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Is This The Most Aero Bike Racer In The World? | Rethinking Cycling Aerodynamics


– Today I'm in mid Wales and I've not just come here for the stunning backdrop behind but instead I'm going to meet a gentleman who is actually re-designing and re-thinking aerodynamics when it comes to road racing and time trials And while reckon you're going to absolutely love it because, get this, he's even having his own handlebars made for him in Taiwan

(low electronic sounds) (upbeat electronic music) Right, here we go! Couple of bikes left there for me to check out in privacy I've got to say, these handlebars, they are different to anything I've every seen before They remind me kind of, I don't know, like at trekking bar 'cause they load of different options for you to put your hands on or anything But they're definitely not for a, for a, relaxed ride I don't reckon This is certainly for a bit of aero-gains

They are pretty long, I've got to say So, hence why they've – both of these bikes have got short stems on We've got a road bike here with disk breaks, but ya, like I say, big old handlebars And then on this one, its a time trial frame, but we've got again, road bars on it We've got an aero front break

I like that, it's pretty cool And, I'll tell you what, these cranks, they are pretty short Ya, 155 mil cranks I don't know what to say about this, really, but let's go meet the guy behind it, David So, I'm going to try and ask him your questions too, 'cause I reckon I'll be thinking what exactly you're thinking

David, great, thank you so much for well, taking me to quite literally the middle of nowhere But we're not here to talk geography What have you done? – Well – Everyone's going to be wondering this They've seen the beautiful shots – Yeah – Tell us, talk us through it – [David] Yeah, well, as all good ideas come to someone they came to me in the middle of the night and I was just wondering how could I get faster on my road bike

Because I'm quite into my aerodynamics and getting faster, and using technology to get as fast as possible And I was just thinking that, obviously, there's nothing to say that aerodynamics don't matter in a road race and primarily a lot of it is down to your frontal area On my previous bike I had 42, 40-centimeter bars, quite a short set-up 'cause I've got a very, for me, 'cause I've got quite a long body And when I got in the aerodynamic position I ended up, my knees were inside my elbows, my elbows are splayed out, and I wasn't particularly aerodynamic And if I was trying to get up for sailer effort I'd be using up far too much energy

So I thought, how can I get my arms in front of my body, into that sort of, quasi time-trial position and get some free speed basically – Yeah, 'cause we see a lot of guys sort of imitating that, you know, you see it when you watch the Tour de France or anything like that, people sort of drooping their hands over the front And for anyone who's tried that at home they probably know it's not the most, it's not the most secure – It's not the most stable – to be playing around with – Yeah, I thought, how can I do something similar to that, potentially more aerodynamic, but yet still have better control of the bike, being able to access my gears, access my breaks if I need to – Well, that's presumably how we got to this

Now, we did obviously talk before I arrived today, and I know you have got some developments of these handlebars, which I'm super interested to see But, just talk us through, then, this set up here What have you got? – So, the bars, we've got very narrow bars These are, at the drops, 25 centimeters wide However, they are flat, so they are about as wide as a 38, 40 bar in the drops

So that gives you the control under the stand, or if you're sprinting However, when you're on the tops, if you're climbing or if you're getting aero, you don't need that width because you're not, you're not pulling on the bars, you're not trying to get any leverage And if you see any of the world top pros climbing quite often they'll have their hands virtually touching anyway, so it doesn't make a difference, really, when it comes down to the control of the bike And the bars angle in slightly, so then we get a bit of overlap with the tops of the bars which are aero-profiled, tiny little bit of padding, and sort of double-wrapped bar tape here – Yeah, yeah there is, it's like gel almost, it's a bit like a wrist support for a keyboard or mac

– Yeah, so I've made my own gel pads to go underneath – Blimey (laughs) It's like another (overlapping dialogue) – You can access your breaks in this position, here But the most aerodynamic and most comfortable position is you sort of hold onto the levers here, and you can, because I've got my eTap here, I can still change gear with my little fingers

– Well that's the thing, I guess really when we see, you know, the guys, like I've already mentioned in, you know, the World Tour races When they've got their hands just drooped up there they have no control You know, they, it's quite, quite a movement isn't it to the actual – Minimal control, you've got your hands here, supposedly for a large pot-hole or whatever you could easily come off It's quite hard to maintain that position and keep your arms in the right position And also you do see them, that they sort of have their arms spread like that, it's potentially not as aerodynamic as a fixed dialed-in position So, getting here allows you to relax your shoulders, shrug them in, and get really small at the front – Yeah, and what sort of extension then are these bars? 'Cause they look, they, you know, do look really, really long

