Is a TT Bike Worth It? Race File Comparison
Undoubtedly one of the most common questions I get asked coaching AG triathletes is whether or not investing in a TT bike is worth it. Spending my first few years of triathlon in the US meant I have always been surrounded by TT bikes, you would be hard pressed to find a road bike in a non-draft race. TT bikes came first and so did the athletes riding them. Returning to Australia in 2015 I was shocked at the lack of TT bikes in the racks at non-draft races. How an elite junior or age group athlete vying for a world championship spot would line up on a road bike with a road helmet was beyond me. The fact these athletes were spending upwards of $7k on shiny new road bikes with a calendar full of non-draft races baffled me.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a data nerd. I spend hours a day analysing data and after studying bike power files throughout my university years, this is where I am most comfortable. Luckily for Grace that means she gets to benefit from my OCD when it comes to bike setups. As we push towards age group world champs next weekend we have left no watt unturned when it comes to Grace's bike and equipment. Grace is now riding a Liv Evow TT bike, Enve 6.7s with latex tubes, Conti GP 4000s II tyres, giro aerohead helmet and long sleeve suit (where legal.) She has also had a bike fit from Ryan at 3D Bike Fit. These changes have changed her from a virtual sail in the wind to being super slippery.
On top of Grace's setup being extremely quick, she also looks pretty mean. So mean that when she rocked up at the ACT duathlon champs last week, heads were turning and a friendly debate was started on whether or not the course was a TT bike course. There aren't many non-draft triathlon courses in the world I would advise my athletes against riding a TT bike - think the Alpe d'Huez triathlon. This certainly wasn't one of them. The course in question was a 20km out and back on a straight road with 327m of elevation gain over two small climbs and a 15kph head wind on the way out and tail/cross wind on the way back. In my eyes the perfect TT bike course - if ever there was one.
With Grace deep in her prep for ITU AG World Standard Distance Champs and an almost fully dialled setup and her sister Ellie of the same weight preparing for ITU AG World Sprint Distance Champs (draft legal) and racing on her road bike we had the perfect opportunity to compare the differences between the setups. Here are our findings.
Although Ellie's average power was 62W (1.2W/Kg) higher than her sister's, Grace's setup allowed her to out-bike Ellie by over a minute and in doing so set the quickest women's bike split of the day on the way to second overall. There were also no problems riding a 60mm front wheel in the wind despite Grace's low weight of only 54kg.
When comparing the average and normalised power of both athletes we can definitively say we have an answer to our question - forgoing a severe lack of bike skills or huge gusting winds, yes it is worth riding a TT bike in a non-draft race and although we at JT Multisport specialise in finding every free watt possible for our athletes, there are huge benefits on offer for everyone!