Road Biking

Monday, February 26, 2007

Q: Is there a benefit to the aero position versus the road position when riding in a triathlon?

In a triathlon, what benefit does the aero position offer in saving key muscles for the run and what is the proper training ration between aero and road set up? Alan Washington, D.C.

By: Question from: ,

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Outside GOOur hottest adventure-travel tips and trips. Sent occasionally.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Subscribe
to Outside
Save Over
70%

Magazine Cover

iPad Outside+ App Access Now Included!

Advertisement

A:

Racing in your aero position has more to do with saving energy than spreading the strain of a triathlon over different muscle groups, and there's no doubt that a good aero position can save you a ton of energy. Getting off the bike with more fuel left in your tank, so to speak, is absolutely essential to having a great run. However, this will only be the case if you've spent enough time perfecting and training in your aero position.

I (along with several of my top triathlon coaches) disagree with the notion that the ratio of road-to-aero training should be 90/10. If you're primarily a triathlete—and that's the event you want to excel in—then the majority of your cycling training should be done in your triathlon position. The ratio should be more like 60 to 70 percent aero to 30 to 40 percent road training. Specificity is the reasoning behind these numbers. You use your muscles differently on your triathlon bike compared to your road bike and, in order to produce more power—and hence go faster—you need to train on that bike.

Beyond developing discipline-specific power, more training time in your aero position allows you to adapt to the flexibility and handling challenges presented by the riding position. A lot of athletes get injured because they're not physically prepared for the demands of riding in an aero position for an hour or more at race speed. Training in your aero position will not only help you adapt to the bike, but may also help you gradually move to a more aggressive aero position in the future.

As for the stress on your knees and back, that's a function of the quality of your bike fit. When your saddle, bars, and cleats are all in the optimal positions, there's no reason you shouldn't be able to complete the majority of your training hours in an aero position. Keep in mind, that when I say "optimal positions," I'm not merely talking about optimizing aerodynamics. You have to take flexibility, comfort, and control into consideration as well. I encourage you to seek the expertise of a performance center (like our CTS facilities in Colorado Springs, CO, or Asheville, NC).

The 90/10 ratio is more appropriate for road racing cyclists who occasionally have to compete in a time trial. They need some time training in their aero positions so they can control the bike and compete without injuring themselves, but since the vast majority of their competitions are ridden on road bikes, spending too much time on the time trial bike can be detrimental to their overall racing performance.

More at Outside

Next in Fitness (3 of 45)

Are long training rides or runs the only way to improve my strength to weight ratio?

Read More »
Current Issue Outside Magazine

Subscribe and get a great deal! Two free Buyer's Guides plus a free GoLite Sport Bottle. Monthly delivery of Outside—your ultimate resource for today's active lifestyle. All that and big savings!

Free Newsletters

Dispatch This week's featured articles, reviews, and videos. Sent twice weekly.
News From the Field The most important breaking news from around the Web. Sent daily.
Gear of the Day The latest products, reviews, and editors' picks. Coming soon.
Outside Partners Outside-approved deals and special offers from select partners. Sent occasionally.

Ask a Question

Our gear experts await your outdoor-gear-related questions. Go ahead, ask them anything.

* We might edit your question for length or clarity. If it's not about gear, we'll just ignore it.