Question: The local time trial championship is coming up. I’m wondering if I should buy a TT bike or just use my road bike with aero bars. I don’t want to spend money needlessly, but I really want to do well in this event. — Julian O.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: The most important aspect of aerodynamics isn’t the bike, it’s the rider. Tear-shaped down tubes and seatposts make a difference, but it’s small compared to your body’s furiously pumping legs and wind-catching chest.
Because of this, a road bike fitted with aero bars can be nearly as good as a dedicated time trial bike, assuming your riding position is also optimized for aerodynamics.
It used to be that on occasion a pro on a regular road bike with aero bars would beat the field riding dedicated TT machines. That doesn’t happen anymore, because no one rides their regular bike.
To be sure, time trial bikes have one major advantage: They’re designed to make it easier to get a good aero position. They usually have steeper seat angles and handlebars much lower than the saddle.
If you move the saddle forward on your road bike, lower the bar and install an aero extension, you can come pretty close to the aerodynamic efficiency of a TT bike.
And unless your regularly riding TTs, doing this can save you a couple thousand bucks, at least, too!