– So, so these, so a typical bar would have a reach of about seven to eight centimeters The reach on this bar, I think is, sixteen- fifteen, sixteen centimeters So, then to get within the constraints of the UCI rules that you can't be more than 5 centimeters in front of the front hub So what I do then is I couple that with a really short stem I've also found if I put a long stem on this and have these long reach bars, that is when your bike starts to feel a bit strange when you're trying to get out the saddle

So, I've found the control aspect is more the, how far your hands are in front of the front hub rather than the actual width – Yeah, and how long then, I mean, when you climb on the hoods what's that like to feel? Is it a bit, a bit twitchy? – Ah, no, not – 'Cause, in my mind it's because of the, the, how narrow they are

– Ah, no, it's not twitchy at all Climbing in the saddle's absolutely fine Climbing out of the saddle absolutely going for it, it feels a bit different, I suppose, because the bars are slightly narrower You have to put more of a force to swing you bike side to side And you do feel that a bit if you're fatigued at the end of a race and you're trying to get out of the saddle

However, I've, I've found that you can negate that by climbing in the drops, because the drops are wide – I used to love seeing (overlapping dialogue) Yeah, yeah and old Rick climbing on the drops

There's something so cool about that But hard as well (laughs) But you've got, so on there you've got a seventy mil stem but on your other bike there, you've got, is it a slightly different flare on the drops, or? – Ah no (overlapping dialogue) Well, those bars are slightly wider so this is a slightly less extreme – Right – So this is the bike I have used the last couple of times in road races and crits

These are 3 centimeters wide in here, so they're twenty-eights – They're twenty-eights! It's so narrow! – These are wide, these are wide (overlapping dialogue) – What I guess is I'm like a forty-two now though, it feels like – I bet it feels like a truck – It feels like a truck, it feels really strange However, anyone jumping onto the bike they're first response is, woo, it doesn't feel that strange – Really? – Yeah, preconception is, is you can't remember the control of your bike, and so they feel really narrow But actually, it actually feels reasonably natural

– Yeah, 'cause for me, when I'm riding a lot I don't always ride on the hoods I find it more comfortable just riding the bend And I reckon, just right there – Yeah, you can You can ride, and that would be the equivalent to a – I've always looked for my breaks, I just went to look for them then – Yes (overlapping dialogue) I'm sure you could put satellite breaks on them But, yeah, so you could ride like that Obviously you can't access the brakes and the gears as well You can put, you can put satellite shifters here

But that would actually give you an up-, more upright position akin to a conservative road bike position I've gone for the more extreme, as long as possible within the rules and just cause I, I want to be stretched out and be as aerodynamic as possible – You can see I don't race anymore because I was thinking, like, comfort and everything like that whereas you're just like, no I want to go all out comfort – [Dave] So, I've got a negative degree stem on here just to cancel out the fact that I've gone with a fifty-nine centimeter frame, largest frame size possible with the Moriarty bike

– Oh, right! And what's the reason you went for the fifty- – Yeah, so the problem with the fifty-nine just so I can get long enough, 'cause I think if I had a fifty-four, fifty-six, you can imagine if I was in the- if I was in that position I would then be contacting, my knee would contact my elbow as it would do on, on my previous road bike with normal bars, which is why you see people on the hoods, they have their knees are within their elbows, confined within their elbows and their arms are out, increasing their frontal area and making them slower – Brilliant Do you know what? I'm looking forward to seeing how you went from a normal pair of bars to this And also, I want to know more about these 155 mil cranks – So, they're not that commonplace in road racing around the world and in Britain

