Are TT Bikes Really Faster?


The 2009 Road Season kicked off yesterday in Washington with the Frostbite Time Trial, a 9-mile suffer-fest just outside of Snohomish. Yee-haw! Results are here:


Coach Adrian threw down for the overall win, and Team CU had a strong showing in the first race of the year.

One cool thing about Frostbite TT is that they have a Retro race where you ride your road bike without any aero gear allowed (except a skinsuit). I raced my category and Retro, which allowed me to finally answer the age-old question: “are TT bikes really faster???”

It turns out that they are:

TT Bike: 20:35 281w 27.0 mph

Out: 290w, 27.0mph

Back: 277w, 27.1 mph


Road Bike: 22:20 285w, 24.6mph

Out: 294w, 22.9mph

Back: 278w, 26.5mph

Although there was slightly more wind during the Retro ride (1 hr later), this is about as close as we’re going to get to a dead-even comparison without going to the wind tunnel or track. So, the TT ride was 2.4mph faster even though I put out 4 fewer watts. Of course, the bike itself isn’t the only thing that was different, there were also different wheels (Zipp 808 vs. regular box section rims), tires (Vittoria Tubulars vs. Michelin Clinchers), helmets (Bell Sweep R vs. Giro Advantage 2), and body positions (namely lower, narrower, and more extended forearms).

Bottom line: TT bikes are fast, and using a power meter in conjunction with trying different types of equipment and positions on the bike can give you insights into how to go faster on a TT bike. Granted, the TT bike/road bike difference represents two completely opposite ends of the spectrum, but isolating one of the variables (i.e. helmet) and testing it under controlled condiditons can yield informative results.


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