Learning how to be an uber biker requires the coming together of numerous factors. Over the coming weeks we will be serialising the thoughts of one of the fastest cyclists to ever grace an Ironman start line: Torbjorn Sindballe. Last week we looked at Training (click here to read that), this week it is all about aerodynamics and positioning.
Written By: Torbjorn Sindballe
When biking at higher speeds, 80 per cent or more of your energy is used to overcome wind resistance—this makes aerodynamics a key factor in cycling success, and it’s why leading cyclists and triathletes spend hours in the wind tunnel perfecting their aero positions. For many, this wind tunnel time can break the bank, but a basic knowledge of aerodynamics, which can be learned with a little research, a trainer and a camera, can take you very far in perfecting your aero position.
My own wind tunnel experiences have given me insights into my aero position, but not in the way you might expect. During my first wind tunnel fit, in 2005, we tinkered with my position by moving my handlebars down, pushing my elbows together and stretching my arms a bit more, but nothing really helped until I accidentally dipped my head down in front of my shoulders midway during a test run. My drag numbers immediately dropped significantly to a level that would give me a three- to four-minute savings over 180K—not too bad for just lowering my head. At another point during the test, we set my elbow pads so close together that I started to wobble, and the bike going side to side made the drag numbers go through the roof.
These two experiences taught me that positioning was not so much about how my bike was set up but rather how I acted on the bike. From that point on, I called how I acted on the bike “dynamic positioning,” and I used what I learned from my wind tunnel experiences to the fullest extent possible. In every race I would put my head down, tuck my shoulders in and make sure I had aerobar extensions long enough so I could stretch forward when I was riding downhill, optimising my aero position when it was most effective and important. I made sure my helmet lay flat on my back at all times and concentrated on riding in a straight line, which again helped me cut drag without buying a single piece of equipment or loosening one screw on my bike.