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.



My Favorite Zone

February 17, 2009

by Dan Harm


I really don’t know where the past four months of InCycle has disappeared to. Yesterday, as I was doodling in my calendar all the things I had to do this week, I realized that there is only a little over a month of InCycle left. Yes, I know; I shouldn’t get too upset since InCycle is going to be offered in the Spring and Summer and on and on into the years to come. But, regardless, I get nostalgic about eventual endings.

It’s not just for InCycle. Even in College I remember I would get a little sad towards the end of the quarter. My peers thought I was crazy because they were excited as all hell to be done with school. Yet, my feelings towards each of my classes ending was a mixture of excitement about moving onto the next step, and of a sentimental appreciation for the enjoyable learning journey I had ventured.

I felt the same way when I worked at an Art school for gifted high schoolers. At the end of the year I knew the seniors would slip away into the folds of the big world. I knew they were ready, I knew they had learned so much, and that I had been a part of what they had learned. But, even though I was so excited to see these former high schoolers find their place in the world, I was still filled with hints of sadness, for next year I would not see their faces roaming the hallways and book shelves.

The same holds true for InCycle. All the people in InCycle have become familiar faces to me. I know what hobbies they like, what they do for a living, how their kids and pets are doing, how their daily lives are going. They are all interesting and lively people who share two of my life passions: riding bikes and staying healthy.

Every class I see improvement in their skills, technique, and most of all fitness. Even though I have no trouble seeing the physical improvement of InCycle members, for some reason it is still hard for some of them to see it for themselves. Many still have doubts about how much they have improved.

Having doubts about one’s self can be very useful, for it prevents complacency and promotes an eternal search for advancing one’s self. But, there comes a point when an individual must applaud their achievements and be proud of the hard work done.

Throughout the course of four months InCycle members have gone from barely being able to hold zone 3 for a five minute intervals, to being able to hit Zone 5 for seven minutes. If this is not a clear indication of progression, then I don’t know what is. When we did our first Zone 5 interval in InCycle, all the members were shocked. Many of them said they had never hurt so badly and that they were disappointed with their average watts. To this I answered: “Look at it this way: Four months ago you could not have even attempted Zone 5 for seven minutes. Now, you just did it.”

Me being witness to over 120 people improving their lives by riding a bike and staying healthy is quite a reward. I know next year I will most likely see a lot of familiar faces at InCycle. There will also be a lot of new faces as well. Each class is different. Changes and endings are inevitable. Lives change, people move around, and, as we all know, every good time must come to an end.

Yes, it is hard to accept change. But, as InCycle draws to an end next month I at least know that deep down inside every-one’s favorite Zone is Zone 5. And this is what moves me onwards.


Group Health STP 2008 Training for One- or Two-Day Riders

by Craig Undem


Time to get ready for the STP and this is the place to start. There are a few key things to focus on in preparing for a big ride like the STP: #1 ride your bike, #2 ride your bike, and #3… you can probably guess. There are people who show up and ride the STP with little training and they barely finish and have trouble walking for a week after the ride (or worse are injured) and then there are those who prepare and have a fantastic ride, enjoy all the thrill and satisfaction of a great ride and still have the energy to celebrate in Portland. The purpose of this training guide is to help you become the latter and enjoy a lifetime of benefits from cycling.

As most of you know, to become a good cyclist you need to pay some dues! Like learning to play tennis or golf it takes practice, good skills and more practice to really enjoy the game. To help you learn quickly there is a Full training plan and a free series of rides called the Cascade Training Series that is the ideal combination to get you ready.

The Full STP Training Plan gives you a detailed day-by-day training, including how hard to ride, rest days, final preparation and techniques to help you improve quickly. It dovetails with the weekly Cascade Training Series of free rides that begins in March and gradually increases distance and is lead by experienced Ride Leaders for all ability levels. If you want the fast track to improvement and better riding in the STP, plan on attending the Cascade training series www.cascade.org/cts and sign up for the Full STP Training program at www.CycleU.com under Training Plans.

How to prepare for the Group Health STP

If you read no further in this article, these are the three simplest ways to insure a great time on the STP:

1. Ride with others. Take a cycling skills class at Cycle University and do the Cascade Training Series to learn the language of group cycling and get comfortable riding with other people.

2. Don’t ride as hard as you can on every training ride. This is the most common rookie mistake! Ride steady and aim to add more miles each week to go longer and longer. Make your hard days hard, and your easy days easy.

3. Apply chamois cream to your shorts to reduce friction where you meet the saddle, and don’t wear underwear (this is pretty basic but can make a huge difference if you don’t know about it!)

The most important part of any cycling training plan are the miles you will ride on a daily and weekly basis in the months leading up to a big ride like the STP. These training rides are the building blocks that will prepare your body and mind to ride long and hard on the day of the event. There are many other factors that will influence your enjoyment on the big day, such as how your bike fits you, nutrition, hydration, clothing, equipment, mental preparation, skill level, riding with other people etc…This overview covers only the riding mileage.