There's been some anecdotal evidence that an aggressive position short of cranks open up your hip angle and basically put your muscles into their more effective range of motion and allow you to lose less power when you're getting low And I've managed to do some research and we found that with all subjects and aggressive time trial position, they put out more power with the short cranks They lost more power relative to an upright position going low with long cranks you lose a lot of power and I find that some people maintained that power or lost less with the short cranks once they're in a time trial position So I've just transferred that over because I'm basically, when you're getting aero, is there's a time trial position so you don't want to be compromised by closing off your hip angle – It's, what I find fascinating, is that it's kind of, over 20 years on from when guys like Indurain, Romingood, guys like this were doing their record – Yeah, they were riding one-eighty cranks because they wanted to get, they were, it was a slightly flawed thinking, that they wanted the cranks to get the leverage, but that's not, that's not what you need, that's only 1 lever arm in a bicycle

If you want, you want to get more leverage you just change into an easier gear And, spin a higher cadence – Right, and just looking at your wheels and tires as well, well it looks to me that this is still what I find amazing, is that so many road races are going to wider and wider tires and these are what- twenty-eight, thirties, something like that? I mean, twenty-eights we're starting to see here and there, but, you know a lot of riders are still stuck on twenty-fives – Yeah, so these are twenty-eight mil wide Conti tuber tires, but on a 30 mil wide rim, which is pretty wide, it flattens the profile out of the tire a bit, makes it a little bit wider It's just trying not to adversely affect the aerodynamics as well, so we've got this nice, smooth transition between the side well of the tire and the rim

– Right, we've sat down now and we're going to go through the evolution of these handlebars, which you've been involved with designing and building But I mean, just for a bit of perspective, here's a pair or normal handlebars And after playing around with David's bars, that sounds a bit weird, but in all honesty, it's exactly what has just happened These feel massive, right, they feel so wide Well these are, I'm guessing forty-two is that right? – Forty-two

– We've got a normal forty-two bar, sort of shallow drop, that compact bars But we've got here now, well all of the different designs So talk me through them, whilst I still think these are huge, but they're not – Yeah, the evolution, yeah So these bars are the Nitto Rondinaire bars

These are made by a Japanese company These are the same bars that Jan-Wilhelm van Schip rides and caused a bit of controversy in the World Tour for having his levers angled in and being ultra narrow Um, I started to play around with them Actually, this is car body filler that I was trying to work out if these were carbon bars, with a nice aero profiled surface, how they'd feel They worked, but not brilliantly, 'cause you're holding onto the lever here

Actually, I found that you could get quite aero, but you're putting a lot of pressure on your wrists and you had the same problem that your triceps would fatigue and it wouldn't be that comfy And that's why I discovered that I need to be riding a frame with a long reach to get myself long enough to be able to still get the position I require within the UCI regulations So the top tube needs to be really long rather than just having a really long stem, because it's not going to be allowed and it feels – it doesn't feel right So, then I contacted a tube bending company I drew them a little diagram and said, I want the bend here, I want it to be, you know, however many centimeters

And, ah, it went really well But as you can feel, like quite heavy – Yeah, fairly heavy – They're about 500 grams I think And they're, they're actually relatively robust

Though, I had to come up with my own shims to get them to fit the standard stem, because they- – They're not your usual coke can, you know – No, yeah, exactly, yeah A couple of coke cans And then you, you had the issue with the lever clamps – Of course – It was actually too narrow for the, for the lever clamping area, so I had to, I had to put a little bit of tape underneath, as you can see

– We've gone from, well, what are these? These are thirty-two aren't they? – I think so, we need to get a tape measure out But they're not that much narrower, no that, that much narrower But, a little bit narrow, but they allow you to get, again, they allow you to hold onto levers and get this support then, so you can hold the aerodynamic position And then this is literally the same, the same bars, with the shim in place the (mumble) and then for the stem – Brilliant

– So, I rode these around quite a lot throughout the winter on my, sort of, gravel bike, that was riding around – Did you go off-road with these as well? – I have done, yeah! – Yeah? – It worked, it worked I just had my built in suspension and the bars and the fact that they're so long and they flex – (laughs) I never thought that way – And then there's an intermediate stage, which on my current gravel bike, which were basically these bars created by a company in Taiwan called Feris, whose, whose sponsors are very open to ideas such as this, so, great for me They made me some bars that were basically this design but with a standard, oversize, the arm by 8 millimeter and clamping area and obviously quite a bit lighter as well

So I tried those out and they worked really well, did a few road races with them Though I thought, I was trying to work out how I could improve the design, again, I found that you had to angle the levers in quite a lot to then, to get your arms tucked in So I thought, maybe this would work So, the next generation – Just need to hold these up just so you can see it – Yeah So the next generation are actually, they're narrower again These are twenty-eight centimeters at the hoods

