly in the second half of 2022 was pretty darned good, but not quite the best. Despite "looking" slower in photos, the widebody Met Drone was marginally (like 1.5w!) faster at 45-48kph than my 2022 Uvex Race 8.
We then tested the skinsuit and undershirt. I don't want to give too much away, but let's just say I'm very happy that I changed to the Huub skinsuit with their 'aerobridge' undershirt this year. I know there are a few even newer suits out now (and I'd love to test them), but the Huub performed very well compared to others we tested (including previous "best in markets").
Last year on the velodrome track, using simulated wind tunnel measurements (I think it was using the 'AeroPod' unit?), we reckoned we found 10-13 watts through position and helmet changes.
While the wind tunnel is considerably more expensive than track testing, it's also more reliable and I knew we'd be looking at smaller gains overall. So to come away with an estimated 6-7 watts was a good result (remember, the overall savings could be higher as we did not test the old cockpit versus new).
Keen to try out the new cockpit (although I didn't have the Met helmet for this race), I immediately jumped on the H10/3a 10-mile time trial course the following day and was rewarded with a 15-second course PB.
That was followed two weeks later with another significant course PB, this time on the 25-mile HCC247 course. And then an outright 50-mile TT PB (1:49:16) on P881/L.