Should I Buy a TT Bike?

JWT-finishSo you are thinking about buying a Time Trial (or Triathlon) bike. You want to know which is the best one to buy for you. Several questions come up. First of all:

What are you going to use it for? Are you going to enter time trials only? Are you going in to the world of Triathlon / Duathlon? What is your budget? Do you really want to spend a lot of money on a bike you may not use that much? Can you get by with one good road bike instead of two average bikes? You should know the answer to these questions before you make a purchase.

A lot of the next few paragraphs will be covered in brief in the FAQ section below, so feel free to skip to it if you want the “Reader’s Digest” condensed version.

Looking Back at My Own Experience
As an amateur time trialist and occasional duathlete (“dry-athlete”) I bought an aero bike for one reason, to go faster. That was it. Upon retrospect I’m glad I did, but I have some observations along the way …

It Requires Extra Training
It’s harder to ride an aero bike. It takes different muscles and different control techniques. I had to train for quite some time before I was comfortable enough on the aero bars to see a significant increase in speed. It took several months before I could stay down on the bars for more than a minute at a time, due to different pain points in the arms and shoulders. Also, it’s not as stable. Do not ride on aero bars in a group. Please.

It Gets Expensive
Buying accessories for two bikes is twice as expensive, obviously. But once I was “hooked” on the Quest for Speed I found myself buying things like expensive aero wheels, $200 skin suits, shoe covers, aero gloves, $400 aero helmets, power meters, etc. Beware! Time Trial bikes are the “Gateway Drug” for BSA Syndrome (Bicycle Spending Addiction).

The Competition is Tougher
I went from getting my ass kicked in the Eddy Merckx Division to getting my ass kicked in the Masters 50+ division. On the positive side, it motivated me to lose weight and do some serious interval training.

About losing weight:
Yes it matters. Some will tell you it doesn’t. Physicist will argue (correctly) that in ideal conditions, the weight of the rider will have minimal effect on speed over a smooth, flat course. However, they will also agree that the following factors are affected by weight:

  • Body aerodynamics
  • Road friction (bumpy road)
  • Turns
  • Changes in elevation, even minor
  • Bike Balance and effort expended to stay upright

The general rule I have learned from my own experience is that “Weight is Freight” and by losing 10 lbs I increased my average speed over a 9.4 mile course by almost 1 mph.

Below are some frequently asked questions. If you have other questions, please contact us on our Facebook page.


Do I need a TT bike to race in Time Trials?
No. A certified road bike is welcome in any time trial and is legal to race in any USA Cycling event. Most race directors are now even offering a separate division (Eddy Merckx) for those with road bikes and road gear.

What is the difference between a TT bike and a Triathlon bike?
Taken from
“If you put a triathlon bike side-by-side with a time trial bike, it would be hard to tell the difference. In fact, at first glance, they look identical. Both are slender road bikes with aero bars designed for performance. You wouldn’t want to accidentally mix the bikes up, however, as each is specially engineered to fit the task at hand.

The most significant difference is comfort. By design, triathlon bikes are made to go the distance. Triathletes often ride through hilly terrain, cover distances up to 112 miles during races and must transition to running quickly and efficiently. In contrast, time trial riders get off the bike completely spent. Their bikes are designed for only one thing—speed. As such, triathlon bikes favor a more relaxed position and a lighter frame than time trial bikes.

Seat Tube Angle
Triathlon bikes often have a steeper seat tube angle, which pushes riders’ hips forward and keeps their hamstrings from working too hard, saving strength for the run. However, time trial bikes must adhere to International Cycling Union (ICU) requirements mandating that the saddle nose of the seat tube be 5 cm from the center of the bike’s bottom bracket. The positioning on a time trial bike is intended to help the rider obtain the maximum amount of power from his legs.”

Can I race in Time Trials with a Triathlon bike?
Depends on who is governing it. If it is a UCI race and they are measuring frames, your Triathlon bike may not meet the requirements. However, most local USA Cycling event promoters realize that using a Triathlon bike is not that much of an advantage over a UCI legal TT bike and will let you race with it.

