Aerodynamics On A Tri-Bike

Overcoming physics

Sadly, winning medals cannot be achieved just by putting someone into an aerodynamic position. Begin by identifying the hurdles that are in your way while working towards more efficient aerodynamics.

It is important to divide your body into four components – head, arms, torso and legs – to determine the most suitable position while on your bike.

In an attempt to increase performance, each area has its own issues, restrictions, and solutions. As you fly through the sky, friction and pressure will cause resistance on various parts of your bicycle and body.

The drag created by air slipping along the external surface of one’s body, clothing or bicycle is known as frictional drag. Pressure drag happens when the wind encounters an angled surface, leading to fluctuations in air pressure; basically, it refers to turbulence.

Air resistance has such a considerable effect on a cyclist that the best strategy for improved performance would be to assume an aero position, even though this posture can test one’s physical abilities. “Hold on there, do aerodynamic positions take away our energy?” we ask again.

Let us explain further… Drag can reduce your physical performance and increase the amount of energy used, which leads to a decrease in the amount of energy a cyclist can use on average.

An investigation conducted by the University of Bern concluded that adopting an aero position increases an athlete’s metabolic load by 9 watts.

However, when taking into consideration that the aerodynamic position of the cyclist and bike produces a saving of 100 watts in energy, meaning they use less effort to go further, it is obvious why the decision has been made.

So what does this mean in real terms? Well, how does 6-8% over 40km sound? Someone who maintains their physical and dietary health and adopts an aerodynamic posture for a cycling race compared to a regular racing stance can anticipate shaving off as much as four to five minutes from a 40-kilometre, 60-minute ride.

A few investigations have proposed that an all-out benefit is comparable to picking up a yield of 90 watts of intensity. In summary, making your cycling position more aerodynamic could save you a few minutes on the bike and will also improve your running speed.

The aero options

What is the optimal solution for adjusting the front of your bike to maximize your speed? For more than a century, cyclists riding on roads have implemented the use of “drop bars” to decrease the space in front of them.

By doing this, the rider can become faster and more efficient with time. Using a classic drop bar configuration with your hands wide apart can reduce air resistance for the torso, yet at the same time causes some extra drag due to the arms and chest acting like an air brake.

The eventual energy bar selection of a triathlete will depend on the kinds of competitions they intend to contest. For Olympic-distance races and shorter ones, a time-trial handlebar with an aerodynamic add-on will be the most practical and adjustable.

For endurance activities on easy tracks, you may choose to have a more elevated position for added comfort when tucked in the aerodynamic posture for more extensive lengths of time.

When it comes to taking part in races with inclines and declines, a conventional road handlebar with an aerodynamic addition will give you the possibility of scaling on the brake hoods. This posture provides solid aerodynamics but provides more trust and authority when making sharp turns compared to aerodynamic tucking.

No matter what choice you make, you won’t get any rewards if your bicycle is not correctly arranged and your body is not adjusted to the stance…

Bike set-up

Studies have demonstrated that athletes’ metabolic stress is generally heightened when the angle between the torso and femur is minimized.

This implies if you bring your elbow lower, you must shift the saddle forward to sustain the angle of your frame and torso when taking on an almost flat-lying posture.

Like all things, there’s a degree of choice. For instance, positioning the handlebars flat can increase aerodynamics, whereas tilting them upwards will help with the physical aspect of riding – you should try different arrangements to determine which works best for you.

The adoption of more precipitous seat-tube angles on triathlon bikes, compared to the more relaxed angles of regular road bikes, is a result of not only the importance of achieving an effective trunk-to-femur angle but also to imitate running by stimulating the hamstrings more.

A bike with a less acute seat-tube angle may assist in maintaining some power for running in the hamstrings.

In the next section, there is a more thorough description of how to get set up on the turbo trainer. Before experimenting with it on the street, make sure you have completed the necessary setup.

You should have your forearms slightly stretched out with your back either straight or drooping down in the front slightly. Lower your shoulders as much as possible and keep your elbows close together.

You will have to make certain concessions – such as a narrow handlebar width – which would be better suited to an experienced biker, as it will have a detrimental impact on your control of the bike.

At the bottom of the pedal stroke, your upper arms should be positioned forming a right angle with your torso and your femur should also form a right angle with your torso. Until you can do this, pick aero bars that are simple to alter.

Assess the productivity of your posture by performing some hill trials. Look for a straight incline of between one-quarter and one-half mile long that is steep enough to get you up to a speed of around 30 miles per hour without having to pedal. There should then be another hill directly after the initial hill, so you can slow down.

Jump off from the same spot along the incline and go down the hill, noting the place where you halt for each movement as you change your position – your legs should be near the centre of your body, and the pedals should be at 3 and 9 o’clock. The position that offers you the most forward propulsion is the most efficient.

Body set-up

To achieve an aero position, think low and narrow. Having your torso close to the horizontal plane, with elbows and knees close to the bike will give you the aerodynamic advantage you want. If only it was so simple…

A few things that will influence your level of aerodynamic capability are present. At the outset, the anatomy of joints and muscles may be restraining. You might notice that the limited mobility of your shoulder joints prevents you from achieving the necessary 3cm of movement that would decrease the distance between your elbows.

It could be because of inflexibility or a long-standing injury. Fortunately, the range of motion of your joints can be increased with certain stretching workouts (check out the section on Heightening your aero flexibility above).

It was noted before that any improvement in aerodynamics must be weighed up against the extra energy expenditure.