If you haven’t ridden a bike in 10 years, start with a 5-mile ride to get the hang of it. Your goal may be simply to have fun and stop when you are tired. If you had a good summer of riding last year and haven’t ridden since October, go out for a nice flat 20-miler and get back into it. From here build up your mileage gradually and challenge yourself a bit more every few weeks.

Remember why you are doing this. No one does the STP as a professional cyclist, we are all regular people having a good time on our bikes. Although there is a lot to learn when you are new to cycling, keep it fun by learning from more experienced riders, asking a couple friends to join you, or making it a challenge with some co-workers to see who will finish first (or dance the latest after the ride!). Although having fun may seem like child’s play, if you aren’t having fun you will probably find something else to do so find a way to make it enjoyable!

Take your time and work at a level your body will allow. Depending on your conditioning and riding experience, you may need more or less miles than this program presents. Feel free to consult Cycle University to outline a custom program to fit your level of riding and athletic background, and be sure and get an OK from your doctor if you are over the age of 30 and new to cycling.

Start your training with moderate to easy miles and add an occasional hard day once every week or two where you push the hills. After the first half of the training, start looking at your average speeds during your midweek and Saturday rides. Increase the midweek rides to move toward your target average miles per hour pace. (to complete the 204-mile STP in one day under 12 hours you will need to average 17.5mph and only take one 30-minute break. Two-day riders will need to average 10mph to finish each 103-mile day under 11 hours, with 55 minutes of breaks each day.) Aim to get your average speed near your target ride level or higher as the event approaches on shorter rides.

June should be your hardest month. Plan to take good care of yourself between rides. Eat right, stay hydrated and get consistent sleep. Use Flying Wheels as your final rehearsal. Test out the energy foods, equipment and clothing you will use on the STP (be warned, Flying Wheels is a hilly challenge!) During the final two weeks you will rest more because the mileage is much less, but keep your rides at or above event speeds.

Special note for One-Day Riders

Most people think that they can just ride lots of miles and get fast enough to do the STP in one day, but what many find is that even though they get strong and increase their average speed they still can’t meet their goal. Why? Drafting. They need the shelter of other people to help them achieve their finishing goal. The wind often blows from the South, which means that much of the ride from Seattle to Portland is into a head wind, and if you ride behind a group or even a single rider, you can save 30% or more of your energy and still go the same speed. It is something that takes practice and good coaching to do it safely. The best place to learn this is from a Cycle University Road 101 Class or another experienced rider. Drafting helps for 2 day riders too.

Ride smart and learn good safe riding habits. Make it a great ride and we hope to see you on the dance floor in Portland!

Craig Undem has graced the cover of Velonews, won the Washington State Criterium and Cyclocross championships, represented the US in the World Championships of Cyclocross and in two Tour of El Salvador stage races. He has been a full time professional cycling coach since 1997. He completed the STP in one day in 1985, and went on to race at the elite level internationally for 10 years. He started Cycle University to help riders like you achieve your dreams of better health and enjoyment through cycling. He and his team of coaches offer a wide array of services including indoor classes in the winter and outdoor bootcamps and classes April through October: Check them out at: www.CycleU.com or call 1-800-476-0681


Advice For the Cross Racer: What you need to know about bikes, skills and food

by Kristi Berg


If slogging through mud on bike and foot, over obstacles and riding hard in rain or shine sound like a fun way to spend 30-60 minutes on a Sunday morning, then cyclocross racing might be in your future. For many of you, it’s already a way of life come autumn in the Pacific Northwest. While it may sound intimidating, the cyclocross community welcomes beginners. Following are some pointers for getting into cross.

Tip #1: Tune Up Your Bike

Like a lot of people racing cross, you’ve been spending a lot of time on the road this summer. You might need to switch over some parts of your bike to prepare for the cyclocross season. To get started use a Mountain Bike, old road bike, or ideally a Cyclocross bike. Clean every part of your bike, ensuring that it’s in good working order and buy light weight components (because you lift and run with the bike) that will stand up to hard riding over rough terrain. You don’t want to spend your first race fixing a broken chain.

Tip #2: Sharpen Your Skills

If this is your first season of racing cross, consider taking a class or clinic (See “Resources” at the end of article for some suggestions). You’ll be with other beginners while you learn basic cyclocross races skills, such as the proper way to mount and dismount your bicycle, to shoulder your bicycle when you run up and over barriers, and several other aspects of cyclocross. These classes are great not only for beginners but also for seasoned cross racers who want to sharpen their skills.

