Aero Meets Comfort
As triathletes we are generally intrigued by the topic of aerodynamics. The science of aerodynamics can be both complex and unique for each individual. For myself, it has been a journey through experience of trial & error, studying different fit positions of pro athletes, and consulting with fit experts. I have made some personal errors in adjusting my fit to be "more aero", which costed me precious speed and the wrong recruitment of muscles. I finally threw in the towel to let the experts figure out my aerodynamics and ideal fit. In this article I will share what I have learned about the proper fit and aerodynamics.
In early 2018, I went in for a "tune up" fit before the season began. Throughout 2018 I changed my position 4 different times in order to become "more aero". I would compare my fits and set up to other professionals. In my mind I thought I wasn't aero enough and that it was costing me time on the bike. So I would make a bad decision and change my fit on the bike by myself. At times I was pushing more power, but I was actually losing valuable time on the bike due to in-proper fit and aerodynamics. I was also recruiting power mainly from my quad muscles. If you have ever done this, it makes for a painful and an ugly run. After that experience, I threw in the towel and went all in with the experts.
After numerous of hours working with Cory at TCR Sports Labs in Calgary and couple follow up sessions, we found my ideal fit. The changes we made from what I perceived as my "ideal bike fit" to my actual ideal bike fit were very different. From there, I did a couple consultations with Aero Labs to get real time data on my aerodynamics. There were a couple minor changes we made, and then I went back to Cory at TCR to finalize my ideal fit. The changes I made were amazing. I was actually less aggressive in my aero position but more aerodynamic. We found my ideal pedal stroke and seat placement so I was recruiting more from my glutes and hamstring muscles. I have tight hips and inflexible in the hip area. So we had to take this into consideration as well. I am now way more comfortable in aero position, pushing more power comfortably, more stable and stationary on my seat, and overall I was more aerodynamic!
Finding the proper fit and aerodynamics takes a lot of work. Now is the time to get things 100% dialled in and comfortable before the season gets underway. Here are some take aways I have learned from working with Cory at TCR on the proper fit and Aero Labs on aerodynamics:
1) Go see an expert. There are so many variables to consider when finding your ideal fit and each athlete is so unique.
2) As a triathlete, the muscle recruitment in cycling comes more from our glutes and hamstrings. We need to conserve our quads for the run segment. By getting the proper seat position and pedal stroke, this can certainly assist with a better run off the bike.
3) When in aero position, you want to be able to sit in that position for longer than 15 minutes at a time
4) A good rule of thumb is to keep about a 3 - 4 finger width between the elbow and knee at the top of the pedal stroke.
5) Aerodynamics needs to meet comfort. The two biggest things to achieve better aerodynamics:
- Try to have your elbows inside of your body frame. If they stick out past your torso
region in aero this creates a lot more drag
- Close off the gap between your hands in aero position and your chin. The smaller this
channel is, the less drag you create, and the more aero you become. This would be
one of the most important changes to make to become more aerodynamic. This can still
be achieve by being in a comfortable position.
I have spent a lot of time on bike fits and aerodynamics and these are the top 5 items I can summarize. I strongly recommend seeing Cory at TCR Sports Labs. I have worked with various bike fitters, but what I found is that Cory takes the time with the athlete to ensure the proper fit is established. He is very knowledgeable but what I really appreciated was he takes the time to do a follow up session to make the final adjustments and ensure the ideal fit happens.