Monday, 18 July 2016

Triathlon Bike Setup

Triathletes. Covering bikes in food and drink since 1974...

As a middle/long distance triathlete, turning your bike into a mobile buffet is a rite of passage. TT riders have beautiful stripped-down machines of elegance and power; we have a slightly more aerodynamic version of the lunch trolley.
Moving to a new bike this season (well, the second half at least, thanks to the previous owner managing to break the saddle clamp and Canyon taking months to send a new one) has prompted a rethink of my nutrition and hydration setup.

Bottle/tool storage

I've gone for the X-Lab Super Wing here. I used the Turbo Wing on my QR Cd0.1 but the Canyon's laid-back seat tube and wide saddle clamp means that's no longer an option. I decided to take X-Lab up on their offer of assistance and sent them some photos of my saddle; they were very quick to respond and confirmed the Super Wing would work - happily they were right and it looks great!
I had a bit of a debate as to whether I really needed two cages at the rear. For middle distance I've always had one 750ml bottle and a tub of tools/inner tube etc in the other. For O3 two bottles seems to work, but for IM I think I'll need to pick up at least one bottle from the course. The Super Wing is wide enough to fit a small bag between the cages (the Turbo Wing was a fair bit narrower) so I may move the tools there and have a bottle and a spare at the back.
I'm tempted by the X-Lab Gorilla/Gorilla XT cages but they're too expensive for me to buy on a whim at the moment. I've always used the fairly cheap Elite cages, with a postman's rubber band to give the bottle a bit of stability.

'Bento Box'

My first one of these was a fairly 'orrible one from Powerbar, but at a race recently I picked up a Bontrager Pro Speed Box. It's nicely designed - the attachment straps enter through holes in the compartment and velcro inside the box - and reasonably aerodynamic I think. On the old bike it was up against the head tube/cables but the top of the Canyon slopes down so it's probably catching the wind a bit. However, there's so much in front of it while I'm riding (drink, arms, computer) that I doubt it's that significant.

BTA Bottle

It's becoming fairly well established that the best place for your drink is between your arms, even if it's just a normal bottle in a cage zip-tied between the bars. Various drink systems exist but all have a reputation for becoming portable showers and gradually rotting your headset with corrosive sugary drinks. I'm coming to the conclusion that there isn't really a 'best' solution in that regard as, if you're going to refill it while riding, there's always an opportunity for taking an electrolyte shower. The X-Lab Torpedo Versa System and the Profile FC25/FC35 were both well written up in terms of aerodynamics; I eventually went for the Profile FC35 on the basis that it's deep enough to keep the drink low and hopefully away from shower range. It doesn't come with a 'bite valve' which is a pain so I added an old one from a Speedfil. I've had a soft spot for Profile ever since experiencing their customer service a while ago immediately sending out spare parts for aero bars that I'd bought second hand when I only emailed to ask if they sold them separately!
A first ride with the FC35 demonstrated as expected that it only 'showers' when it's fairly full (very small leak around the straw) or when I was refilling it (really my fault and will happen with basically any system!). The computer mount for my old 310XT is a nice touch - though they could probably have gone for a Garmin-specific mount rather than what is probably a fairly un-aerodynamic round bar. The small basket at the back held gels without incident despite roads that were capable of launching bottles from the Elite cages on the rear (couldn't find a rubber band!) - I've heard of issues with things bouncing out but had no issues myself.


I'll be giving this thing a proper run at the Outlaw next weekend. A 70-miler yesterday convinced me it's a fairly decent setup with a bit of tweaking (notably, the bottle launch - though I didn't have a rubber band, and the FC35 sliding forward on the aero bars). Wish me luck!

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