Can’t I go just as fast just by adding aero bars to my road bike?
Adding aero bars to your road bike and mastering that position will most likely increase your speed on a time trial, provided they are installed correctly and the bike is properly fitted to you. However, the aero bike has a different frame, with different geometry than a road bike, designed to get you lower to reduce drag. In the images below you can see that John is at least 15 degrees closer to horizontal than Angie, who has “clip on” aero bars on her road bike.

Angie on a road bike with aero bars

Angie on a road bike with aero bars

John on a Quintana Roo CD 0.1 with different geometry

John on a Quintana Roo CD 0.1 with different geometry

Who is Eddy Merckx and why does he have a division?
Eddy is a retired pro cyclist who won the world championship three times, the Tour de France and the Giro d’Italia five times and the Veuelta a Espana once. He never used a time trial bike in any of his championships (or so the story goes.) We find it interesting that Eddy Merckx Bicycles now sells a complete Time Trial and Triathlon line of aero bikes.

Is a TT bike faster than a road bike?
Complex question. On a flat, smooth course, a rider who is trained to ride a TT bike will be faster than they will be on a road bike the majority of the time, since the primary impediment to speed on a flat, smooth course is aerodynamic drag. Even though TT bikes tend to be slightly heavier than road bikes, they are designed to reduce aerodynamic drag significantly.

What is more important on a TT bike, the frame, the wheels or the components?
This is largely personal preference, but the consensus of riders on our Facebook group is that frame is number 1, followed by aero wheels, and then components. After all, you are buying the bike because of aerodynamics, not weight reasons, and components don’t contirbute to reduction of aerodynamic drag as much as frame and wheels.

Do I have to buy all the other stuff, like a skin suit, aero helmet and shoe covers?
You can in fact buy speed. This article shows the advantages of certain items as opposed to the projected cost. However, here is a short list in order of importance to reducing drag, and therefor increase speed:

  • Aerodynamic position. Basically, the lower you can get, the smoother the airflow over your body
  • Aerodynamic helmet. Since it’s up front, it is a major source of drag
  • Aerodynamic front wheel/spokes. Ditto
  • Skin suit or “speed” suit. Reducing drag adds speed
  • Aerodynamic gloves
  • Arm covers
  • Shoe covers
  • Shaving your legs. No kidding. This has been shown to reduce a 40K time trial time by as much as 80 seconds.

Airport Time Trial Summary

Last Airport TT of the Year a Success

by John Tenney
Airport TT #10 line upA successful season came to end on October 7th, as Topview Sports hosted the 10th and final (for this year) Airport Time Trial on Heintzelman Blvd.

This is a popular and successful series. This year, for the first time, overall results were kept and tabulated, and sponsors are providing funds for trophies for several classes (to be awarded at a future date).

Overall results are posted here.

Our own Hourglass Cycling team had several members make the results, including two podiums. Chuck Peabody won the “Eddy Merckx” division, John Tenney placed third in the Masters 50+. Randy Durkee was close behind in 4th in Masters 50+. David Dixon was 6th and Bill Edgbert placed 15th, only making a single race due to scheduling difficulties.

Chuck Peabody, winner of the Eddy Merckx division

Chuck Peabody, winner of the Eddy Merckx division

Randy Durkee - 4th in Masters 50+

Randy Durkee – 4th in Masters 50+

Dave Dixon, (6th Masters 50+) and Connie Houlihan (7th Women Cat 4) after race #10

Dave Dixon, (6th Masters 50+) and Connie Houlihan (7th Women Cat 4) after race #10

Bill Edgbert, 15th in Masters 50+

Bill Edgbert, 15th in Masters 50+

The course and venue have been posted in previous articles.


It started ominously with a rain storm looming to the south.

Fortunately, it moved off to the east and not a drop fell on the course. The temperature was pleasant, in the mid 70s. Other than a nasty wind coming from the south it seemed to be a perfect night.

