A Male Cyclist In An Aggressive Position Riding On A Street

If You Can’t Measure the Aero Gains, Make It Comfortable

BY Yago Alcalde

The importance of position on the bike cannot be overstated. Yet, a comfortable ride is just as important to success on the bike than anything else, be it nutrition planning, pacing or taper. Suffering on the bike should be a thing of the past, when it comes to fit.

As good triathlon coaches, we should care about how our athletes are positioned on their bikes since it’s a key component of their performance on race day. Achieving a good position on the bike is as important as the nutrition plan, the pacing strategy or tapering previous to the race. I want to go through some of the critical points of a good bike position regarding this topic.

The position must be comfortable, and yes, a TT aero position can and should be comfortable. As you may recognize, there is this common belief that a triathlon bike requires an aggressive and uncompromising position. No, no and no. Of course, a triathlon bike is uncomfortable if you ride it out of the box. But, once it’s been adjusted to your unique needs, it can be more comfortable than a road bike. Suffering on the bike should be a thing of the past…so, a key question for your athletes is: are you comfortable in your racing position?

Fundamentals of Being Aero on the Bike

Low is slow.
I don’t know if you know this, but there has been a trend toward higher positions in the last few years. What is a more elevated position? The pads’ height in relation to the saddle has decreased lately. This doesn’t mean that we are riding lower saddles. Instead, the aero bar position is higher relative to the saddle. Why has this happened? Because in the last few years, more and more triathletes are doing aero testing. And what we have found is that, in general, very low positions are not faster. And the worst part of this is that lowering your aero bar too much has quite a few disadvantages:

  • You might lose some power since your hip angle is too closed.
  • Looking at the road gets more complicated and is, therefore, a more dangerous position.
  • Digestion is more problematic in an aggressive position.
  • As it says in the title, if you can’t demonstrate that lowering your aero bar is making you faster, please, raise the bar and enjoy the ride.

Narrower is not always faster.
As with the pad height, we believe that the narrower we are in the pads, the faster we will be. But this doesn’t work for everyone. So, get comfortable if you can’t test that a narrower position is improving your aerodynamics! Sometimes, a wider pad position can allow you to lower your head, for example. Apart from that, a narrower position typically puts more stress on your shoulders and makes the bike’s steering more difficult.

Sustainability is key.
What do we mean by this term? It means that you have to be able to stay in the aero position during the entire race. Why? Because that is the reason you bought a TT bike: to give you that aero advantage when you are in the aero position.

Stop trying to look fast.
Once again, without accurate aerodynamic data, a position that looks good only looks good, but it doesn’t mean it’s fast. Instead of that, again, we need to ask ourselves if we can ride in that position and have good legs for the running that comes after…

As a coach, what can you do?

Include this topic as one of the improvements that you can achieve when you start working with a triathlete. Please don’t assume that they already have a good position.

Ask your rider about it. Basic questions like: How do you feel on the bike? Have you had a bike fit done? Can you hold the aero position for a long time? Do you experience chronic pain every time you ride your TT bike?

Try to work with a good bike fitter you can rely on and send your athletes to them.

Ask your rider to send you a video riding on the trainer to see their general position. Although, if you are not a bike fitter, if you have some experience, you will be able to see if at least it looks good. Also, you can send it to your bike fit friend.

The importance of position on the bike cannot be overstated. Yet, a comfortable ride is just as crucial to success on the bike as anything else, be it nutrition planning, pacing or taper. Suffering on the bike should be a thing of the past when it comes to fit.

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Portrait Of Yago Alcalde On A Bench By His Bike In Spain
About Yago Alcalde

Yago started cycling in the 1990s, competing in mountain bike based out of Madrid, Spain. His passion for sport led him to graduate in Physical Activity and Sport Sciences from the Polytechnic University of Madrid in 2000 with a Bachelor’s degree in Physical Education and a Master’s degree in High-Performance Sports from the Autonomous University of Madrid. In addition to building his business in Spain, he has more than 14 years of experience advising cyclists of all types and levels, in addition to being an instructor for Retül University and a technician at Alphamantis. Yago is also the author of the book Cycling and Performance.

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