Among some hype-ridden howlers, the overall technological trend has been for a continual improvement of time trial bikes, bits and other paraphernalia that have made us noticeably faster during daily training or on race day.
But how do you know whether the time you save will be worth the extra you cash you fork out? We open up our totally hi-tech toybox and guide you through some of its contents.
Zipp 404 Firecrest wheelset, £1900/$US2700
Zipp have always been right up amongst it when it comes to delivering the drag-beating edge, but their latest wheels are genuinely something else. According to their wind-tunnel stats, the new bulged Firecrest profile (it actually gets fatter below the rim and flattens across the spoke heads) will save you 20 seconds per 10km at race pace.
The new shape means they handle more like a 30mm wheel than a 60mm wheel in crosswinds too and going for the tubular tyre option drops weight well under 1300g (270g lighter than the clincher versions pictured here).
Claimed advantage 27W at 40kph
Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 7970 TT groupset, £1933/$US2529
The dream of a ‘no strings attached’ electronic transmission has been chased by numerous designers, but it’s Japanese transmission transformers Shimano who have claimed the prize. The new time trial set-up (with shift buttons on the extensions and brakes) is fantastic to use too, with immediate, totally accurate gear shifting in full tuck or when fighting up climbs or charging out of corners.
It’s hard to quantify the advantage in time saved, but we wouldn’t choose any other type of changer for any ultimate custom bike spec. At nearly two grand (UK) without even a chainset or brakes included, this is an insanely expensive remote controlled groupset.
USE Tula bars, £500/$US999
Looking more like a spaceship than a set of handlebars USE’s Tula are the ultimate drag reducing front end for your bike, with a string of top name users and championships to their name. Ingenious built in brake levers are parallel to the aero centre section to reduce drag by 15watts at 30mph. Cunning fully adjustable rose-jointed rests keep weight to a minimum too.
Claimed advantage 15W at 30mph
Look/Polar Pedal power meter, £1500
Power meters have been hidden in hubs, cranks and chains so far, but the latest idea is to stick them into your pedals as close to your clogs as possible. Look and Polar showed their new Keo Power design at Eurobike last year and it’s an extremely neat, low-weight solution to power measuring, and much easier to transfer between bikes than other options.
While there’s no reduction of drag, power-meter training is a super accurate way to increase your wattage during training, making this a potential super-powerful speed gain tool.
Inviscid Speedfil bike bottle, £89.99/$US99.99
Aerodynamic bottles have been around since Campagnolo’s pearly thirst-quenchers of the 80s, but this latest bottle design can improve handling and aerodynamics while keeping you wetter than an otter’s pocket. The triangular bottle attaches where your normal bottle does, but is deep and flat enough to actually enhance frame aerodynamics.
The feed pipe then extends up in front of the bars for easy drinking without a heavy bar mounted bottle ruining your handling. You can fill the Speedfil’s 1.3 litre capacity through the cat’s bum flanged top without removing it from the bike, making it ideal for longer, hotter events.
Approximate drag saving 75g at 25mph
Ceramic Bearings, £10 - £300
It might have been the best bearing material for over a century, but steel just sounds old school doesn’t it? Lightweight, lower friction ceramic bearings for jockey wheels, hubs or bottom brackets are the latest invisible upgrade that lots of topend gear and bikes are sporting as a matter of course. Spin a ceramic bearing versus a steel one and you’ll soon see the advantages.However, some experts feel that the health of your chain and the seals the bearings hide behind are more important than the actual bearing material.
Claimed advantage 1 to 4W at 40kph
From: The ‘shiny stuff cabinet’ in most bike shops
Giro Selector aero helmet, £239.99/US$275
Giro's new Selector aero helmet is the long-awaited upgrade to the company’s popular Advantage. Its main aerodynamic improvements over its predecessor are a detachable visor to smooth airflow around your face and a fairing (two types, interchangeable) underneath the tail of the helmet, which helps close the gap to your back and reduce turbulence. There are small vents at the top of the visor that channel air over your head to two rear exhaust vents.
It’s easy to put the helmet on, it’s also very comfortable and the visor doesn’t fog up. Our main issues with it are its big top dome, which increases frontal area compared to some other aero helmets, and the lack of adjustability in the fore/aft straps, which made it hard to get a good flat-back fit. If you have a low head position, you’ll be OK, but if not then we’d go with a flatter, longer aero lid.
More time trial kit: Budget options
Cube Aerium Pro, £1499
Lightweight, fully equipped and with a decent spec for the money, the Aerium is a great choice for TTs.
Cateye V3 Triple Wireless computer, £114.99/US$180
One of the only computers with fully wireless cadence, heart rate and all standard computer functions.
Profile Design Legacy ZB aerobar, £59.99
A two-piece clip-on aerobar with clever clamps and three mount positions for the padded rests.
Catlike Chrono Aero Plus helmet, £169.99/$US300
This lid was used by last year’s Cervélo TestTeam, and features a visor for that extra wind-beating ability.
Santini Shadow skin suit, £135.49/$US181.78
Offers a Twist Gel pad, good-sized pocket and mix of compression, standard and highly breathable panels.
Prologo Nago TTR TS saddle, £124.99/$US198.95
This TT-specific saddle has the same shape as the excellent Nago, but with a wider nose and extra padding. A ribbed surface helps keep you in place when you’re on the nose.
Sportful Wet Lite overshoes, £35
Overshoes help keep your feet aero. The close-fitting, silicone, waterproof Wet Lites will also be handy when you’re not against the clock.
Elite time trial kit bottle and cage, £64.99/US$126
This TT-specific, aerodynamic 500ml bottle and carbon cage will cheat the wind.
Giro LTZ gloves, £29.99/US$29.99
Ultra-light, super-slim gloves with nothing to flap, come undone or create drag.