Merckx Time Trials

The Merckx time trial for the Tour of Southern Highlands stage race coming up has me thinking about approaches to getting the most speed out while on a traditional road bike. Aero position on a TT bike is what gives the most benefit at race speeds, so the most crucial thing is getting as close to the same position on the road bike as the TT bike.

I know some people and many pros can put out some pretty good power with their elbows on the handlebars as if in the TT position, but that's not going to work for me. I like have a good grip on the bike when I'm pushing hard, and also don't want to have to pay attention to every hole in the road in addition to concentrating on going hard.

Anquetil was able to get into a very aero position on the road bike that was similar to time trialists today but with hands in the drops. In this excellent animated gif you can see if compared to world TT champion Tony Martin:

Simple enough, right? The issue is that on the TT bike you can position everything to kind of force your body into the correct position while still having a firm grip on the bike, and on the road bike you have to hold your body in that position. So I've been trying to do the following to keep my position on the road bike the same as the TT bike:

FOREARMS STRAIGHT

For me when I'm low enough that my back is straight and my shoulders are low, I can hold the handlebars high up in the drops close to the shifters and my forearms are straight. This would change for everyone depending on you setup and body geometry.

HEAD LOW

You've got to get your head really low to get aero. I know when I'm low enough because it's hard to see more than 30ft ahead and I can feel the wind on my back. Someone once told me when they do time trials they don't even try to look ahead very far, and make sure they are going straight on the road by keeping the line on the side of the road in the same place.

SQUEEZE TOGETHER FORWARD

Squeeze your shoulders, elbows, head together as much as reasonable towards an invisible point forward. This is hard to do on the road bike vs the TT bike, again because the TT bike holds you in the position and you can essentially push against it, but on the road bike you have to hold yourself in that position which takes energy. I usually only do this when descending to get maximum aero benefit from the higher speeds.

SEAT HIGHER AND FORWARD

When getting aero on my road bike set up my knees bang up against my chest; basically everything needs to be rotated up and forward in order to get the same position as on the TT bike.

Lastly, I think just getting into that position and training in it is the best way to find that perfect balance of putting out max power while getting max aero benefit.

(Merckx photo: Yuzuru Sunada) via: cyclingreporter