If sitting on the bicycle places the diaphragm and intercostal muscles in a limited position, the requirement to breathe will be more powerful than the motivation to move quickly through the wind.

It is possible to work out the fitness cost using a cycle ergometer or any other instrument that records power output. Record your heart rate while trying different positions and keeping the power output the same. Clearly, the ideal situation is to achieve a strong output while keeping the heart rate low.

Finding a sustainable position

This leads us to the subsequent significant aspect of aerodynamics: you need a posture that can be maintained for the duration of the competition.

You can be the fastest in your event by having the best aerodynamic form, but if you are unable to stay in that position for the entirety of the event, it will cost you plenty of time when you have to stand up to stretch and fix your stance.

Matt Steinmetz of 51 Speed Shop claims that comfort is having the capability to stay in the same place during the time limit of your undertaking. It does not matter what else happens if you are unable to stay in your spot because it makes you feel uneasy.

It is important to keep in mind that the position taken during a time trial or triathlon does not feel natural for the body.

With persistence and dedication to improving your suppleness and fitness, you may eventually be able to keep up a more streamlined stance. Doing so even if it still feels uncomfortable, however, will not generate a faster speed. Here are some other important factors to consider:

Safety and stability

According to Barry Anderson, an expert from Cyclologic, aerodynamic benefits achieved while biking have much more to do than simply cutting down the front end and eliminating spacers.

The initial rule is that the cyclist must remain in a secure spot on the bike seat and pedals. You desire to be able to generate energy from each side of the bike.

A stable position is also a safe one. It is important to keep in mind that the arrangement of your bike can influence its management — for instance having a sizeable gap between the headset and aero bars may create a tendency for the cyclist to not steer the bike accurately.

It is essential that when riding outdoors for a triathlon or in training, you should be able to see ahead of you. Time trialists may focus their attention on going as fast as possible, however, for a triathlon, you must be mindful of traffic and other bikers.


Another key factor is the ability to breathe. When a rider is in a more aerodynamic stance, it puts pressure on the diaphragm, resulting in a higher heart rate and higher breathing rate. This adds additional strain to the body.

Keep in mind that you need to still have the capability to jog after biking, so try to attain the best of both worlds with effective inhalation and any profiting from aerodynamics.


It can be affirmed that you need to keep cycling the bike, however, the equipment you decide to use can save a considerable amount of effort, watts, and energy on the course.

Discussing where one can obtain the highest value for their equipment investment in the sports of bicycling and triathlon is the subject of this text.

Choosing a bike

To avoid any possible hurt, unpleasantness, and feelings of regret, look for someone with expertise in bike fitting before buying your bike. An experienced fitter is capable of finding frames that are compatible with the measurements of your body, within your price range.

This will usually be somewhere between £150-£250, however investing this amount now will help save time and money in the future.

Once you have your new bike frame and are set to compete, you’ll probably commence looking for some wind-cheating accessories.

Choosing upgrades

Start off at a low cost, then move up to a greater extent to enhance performance.

You may observe that a frame built for aerodynamics will only result in you saving a total of seventeen seconds over forty-kilometre stretch, but they tend to be costly. On the other hand, buying an aerodynamics package is a much cheaper choice and can help you bring down your time by more than two minutes.

Jesse Frank from the Specialized wind tunnel remarks that wearing a windbreaker on a cold day could easily add four minutes to an Olympic distance triathlon, and roughly up to 15 minutes in an Ironman triathlon.

Aero helmets are another good investment. These days, it doesn’t matter what type of bike you have, you want a helmet that fits snugly around your ears for maximum aerodynamic effects, depending on the shape of your face, shoulders, and back.


Adding aerodynamic wheels can often come with an increase in weight, yet this is usually counterbalanced by the aerodynamic improvements it brings. A typical front wheel will set you back approximately 30-40 watts when riding at 20 miles per hour, however, a quality aero three or four-spoke wheel will only cost you 15-25 watts and a full disc wheel is usually just 5-10 watts.

You can decrease your power usage by 10% if you improve your wheels. Sadly, selecting a disc-brake setup for the front and rear is not a straightforward process.

In track racing, utilizing a front disc wheel is logical; however, in outdoor events where the wind is a factor, they are typically not used because they can be quite unsteady in windy conditions.

In most circumstances, it would be advantageous to have a wheel on the back with a disc brake. These choices will depend on the weather conditions on the day of the race, and software such as Best Bike Split is there to assist riders in making the most suitable decision for themselves.

Shaving body

What about shaving? Jesse Frank of Specialized approximates that, depending on how thickly your hair grows, shaving your legs could provide you with an advantage of up to one minute during a 40km race and another dozen seconds if you decide to shave your arms.

Concerning facial hair, the shape of our heads does not lend itself to improving aerodynamics, so trimming facial hair doesn’t give any marked change.


Ideally, the Ironman racer should have a container tucked between their aero bars and behind the saddle pole. Back bottles positioned behind the seat post offer the most streamlined shape when riding, but require you to move from your effective aerodynamic stance to access them and therefore affect your speed.

One of the most sensitive positions to keep your water bottle in if you want to be able to access it quickly while maintaining an aerodynamic posture is between your aero bars. In some cases, this might even make you more aerodynamic than if the bottle wasn’t there!

The worst location to keep a water container is on the frame, disturbing the stream of air.

In the end, it will be up to you to find a position on your bike that is sustainable, effective, and suitable for your body. Consider your job and financial needs when you are aiming to give your best performance.


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