The light stayed with us until all post race activities, including several announcements by Tim Molyneaux concerning next year’s plans. Stay tuned, as we plan to be involved in the planning stages of next year’s series, including a possible bid for the State TT Championship.

Race Report

John Tenney, 3rd Masters 50+

John Tenney, 3rd Masters 50+

I got a decent warmup but switched to a shallower front wheel due to the wind from the south. This turned out to be unnecessary as the reader will see.

As the race started there was a significant head wind for the “out” part of the out and back. I noticed it right away as my speed was less than it should be for the indicated power output. As I turned the last bend towards the 180 degree turnaround I saw my speed pick up and realized that the wind had died and we would not have a tailwind on the way back. Disappointed!

As expected, when I made the turn the speed did not rise significantly. I realized a PR was only going to possible by burying myself in pain. I picked it up, and the legs started complaining. I really needed Jens Voigt’s “Shut Up Legs” sticker for this section. My goal was to beat 18 minutes, and thus average over 23 mph for the course. This has been my ongoing goal all year. I might have made it if the tailwind had stayed. As it was, I ended up with 18:11 for a 22.92 mph average. A new personal record for me, but of course I am disappointed I didn’t break the 23 mph barrier.

My Power Meter output and analysis for the race

My Power Meter output and analysis for the race

Charity Classic 40K Time Trial Race Report

John Tenney finish at Charity Classic 40K TTOrlando Runners and Riders held the Third Annual Charity Classic Time Trial on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014. Last year the event was held in Clermont, with a finish at the top of Sugarloaf Mountain Road. This year the course was a 40K (24.8 miles) out and back on Deer Park Road in St. Cloud, FL. The charities featured this year were Harvest Field Ministries, Cure on Wheels, Amateur Athlete Assistance and The Sean Ashman Foundation.

The Course / Venue
This is a great venue. Deer Park Road is in a remote area on the east side of Osceola county. The address of the southern end is 5779 County Route 419, St. Cloud oddly enough. It is a fairly smooth road, with no noticeable rough areas. There are some turns but they are gradual in nature. Other than a few rises to go over a creek on a small bridge it is basically flat. To our knowledge, there is no other useable stretch of road in Central Florida where a 40K out and back would be possible without stopping highway traffic. Speaking of traffic, it was very light. The occasional pick up truck pulling an airboat on a trailer, semi truck cutting across from 192 up to Nova road and then on to 520, or a motorcyclist stretching his legs, that’s pretty much it. During my entire 72 minute ride I saw four vehicles.

Facilities are another issue. There are no convenient stores within miles. Make sure your car is topped off before this trip. We brought a porta potty in for this one (which they put in the wrong place – 7 miles away from the start) but in the future, we are looking in to the Latter Day Saints church at the south end as a launch point.

Weather / Environment
The weather was really perfect. It was dead calm as we lined up to start. Temperature was 77 degrees at the start and 82 at the finish. I will remember to bring bug spray next time though, as the gnats were out in force. The sky was a high overcast, which broke through to partly cloudy by the end of the race.

Getting things ready at the start.  L to R, John Tenney, Ward Bates, William Thomas, Deputy Israel Davila

Getting things ready at the start. L to R, John Tenney, Ward Bates, William Thomas, Deputy Israel Davila

The Race
I was running around trying to get all the last minute details done before I got on my bike. I got maybe a one mile warmup by riding quickly up to the Nova road corner and turning around. I wanted to be the last to start to make sure everyone got off OK, and to make sure William Thomas (doing start/finish duties for the first time) and Dave Severn (taking photos) didn’t need anything. I came up to the line second to last, as Tom McNeill was getting his affairs in order at the porta potty. He started 2 minutes after me.

I was still rushed as my start time came up. I barely managed to stuff a shot block in my mouth, put the wrapper back in my pocket and start my Garmin as William gave me the “go” sign. Probably lost a few seconds there. Then I couldn’t get clipped in. Another few seconds gone. Ah what the heck, it’s a long race.

