is more aero better?
To take advantage of an aero time trial or triathlon specific bike, one must spend as much time in that position. Countless training hours in the correct position will allow you to adapt physically, metabolically and mentally. Adaptation is crucial for injury prevention and to be physically prepared to ride in aero position. However, if you are only able to stay in that position for 50% of the time, then why ride that specific bike?
A question that is often proposed is "how aero should I go?". The answer is not always as much as possible. If the aero position is too aggressive, you many encounter issues such as upper body discomfort, loss of power or digestive issues. To look at this very question in depth, I worked with local triathlete Patrick Johnson and his triathlon aero position for Ironman Wisconsin.
At the beginning of this year, Patrick completed a dynamic bike fit to find the best position for him to race IMWI 2017. Together we found a position he was happy with, which allowed him to train through the winter and into spring. Once summer arrived his ride volume went up. He started having discomfort in the saddle which consisted of saddle pressure, stomach cramps, lower back pain and a lot of squirming around. Initially I was attributing the stomach cramps to him squirming around on the saddle. For the next two months he tried 6 different saddles. Each saddle was giving a little more relief, however not solving the problem.
During one fit session near the end of this summer, I thought that maybe his good aero position was not really that good. Maybe being a little less aggressive would take the pressure off the saddle. After choosing the saddle he liked best, I raised his aero pads 10mm. I sent him out on the IMWI bike course loop of 38 miles. For reference, 10mm is half the width of a dime.
After his ride, Patrick walked in with the biggest grin on his face. He had no stomach issues or cramping. The front saddle pressure had gone away almost 100%. His bike loop time dropped by 10 minutes by producing the same power output as he had in previous rides.
To put more proof in the pudding, I set Patrick up on the motion analysis Type-R device. After riding in his old aero position for 5 minutes, he was already having front saddle pressure, back pain and his stomach was starting to hurt. In the first image below, you can see his motion capture from being in his old aero position.