So, I had two versions- a twenty-eight centimeters and twenty-five So, twenty-five was on the Time trial frame That were you start to feel a little bit impeded by the width, when you're getting out of the saddle, though I found twenty-eight to be a good balance, actually, I can smash it out of the saddle up a hill in the hoods and it feels fine But it's twenty-five, it feels slightly- – Seven centimeters narrower, it's what what I would ride – Yeah

– I think on each side – Whereas twenty-eight feels fine So, these angle inwards, and the thinking behind that was, I can have the levers mounted straight, it gives me a little extra reach as well But, you'll more easily get that overlap with the tops of the bars And I had created the flared bars so that you've got the control in the drops

So, if you actually look at them they will be about the same width, as, I mean a bit, a bit narrower – Little bit narrower – Same width as a pair of thirty-eights – Which is what a lot of – A lot wider – Yeah, in fact, they are wider – Quite a bit wider than the thirty-eights and the drops So, you don't actually have the issue of the sprinting, you know, it's not, it's not noodle-y, or really narrow, in the drops if you're descending or sprinting It feels quite natural

– Blimey, I mean, okay, So, I've got to ask the question Cycling is so traditional You know, there's, when I look at this and you know, there's the Scottish link, what I think is Graeme Obree, you know, and a guy who, as a teenager, I was looking at his stuff, I was amazed with, but there was such a backlash, right, from the public, from the Federation, and all sorts like that Have you faced anything? – (laughs) I think I'd be lying if I said no Though, yeah, I think a lot of people don't liked change, don't like people doing things differently

And just because of the way it looks, it looks different People, you know, say, oh it looks ridiculous or it don't look very stylish Or, who's that idiot riding the bike with the funny bars But, I think, I think we need to be a bit more open minded and think about, well, why has he done this? There must be a reason behind it And it's actually because I've sat down and thought about how can I make myself faster

It's not because I was to look silly – (laughs) – It looks a bit different, however, however, I think when I'm in that area position, holding the levers and getting tucked in, I think it looks quite, it looks quite good It looks like a time trial position It looks a bit different when you're climbing and your hands are really close together, granted But yes, so I have faced quite a public backlash

I've had World Tour riders weighing in on Twitter Though I've had other open-minded guys defending me Quite a lot of the guys from the Hublot bike in the Ribble set up who, again, think about aerodynamics – (overlapping chatter) – They have been, yeah, they again, they have been, they've been defending me And then guys like Michael Hutchinson and Rob Hales, who obviously famously, are thinkers in the sport, and have used aerodynamics to their benefit

They've, actually, also publicly defended me – What's next? Anything, or not? – I'm not sure I've got a day job to go back to, so I'm just starting training as a GP here in mid-Wales, which is why we've moved here from Glasgow I've got a few more ideas I think this needs to be effective

Ideally, they'd make them out of carbon, have a nice flat profile, and the design maybe needs to be changed slightly just so you don't have that contact issue Which on one of my previous prototypes I didn't have an issue at all But as I found, when I'm riding, when I'm in the drops I'll ride this slightly, slightly bent arm and it's not been an issue for me, you just, like it's just personal preference I got a few more things Obviously I've been experimenting with my crank length and I've got, I've done some actual genuine research

With that, I'd be interested to try out a mid-foot cleat position for time trials, because in theory, there could be, there could be a power benefit and a benefit to when you're getting fatigued, you fatigue, the calf muscles will fatigue less and you'll be able to transfer the power to the bike in a time trial position But that's a, for road racing that might be, that might be something that's perhaps a no-go in a road race But for a time trial, I think, a cleat in the middle of your foot might, might well, might well be an advantage That would be something I'll be experimenting with – Less issue with toe overlap and everything

– Yeah, yeah so on a road bike there would be, you know, there would be toe overlap, I think, unless you use 120 cranks, perhaps (laughs) – (laughs) Now we're talking! There we are, a little look into some aero-gains that maybe you could be doing at home, too Let me know what you think of them down there in the comments section below I'm very keen to find out And as ever remember to like and share this video with your friends, too Don't forget to subscribe to the GCN Tech Channel and also click that little notification icon so you get alerted each and every time we put a video live

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