Tom McNeill from Kyle's Bike Shop won the Eddy Merckx division with a 1:05:55

Tom McNeill from Kyle’s Bike Shop won the Eddy Merckx division with a 1:05:55

My goal was to keep my HR at or below 140 until the final stretch, and that way I was hoping to “negative split” (do the return leg faster than the out leg) so I jumped up to 22 mph and about 138 on HR. I pushed a little towards the end of the 5 mile segment (first of five in my head) and hit mile 5 at 13:53. That was a little fast as the HR went above 140, so I backed off for the next 5. Tom McNeill passed me somewhere around here. Young guys!

I caught up to Crockett in the second segment. He had started a couple of minutes ahead of me and was taking it easy, since this was his first long TT. We talked for a second and I pushed on.

Crockett Bohannon waiting for his starting signal from William Thomas

Crockett Bohannon waiting for his starting signal from William Thomas

The turn was really tight. I didn’t unclip, but I slowed down to nearly a stop to make it. Was really glad that Osceola County Sheriff Deputy Israel Davila was watching the turn for us. That is a very comfortable feeling! Gave him a wave and headed back north.

Suddenly I have a head wind. Where did this come from? Morning breeze I guess, rising up from the ENE. It made a difference. I was not able to maintain 20 mph without pushing the HR up so I just settled in at 140bpm. Also, my left arm was hurting from the aero position. Way too often for my liking, I had to sit up and shake it out. Need to figure that out. I also need to tip my seat down just a hair, as it was starting to hurt in the “forward regions.”

Segment 3 was my worst, at 15:33, which is just over 19 mph average. Once I got to the middle of the course though, there was more tree cover and less effect of the wind. Segment 4 I picked it up again and did 14:29, which was my second best (full) segment. The last segment was only 4.8 miles but finished in 13:35, which is the highest average speed, probably.

Chuck fought me off for 6 miles.  He managed to stay 3 seconds ahead of me at the finish

Chuck fought me off for 6 miles. He managed to stay 3 seconds ahead of me at the finish

I got Chuck Peabody in my sights somewhere in Segment 4 and it pushed me. It really helps to have a “rabbit” out there as a goal. He knew I was behind him too, as he started picking it up. I didn’t catch him. He stayed in front of me by three seconds at the finish. Good job Chuck! It still helped me finish with 1:12:13, which beats my last time on that course of 1:13:50, when we tried it out a month earlier.

This is a great course. It should be a great race. More people should come out and try this. I know the distance scares them but it shouldn’t. Why should someone who can do a century be afraid of a 25 mile time trial? I like Crockett’s approach, just ride it like a solo ride, and try to do a negative split. He did great, beating his goal of 1:20.

I hope we see more people at the next one.

Video of starts and finishes:

Bull session after the race.  Actually waiting for Bill to return from the potty so we can do podiums

Bull session after the race. Actually waiting for Bill to return from the potty so we can do podiums

Podium for Eddy Merckx class.  1st:  Tom McNeill, 2nd: Chuck Peabody, 3rd:  Crockett Bohannon

Podium for Eddy Merckx class. 1st: Tom McNeill, 2nd: Chuck Peabody, 3rd: Crockett Bohannon

Masters 50+ Podium 1st: Carl Westergren, 2nd: Edgar Leano,  3rd: Bill Edgbert

Masters 50+ Podium
1st: Carl Westergren,
2nd: Edgar Leano,
3rd: Bill Edgbert

My workout on the Training Peaks website

Race Report: Airport TT #6

Airport TT #6 Race ReportRace Report for John Tenney at Airport Time Trial #6, May 13, 2014.

Venue and Conditions

The venue has been discussed previously (as excellent for a time trial) with one change tonight, all riders were entered to run 2 laps instead of one, making the entire course length 13.9 miles.

The weather was party cloudy and not too warm, around 82 degrees, but very windy. A strong crosswind from the east blew in at 15-25 mph. This made the race very interesting. Only 15 riders showed up, which is very unusual. Typically this race draws 30 to 40 riders. Claudio Mayol volunteered to take pictures using our camera, so we got a lot of great pictures. He has shown his hidden talent as a photographer.

