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Trispokes and Time Trial Tribulations

Maybe I should have stayed quiet about “buying” speed in Time Trials. What had started as a very promising season has ended ultimately in pretty stark disappointment. Despite spending a small fortune on wheels, skinsuit, helmet and a new cockpit, ultimately I’ve come up well short.

The first few races after the cockpit change and wind tunnel session went well, getting within five seconds of my overall 10-mile TT personal best on P881 (on what was admittedly a very good weather/wind day). But since then, it’s been very disappointing.

A 19:54 on F11/10 followed by a 19:58 on F2a/10 and then another 19:54 back on F11/10 (on a day that saw many folks setting PBs). Yes, they’re all under 20 minutes, but woefully short of my 19:23 best from 2022.

The common denominator? Well, apart from the rider, all those disappointing times were set on “fast” courses with a new trispoke front wheel, instead of my previous Enve 7.8. I know a bad workman blames his tools, but three-for-three I’ve had poor races (with not terrible power) on fast courses using the trispoke.

Strangely, I’ve also set a couple of local course PBs (on slower courses) with the trispoke. So it’s got me thinking. Maybe the trispoke performance is very weather and wind-dependent.

Why? Well, all three races above on F11/10 and F2a/10 were in quite blustery conditions. In theory, that’s what made them fast days for other riders. But not for me.

So I’m left wondering if the trispoke is more of a curse than a blessing in even mildly windy conditions (even when the wind is a directly-behind-your-back tailwind!).

It might not be entirely the wheel’s fault. There is a theory I’m open to that because the trispoke is that bit more twitchy in crosswinds, I’m just tensing up, holding the tribars too tightly and that’s causing a ripple effect in my body which is hurting my aerodynamics.

I’ve never really been scared to run deep rims on the TT bike, so this feels a bit unlikely. But in the absence of any other explanations, I’m open to it.

Comparing my 19:23 2022 run on F11/10 against last weekend’s 19:54, I was admittedly down about four watts in power. The wind was also in the opposite direction, which meant the first 1.5 miles or so were as much as 30 seconds slower than 12 months ago. But the next 5.5 miles or so should have been blazingly fast, but they weren’t. In fact, I only made up about 15 seconds on 2022’s time. Then, after the turn it was back into the headwind for the last two miles and I lost 29 seconds on my PB.

In short, I lost a lot more into the headwind with the trispoke than I gained with the tailwind. Into the headwind, I was about 5kph slower. While with the tailwind I was only about 1.3kph faster (albeit for longer).

This "wind affected" theory is kind of supported by the fact that I seem to still be improving on the local courses on single-carriageway A-roads which are typically more sheltered from the wind thanks to trees etc. In contrast the “fast” courses are usually dual-carriageways with little or no protection from the wind.

Clearly it’s not scientific. But it’s enough to make me put the Enve 7.8 back on for the last couple of races on “fast courses”.

And I don’t want to pretend it’s all down to kit choice. My training and power stats would suggest I might have peaked a bit too early in the season, since I have seen a 3-5% or drop off in my 10-mile average power in the last few weeks. Maybe I’m just tired and not managing my fatigue very well.

With just two races to go, let's see if I can finish the season on a more positive note.

Update on September 25th: After speaking with Darren at Strada, it seems one explanation of the relative lack of speed on the trispoke might be that I've just been running the tyre pressures too low. With the trispoke being tubeless, I had been running it lower than I would a clincher or tubular. That might not have been the correct approach. Running the tyre at a higher pressure in training on Thursday did seem to yield a touch more speed. More investigations to be done!


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