Practical Aerodynamics for the Triathlete
Featuring the Cervelo P5X
Cronometro has been working with triathletes since the earliest days of the sport. We’ve had great success by focusing on what we call “Practical Aerodynamics”
So what do we mean by that?
Practical Aerodynamics is simply a measure of the optimal efficiency that a rider can sustain over the course of an event (as well as the training for the event). Optimal efficiency is determined by a number of factors, most notably: aerodynamics, power, and comfort. Balancing all three is key. You may want to be aero on the bike, for example, but your optimal aero position may cause a power drop off, or be so uncomfortable that it causes problems in the run later on in the race.
The Cronometro strategy for achieving practical aerodynamics is a two-prong attack that centers on 1) Bike fit and 2) Bike Set-up.
Bike fit is a whole world in and of itself and is something we can take care of in the fit room. You can read about our fit process here, but suffice it to say that a good aero fit will help you find your optimal position, one that balances your power output and comfort. Further fit advantages can be discovered in a session at the wind tunnel.
Getting the Aero advantage on your bike
The second strategy, Bike Set-up, is in some ways the easiest of fixes. With proper use and purchase of the best technologies and accessories, you can make some of your greatest gains in terms of speed and efficiency. Wheels make a huge difference. Crank arm length, too.
All in all, the real trick to achieving gains in your set-up is to understand that the basic goal of getting an aero advantage is to lower your air drag. It sounds simple enough, but it is amazing how poorly equipped many Tri bikes are on event day.
Something as simple as water bottle placement on your tri-bike can have enormous effects on air drag. Take a look at this P2 set-up that you see so often at races:
The rear bottle cages are at a terrible angle, and the dual bottles create a lot of unnecessary drag. The front water system is basically a parachute, add the bottle on the down tube, and now we’ve managed to turn this wonderfully engineered P2 Aero bike into the equivalent of a semi truck. With just a few tweaks in position, a good aero bento box, and a better hydro system, the same P2 suddenly takes back its aero potential:
The Cervelo P5X, the King of Practical Aerodynamics
Recently, Cervelo took on the challenge of creating the best, fastest, most complete Tri Bike on the market today. They attended as many triathlon events as possible and took thousands of pictures of bike set ups (very much like the P2s above). The idea was to see what people were doing with their Tri Bikes at actual events and see if they could then engineer their way to a better set up.
The aero design of the bike is the latest iteration of their already top-of-the-market Tri Bikes. Indeed, it is the fastest Cervelo of all time. But what you can’t see are the design elements that allow the bike 1) to be custom fit for the rider, and 2) to be set up for race day to get the full aerodynamic advantage.
We’ve been fitting Cervelos for years, and the the P5X has all of the custom fit benefits for which Cervelo is famous. The P5X was literally designed to give the rider a custom fit, allowing both macro and micro adjustments not possible with any other bike. Again, optimal fit is something we can show you better in the fit room than talk about here.
But the benefits of the set up features on the P5X are pretty easily demonstrated. Take a flip through this slide show, and you’ll see what we mean. We packed the P5X full up with race day items and still had room to spare. The P5X turned all of the race “baggage” elements and turned them into an aero advantage.
By creating an incredible amount of storage capability on the bike, the P5X allows you to tuck away everything inside the bike…including gear, food, tubulars, tools. All of those things that create air drag? Gone. With the wind.
It’s hard to see a bike so highly engineered, and one at the very top of the market food chain, and think: “hey, that’s practical.” But that’s exactly what this bike is. Cervelo managed to turn practical into an aero advantage.
If you’re looking for that bike that puts you on the podium, come by the shop and take a look at one of our P5Xs. It’s good to be king!