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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
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