ActiveHealth Community Writer
Time Trial (TT)/Triathlon bikes are made for a very specific purpose – riding very fast on a steady, continuous, and uninterrupted effort. These are built with aerodynamic efficiency in primary consideration for its frame and components, and with a geometry that puts its rider in a more aggressive, powerful, and aerodynamically efficient position. These, however, come at an expense to other aspects of the bike so before you go buying yourself one, here are a few things you first need to know and consider:
The trade off
TT bikes are best ridden fast on smooth unobstructed paths, unlike standard road bikes which are made to be nimble and versatile. You can’t really do much steering or braking when holding the aerobars, and the tucked forward position it puts its rider in can be rather unstable over uneven pavement. Although powerful and efficient, this TT riding position is also not very comfortable which is why TT races are usually short but very fast. The fit can be adjusted to improve comfort making a proper bike fit essential to find that sweet spot between comfort and aerodynamics especially for longer rides. These are also heavier but modern research has shown that aerodynamics trumps weight in all but the steepest and longest climbs.
Aggressive and aero starts with you
Your body accounts for more aerodynamic drag than any part of a bike so train and adapt yourself to staying on that low and tucked riding position to maximize the speed you can get from using a TT bike, otherwise all its aero properties are pointless.
Setting up a road bike for TT racing
If you are considering a TT bike simply for its aerodynamic and aggressive properties but are on a limited budget, one cost effective way to gain the same advantages is to simply adjust the setup of your standard road bike. Pushing the saddle forward, lowering the handlebars, and installing clip-on aerobars (or getting a complete aero cockpit overhaul) will easily replicate the riding position of a TT bike. There is also now the trend of aero road bikes which blur the line in terms of the “need” for a dedicated TT bike for cycling enthusiasts.
Other aero gear
The aero properties of a TT bike frame are diminished if paired with non-aero components so best go all out and equip your TT frame with a full complement of high quality components to eke out every last bit of speed from it. If that is not a practical option however, we suggest upgrading your gear and components first. A good set of deep section carbon wheels will have the most tangible improvement to your ride quality. Wearing a TT helmet together with a sport fitting cycling kit or a proper skin suit will also reduce your overall aerodynamic drag. Pair these up with our suggested road bike setup modifications and you will gain a significant improvement on your cycling speed without resorting to a TT bike upgrade.
We all want our bikes to be fast, even when we are not. Using a TT bike could make you considerably faster, but first consider whether those extra seconds are worth the expense especially if you aren’t going to use it very often. If you have the extra resources to spend, then by all means get yourself a TT bike. If you race multisport or time trial races often enough and is aiming for top positions, then this could give you that winning advantage provided you can maximize its speed potential through the various means we mentioned. And when you decide that you need/want one, buying is a relatively simple affair; get one that fits your body and your budget then make sure to set it up for the type of riding you intend to do.