8 things we love about TT bikes - and 5 we hate

The pros and cons of our hot-and-cold affair with TT bikes

Time trialling is some of the most exciting, purest racing in the sport of cycling. It's you and your bike against the watch. A to B in as little time possible. It's about training hard, pacing your effort and smashing yourself.

There are many reasons why we love time trial bikes – and a few points that make us want to give up on them altogether. Here they are…

The good

1. They're fast

Yes, it's all about the engine on top of the bike. But put that engine, no matter how small, on a TT bike and it goes faster – at least on the flats. There's nothing quite like the feeling of velocity you get on your first ever ride and the way a good TT bike urges you on to greater speed is addictive.

2. They look bad-ass

The scott plasma 5 – a thing of gorgeousness
The scott plasma 5 – a thing of gorgeousness

Not everyone will agree, but those who don't are wrong. TT bikes look high-tech, sleek and downright cool. From their deep tube shapes and steep seat angles to wheel hugging profiles and aero gadgets galore, TT bikes are what Batman would use. Fact.

3. They make you feel like a badass

To spectators, you may look foolish with a teardrop helmet, shaved legs and speed suit, but that's not how you feel when you're riding as hard as you possibly can. You feel impossibly cool and composed locked into the aero tuck, only your fingers moving to smoothly change gear. It feels like you're Bradley Wiggins. Until he overtakes you, as in the video below.

Here's what it looks like when Bradley Wiggins passes you

4. You can time trial on them

Yeah, this seems absurdly obvious, but there's a big difference between turning up for your local 10 on a road bike and a TT bike. The latter unlocks a whole fascinating facet of the sport. The race of truth: just you against the clock; holding out against aching legs and thumping heart until the line; eking out every watt of power; and saving every possible gram of drag.

5. They're different

Everyone's got a road bike these days, but a TT bike? Nope, they're still the domain of the purists. And triathletes. Despite that last point, having a TT bike for time trials marks you out as serious and gives you complete freedom to scoff at 'those poor drop-barred people’.

6. They make Di2 make sense

Di2 shifters are a leap forward in time trial tech
Di2 shifters are a leap forward in time trial tech

Yes, electronically operated gearing is cool, but on a road bike, it offers little that you couldn’t do before anyway. It’s a whole different story on TT bikes, where being able to shift on both the extensions and the bullhorns was previously impossible, giving a genuine performance advantage over cabling, which makes shifting a right pain in the behind.

7. They're never finished

A plus or a minus depending on your disposable income, but in the pursuit of aero perfection, there's always one more upgrade you can add from deep section wheels to an aero stem cap, a change of bars to a split nosed saddle. It's all out there in the aeroverse – cash for speed, ready to butcher your wallet.

8. They're innovative

From slipping the back brake under the chainstays and shrouding the rear wheel to removing all trace of cabling from the wind and smoothly integrating frame and cockpit, the aero innovations seen in TT bike design are without parellel. Lines that have been honed by the monster processing power of CFD rigs and proved in the wind tunnel – it's all confidence inspiring, drag saving stuff.

The bad

1. The brakes don't work

Some TT brakes are just a pain in the behind
Some TT brakes are just a pain in the behind

Some time trial bikes have standard dual pivot brakes, which are great, but many don't. It's not just the fact that stopping power often isn't up to scratch, but that many are tear inducingly irritating to set up and need constant attention. Despite the trend for wide aero wheels, many back brakes require pads to be sanded down to fit. That's plain stupid.

2. They're heavy

The importance of a bike's lightness is something so ingrained in most roadies that it's hard to get over the weight penalty of a TT bike. Devotees will tell you that aero is always faster, but that's scant consolation when you're heaving up hills lugging 9kg of bike that's cost you many thousands of pounds or dollars.

3. The cabling sucks

Bet you'd look forward to changing cables on a set-up like this
Bet you'd look forward to changing cables on a set-up like this

If you're happy / wealthy enough to send your bike to a mechanic every time you need a new cable, you can gloss over this one. If you're not, then be prepared for a camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle affair when trying to feed a new cable through the frame. It's ultimately satisfying once you get there, but it's often a truly, truly painful process. One star mechanic told us his secret in being able to keep such a strong wrenching reputation: "It's simple, I refuse to work on TT and tri bikes". 

4. Riding in cross winds is scary

The sail-like tubes of many TT bikes make them a liability in all but the calmest of wind conditions. When Mother Nature’s really blowing, you’re basically stuffed, with gusts blowing you all over the road, your knuckles white from a death grip on the bullhorns. In short, no fun.

5. They’re anti-social

The whole point of a time-trial bike is to put your head down and go as hard as possible – hopefully faster than the other guy. Good luck having a conversation – much less taking a quick photo from the bike – while locked into your race rocket position. If you’re looking for companionship, look elsewhere (if you can with your head stuck in that position).

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