Tip #3: Practice

Once you’ve taken a class or experienced a season of cross racing, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect. Go out after work and practice the skills that you’ll need in a cyclocross race, such as:

Smooth remounts without hopping

Stepping through with inside leg into a run on faster dismounts

Gently putting bike down after running sections – no rear wheel bounces

Grabbing the bike and shouldering it for a run-up

Tip #4: Be Prepared

Once you have started to master the skills of cyclocross, the only thing left to do is get out and race. Get used to preparing for all kinds of weather. Some good things to remember:

Pack a race bag with everything you might need, from booties to a rain jacket. Be sure to pack dry clothes to put on after the race.

Always keep that bag stocked so that you can just grab it and go come race day.

Consider bringing a Thermos with hot tea or soup (Oregon’s Crusade and Seattle Cross have been sponsored by MacTarnahans and New Belgium Brewing for the more seasoned racer)

Pack warming crème or lubricant for your legs. These lubricants are great to rub on your skin before your race in wet and cold conditions to protect your skin from the moisture and cold temperatures.

Tip #5: Don’t Forget to Eat

Try to eat 2-3 hours before your race so that you have adequate time to digest your food. Take in some form of simple sugar approximately 15 minutes before your race start, to ensure proper energy during the race (you’ll be sprinting pretty hard!).

Be sure to hydrate very well the day before and the morning of your race. In cyclocross racing, water bottle cages are a hindrance (they get in the way when you shoulder your bike); therefore, you will not be able to drink fluids during your race. Drink as soon as you finish to avoid dehydration.

Tip #6: Have Fun

Remember that cyclocross racing is a fun way to stay in shape during the rainy season. The races are very social events, which often include food, beverages and – sometimes – costume contests. Don’t take it too seriously your first time out and you’ll have a great time!


Kristi Berg of Seattle has been the Seattle Cyclocross Womens division overall championship for the past 4 years, is USAC and ACE certified and is Head of Women’s Cycling at Seattle’s Cycle University.



For a list of cyclocross clinics and classes being offered in the region, see:


www.obra.org – Oregon Bicycle Racing Association

www.SeattleCyclocross.com – Seattle Cyclocross


Cyclocross Bikes, Skills, and Food

by Kristi Berg

It’s hard to believe with the record high temperatures here in Seattle that the Cyclocross season is fast approaching. With the first race here in Seattle starting September 4th it’s time to thing about bikes, practice and proper care of your body.

First thing to start thinking about is your Cyclocross bicycle. Like a lot of people racing cross, you are probably needing to take apart your road bike to add some parts to the cross bike. Start this process now, if you need to take the bicycle into a bike shop you are going to want to do this soon so that they have time to switch things over for you before the first race. This is also a great time to clean every part of your cross bike, inspecting every part to make sure that they are all in good working order. You don’t want to start out with parts that are old and tired from the road season, that will likely break during the cross season.

Once the cross bike is built up you are going to want to jump right into practicing the skills of Cyclocross. If this is your first season of racing cross I would encourage you attend cross practices to help you work on the fundamentals of Cyclocross. At Cycle U we offer some great classes to get you started on the right foot. These classes walk you through the developmental skills of Cyclocross teaching you the proper way to mount and dismount your bicycle along with the proper way to shoulder your bicycle on run ups and over barriers and also several other aspects of Cyclocross. These classes are great not only for beginners but also for the seasoned cross racer to sharpen those skills that you have not used since last cross season.

Focus of practice:

Smooth remounts without hopping

Stepping through with inside leg into a run on faster dismounts

Gently putting bike down after running sections – no rear wheel bounces

Grabbing the bike on downtube as you dismount into a run-up

Once you have started to master the skills of Cyclocross it is time to get out and race. If this is your first race season some things you will really want to think about is preparing yourself for any kind of weather. Since this is Washington and you never know what the weather has in store here, you want to make sure that you always come prepared for any conditions. Here is the plan:

Pack up a race bag with everything you can think of, from booties to rain coats,

keep that bag stocked always so that you can just grab it on race day

always be prepared.

Warming crème or lubricant for your legs. These lubricants are great to rub on your skin before your race in wet and cold conditions to protect your skin from the moisture and cold temperatures. Ask your local shop.

Make sure also that you are practicing good nutrition habits on race day. Try to eat between 2-3 hours before your race so that you have adequate time to digest your food. Take in some form of simple sugar approximately 15 minutes before your race start, to ensure proper energy during your race. And it is very important to hydrate very well the day before and the morning of your race. In Cyclocross you don’t have water bottle cages on your bike so that you can shoulder your bike easily, so therefore you are not drinking fluid during your race. That is why it is so important to super hydrate before your race and to drink as soon as you finish to avoid dehydration.

Remember to start early with your preparation both mechanically and physically so you have an awesome season. Have fun and race hard!


Kristi has won the Seattle Cyclocross Womens division overall championship the past 9 years, is USAC and ACE certified and is Head of Women’s Cycling at Cycle University.