Everyone said that I looked a little out of place at the Big Cow Triathlon as the athletes I was racing against had full-on aerodynamic triathlon bikes, deep section aero wheels and of course aero helmets. I had none of these things, just a standard road bike with clip on tri bars, standard rims and a standard helmet.
An aerodynamic triathlon bikes costs far too much for me at the moment, wheels don’t come cheap either but a new pointy aerodynamic helmet is much more affordable and gives the biggest performance gains for price. According to various reports (such as this one: Biggest Bank for Your Buck in Time Trialling), the gains for different equipment and the cost per second saved are something like this
- Aero Helmet: 67 seconds, $2.98
- Skinsuit: 134 seconds, $1.86
- Aerobars: 122 seconds, $1.64
- Aero Frame: 17 seconds, $176.47+
- Shoe Covers: 30 seconds, $1.67
- Rear Disc: 29 seconds, $34.48
- Front Deep Section Rim: 42 seconds, $30.43
- Wind Tunnel Testing: 56 seconds, $26.79+
These were based on a 40km ride in a time of 48 minutes – much faster than I can go but they give you an idea of the relative costs and gains of various bits of equipment.
In order of cost per second saved.
I already have clip-on aerobars, but maybe a proper set would be the way forward at $1.64 per second its quite an inexpensive way of gaining some time.
Shoe covers aren’t really an option in triathlons as they would take more time to put on and take off than you would gain from them. So the aren’t worth worrying about.
I wear a skinsuit in races, well a skin-tight tri-suit anyway so I have that covered.
Next up is the aero helmet at around $2.98 per second, so that has been next on my list. and is what prompted this post. Beyond that everything gets far too expensive…. for now anyway.
My parents gave me some cash towards a helmet as a congratulations present when I qualified for the ITU Age-Group Triathlon World Champsionships, and I’ve now spent it.
I plumped for a Rudy Project Wingspan helmet in the end for a number of reasons. First of all it is a shorter, stumpier version of a full on aero-helmet. Most traditional aero helmets have a long tail which is fine when you are in the optimum position with the tail resting along the centre of your back and riding into a headwind, but as soon as you tire a little and drop you head, or the angle of yaw of the wind is anything but head on they can actually act a bit like a sail, catching the wind and probably adding more resistance. I’m no pro cyclist and do tend to drop my head a bit so wanted to avoid this. The stumpier, shorter tail of the Wingspan eliminates this problem and this new design is supposed to offer even more savings than the traditional aero helmet. As you can see in the following photo, even with my head down the tail of the helmet doesn’t stick up into the air flow too much – Although I’d probably be better off looking where I was going anyway!
I’d also read in various reviews that it was easy to get on and off. Some aero helmets have pretty tight fitting ear covers and visors making them more difficult to get on than a normal helmet. This is fine for out and out Time Trialling but in a Triathlon, the clock is ticking whilst you put your helmet on and take it off, so any time lost here has to be made up elsewhere. It seems silly to buy a helmet that should save time on the bike section, only to lose those gains in T1 and T2. The Wingspan does seem fairly easy to get on and off, although I’ve yet to use it in anger.
It has also been tested comprehensively in a Wind Tunnel and has been designed by a renowned aerodynamics expert to work not only in a wind tunnel but also in the real world where winds are rarely head on. Admitedly this is just marketing talk but it all sounds plausible to me and besides, it looks pretty cool in Matt Black as well!
I haven’t tried it yet and I’m still not convinced that a simple pointy hat will actually make me any faster over a course but time will tell. Before deciding whether or not to keep it I put my bike on the Turbo Trainer, donned the helmet and took some video of me wearing it just to see how it looked with my bike positioning. I hadn’t done this before and now that I’ve seen myself I may want to tweak my position a little bit just to get more aero. I shall leave this for a while though because despite the fact that aerodynamics are important you have to be comfortable as well so that you can actually put the power down and pedal efficiently. Aerodynamics are the be all and end all. Nevertheless, here’s a still from the video footage, I guess my position isn’t too bad.
I’ll now have to put in a good effort around the Borth Time Trial Loop to see how it performs in the real world.
Alan's Triathlon exploits are currently supported by Dymag Performance Racing Wheels. If you would like to sponsor me, help me get to the Age-Group World and European Championships and get some positive exposure for your business at the same time, please get in touch or use the donate button below. I'll do my best to make it worth your while.