Yes I gave Claudio a smile as I was trying to clip in.  I started pedaling hard right after, I promise

Yes I gave Claudio a smile as I was trying to clip in. I started pedaling hard right after, I promise

Clipped in now, and switching to the aerobars (left hand is on already)

Clipped in now, and switching to the aerobars (left hand is on already)

My Race Description

In the first race with our new sponsor on board, Hourglass Insurance Solutions, I was the first of three Masters 50+ to start, with Brian Davis and Kevin Clark right behind me. Obviously I expected to see them go by pretty quickly, as they are very fast riders. I started out with a relatively easy pace, as I had no idea how the 14 miles would treat me. Except for the first climb out of the taxiway overpass, I kept my speed at 21+ mph until the first turn. Brian caught me at 3:50 in, which was a bit discouraging. Kevin didn’t catch me until after the first turn, around 12 minutes, which was encouraging, as I noticed he isn’t blowing by me like he has in the past. I was able to keep him in sight longer, although he is still 3 or 4 mph faster than me.

The dog-leg towards the turn was downwind, and it felt great pushing it up to 25-27 mph up to the turn. Of course, turning back in to the tailwind was not so fun. I dropped below 20 mph in the beginning, but then I got a rabbit! Roger Hungerford, riding on a road bike, appeared in my cross hairs. Roger is 63 years old, very nice guy, and would definitely be faster than me if he had the aero bike and aero gear that I have. However, on his road bike, he was just a little slower than I am, and gave me something to chase. Probably made me push a little harder than I should have, as my heart rate went up to nearly max at one point, but I did manage to catch him in a slight headwind section. Keeping him at bay after that was my new goal.

One incident kind of marred the race for Roger and I, as we came up to the mid-point turn. We had one junior rider, who was being followed by him mom with blinkers on. This is OK, but taking up the entire right lane is not. As we cam under the last bridge we had to go in to the left lane to prepare for our 180 turn, and there was traffic coming from behind. We both had to slow down until traffic passed by. Probably cost us both 10 seconds at least. My suggestion is that if you are going to follow behind your junior rider that you get all the way to the left of the lane, leaving room for a rider to pass without leaving the bike lane by very much.

The pickup truck was a mom following her son.  She was only looking out for him, which I get, but she kind of got in the way of our 180 turn

The pickup truck was a mom following her son. She was only looking out for him, which I get, but she kind of got in the way of our 180 turn

The second lap was painful. My saddle sores starting making their presence known. I had to stand up and shake things out a few times. Each time I did this Roger got closer. Fortunately the tailwind section helped me pull away a bit, and turning back in to the wind, my aero setup helped me stay away.

Finished strong, under my goal of 39 minutes, at 38:40.

Power Agent and Endomondo data (Endo includes cool down lap)

Power Agent and Endomondo data (Endo includes cool down lap)

Airport Time Trial Race Report

When I can, I like to make a "Trophy Pic" like this for my wall

When I can, I like to make a “Trophy Pic” like this for my wall

Airport TT Race Report: John Tenney
As has been said previously, the Airport TT venue is an excellent place to time trial. In addition to the wide bike lanes, today we had support from the Orlando Police (who left two squad cars at the start line with lights on to slow down traffic) and a representative from GOAA Ops who gave us up to date weather. Great support for this race!

And the weather was definitely an issue. It was raining when I got the course. I waited in the car for 15 minutes for it to stop. When it finally did stop raining it still looked pretty ominous. Fortunately Claudio Mayol (a race volunteer, there every event) convinced me to stay and at least ride the course. So I took a ride up and down Heintzelman and it wasn’t that bad although very windy. The south end of the course looked really ominous – with dark skies and thunder clouds. Still, I got back to the start totally dry. I decided to go on with it, but I elected to do only one lap (Tim was giving us the option of 1 or 2 laps, 7 or 14 miles.)

