You might be a professional time trialist, a hardcore triathlete, or even just an avid rider, but one thing is certain: drag is there to slow you down. Drag accounts for about 90% of the resistance a cyclist faces on the road. Sure, there might be some pretty steep hills and maybe a pothole or two, but all else being constant, drag is a cyclist’s #1 enemy.
According to NASA, drag is the aerodynamic force that opposes an object’s motion through the air. Drag is generated by every part of the object; in cycling it is generated by you, your bike, and all of your equipment. The aerodynamic resistance created by drag depends on the shape and texture of the object. As air flows around the object, the velocity and pressure change, producing a negative force on the object. In other words, drag is a force that depends not only on the area the cyclist occupies while riding, but also on the position you and your equipment have when moving through the air.
For all these reasons, drag has been the primary focus of modern cycling. There has been a recent surge in aero equipment and gadgets that claim to reduce your drag. However, these are tested in very controlled conditions and will not necessarily deliver the same results to every cyclist that uses them.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that aerodynamic drag is very personal, as it depends on you and your equipment setup, and while some things may work for someone else, they won’t necessarily work for you. Crowdsourcing your aerodynamic position is not optimal, and testing is required to really maximize your performance.
Alphamantis Technologies is the only company that can accurately test the coefficient of drag while a cyclist rides their bike in real time. The Track Aero System (TAS) allows cyclists to test both their equipment and their positioning in order to minimize drag and maximize performance.
Until you can get your personal AeroTest done, we have developed a simple checklist of things you can do to reduce drag. Remember that these are not guaranteed to work for everyone, but they are a great starting point:
1. Get low! In order to reduce drag you need to minimize the area of your body that will be facing the wind directly. By bending your body forward at the waist, the air will flow closer to your back. This reduces the drag force pulling you back, thus decreasing the power needed to achieve the same speed.
2. Dress to impress! We have all heard about it, yet we still see people riding with loose clothing. The most aerodynamic outfit will be a texturized skin suit that covers your upper arms and legs, along with tight high socks. Needless to say, your clothing needs to stay within UCI regulations. While a full suit may be the best option, we recognize there are some people who opt not to wear it. For example, triathletes sometimes choose to compete with a sleeveless suit in order to be more comfortable during the swim part of the competition.
3. Arm position: Yes, it is true, the aero bars are the most aero tool for arm positioning. We recommend tilting your arms slightly above parallel, but some riders might not find it the most comfortable position. What happens if you are not allowed to use aero bars? Just remember to stay low and keep your arms steady.
4. Thirst quencher: There are many tests and claims that will tell you what water bottle is better and where to position it to achieve better aerodynamics. The truth is, our test results have not shown a general rule for water bottle and placement. It varies between athletes, bikes, and bottles.
5. Helmets: Make sure it is snug and well clipped. It will not only save your life in case of an accident – a helmet that doesn’t move around will create less air resistance and thus make you faster.
6. Your hairdo! If you have lost your hair (just like the author of this post) you have nothing to worry about: we are aero! But for all of those unlucky people who still have their hair, your hairstyle will impact your drag numbers. Whether you have long luscious locks or you decide to go for a short Ruby Rose “do,” just make sure it is all tucked in to your helmet to avoid unwanted additional drag.
These are really the basics that every rider should know. And if you’re not already doing them, they’ll help shave off a few seconds. But if you can already check most of them off, and if you want a significant increase in speed, then it’s time to come test with us. Let us help you #FindYourAERO!