The 14 milers left first, and then the junior 7 milers. I was the first of the adult 7 milers to start so I expected to be passed early and often. Oddly enough the first guy to catch me did so about a half mile before the turn and he inspired me to try and catch him. I stayed at least 25 yards behind him (and everybody) so no drafting took place, don’t worry. Another guy caught me just after I made the turn and I let him go, and then decided to chase him. Although I never caught him I kept him in sight. No one else caught me the rest of the ride. I was trying to catch Clay Zinnert in front of me but he is improving and although I gained a little I never seemed to get close enough to make a difference. Clay did a 20:31 which is not his best but hey, before this year that would have beaten me every time!

It was difficult to say where the wind was coming from although I was getting knocked around a lot. I’d say it was a crosswind from the east most of the time. When the course takes the little jaunt to the west at the south end I did feel a little push.

There was (for once) no traffic affecting the 180 degree turn. I slowed to 16 or so because the road was damp but got right on the pedals and picked it up again right away. Except for the first climb from under the bridge my analysis shows I did not go below 21 mph on either leg. That is an improvement.

I crossed the line still pushing, although starting to run out of gas. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. I finished in 18:38 which beats my old record by 20 seconds. Average speed over the 6.94 mile course was 22.35 mph, also a new personal record for any time trial.

It started raining shortly after I finished so I headed for the car, loaded up and drove home very excited about a great effort tonight.

14th out of 16 at tonight's Airport TT, but a new personal record of 18:38, average speed of 22.35 mph

14th out of 16 at tonight’s Airport TT, but a new personal record of 18:38, average speed of 22.35 mph

USA Cycling Time Trials

ORR TT starting lineIn addition to the Airport Time Trials, Orlando Runners and Riders puts on a twice a month time trial (during daylight savings only) on Innovation Way, also on Tuesday nights. They are scheduled so as not to conflict with the Airport races.

This is also a USA Cycling points race. Finishers in rated categories who are USA Cycling members will see their ranking improve (or not) on their USA Cycling home page.

The course is a little longer, 9.5 miles, so it is a little more of a workout. It is also basically flat with two high speed turns in addition the 180 degree turnaround.

The USAC 9.5 mile Course for the ORR TT

The USAC 9.5 mile Course for the ORR TT

All races register at 6:30 pm for a start shortly thereafter (usually 7pm.)

2014 Schedule:
March 11th and 25th
April 15th and 22nd
May 6th and 20th
June 10th and 24th
July 8th and 22nd
August 12th and 26th
September 9th and 23rd
October 14th and 28th

Orlando Airport Time Trials

by John W. Tenney
Starting-lineupOne of the best ways to check your cycling progress is a time trial, and for those in the Orlando area one of the best events is Topview Sports’ Airport Time Trial Series. Promoted and overseen by Tim Molyneaux, this event is drawing larger crowds than ever.

With some new sponsors this year, the event is even more attractive, with race day prizes awarded. New sponsors include Winter Park Cycles and The Fit Lab

Races are held on Tuesday evenings (see schedule below) and typically end well before the light fails, but the Heintzelman Blvd venue offers excellent street lights for those that want to ride later. The course is an out and back with a total length of 6.94 miles. It’s basically flat except when it goes under a couple of aircraft bridges (see photo below) although the wind is usually a factor, since it is in a large, open area (airport duh) the breeze can be strong.

SW 737 on Aircraft Bridge at Airport Time Trial

Fairly common site on either of the two aircraft bridges that cross the route

The 2014 schedule is as follows:

January 21 (5pm start)
February 18 (5pm start)
March 18 (6pm start from here on)
April 8 and 29
May 13 (special 14 mile course)
June 3
August 5
September 2 and 30

The results are updated (live) using a pretty cool app called WebScorer, which posts the results to their website. Here are the complete results for TT #3.

The Orlando Runners and Riders team is starting to appear in respectable numbers at these events. While we are yet to be a threat to the podium, our times are improving and what’s more important, we are having fun.

Orlando Airport Time Trial series

Orlando Runners and Riders results from Airport TT #3