Equipment for the Hour Record—When Every Meter Counts!

Written By: Molly Van Houweling

Greetings from Mexico! In the days leading up to my attempt on the UCI hour record on September 12, I’m documenting some of the preparation that has gone into this and my previous hour record efforts. Beyond Aero has been helping me behind the scenes since I started to prepare for my first successful attempt on the U.S. hour record in December, 2014. Of course one of the most important things I’ve needed help with has been equipment selection. The choices are mind-boggling and if I had to consider all of them I wouldn’t have time to train! So I rely heavily on my bike-geek husband Rob, who consults with Andres at Beyond Aero to identify the most promising options. We then subject almost everything to rigorous testing on the road, track, and/or wind tunnel. I do help with that: someone has to ride the bike!

Speaking of the bike: of course that’s the first place we started when it came to hour record equipment choices. Many of the men who have attempted the record have had custom bikes make from scratch by their sponsors. That wasn’t in the cards for me, but it turned out to be pretty simple to identify the best stock frame for an hour record attempt. Cervelos have been subjected to lots of aero testing, and they have consistently out-performed other frames in terms of “zero yaw performance”—that is, in conditions with no crosswind. That’s exactly what I face on the track. So I didn’t need to field test the Cervelo T4 to know that it was likely to perform well—perhaps even better than the special purpose-built bikes that the likes of Bradley Wiggins and Alex Dowsett rode to their records.

Selecting other equipment was a different process. Like most amateurs I did start with one advantage over the pros – no exclusive equipment sponsors. While this may seem like a disadvantage at first, it allowed me pick and choose from a range of equipment and then test it to make sure it worked well for me. It is no exaggeration to say that every bit of my kit apart from the bike – from my head to my toes – beat out at least two or three other top options in our head to head aero tests.

The bottom line is that figuring out a way to do field testing or booking some time in a wind tunnel is really the only way to identify the equipment that works best for you. Fortunately, with a power meter, a quick study of the Chung Method, and using the Aerolab module of Golden Cheetah, pretty much anyone can figure out how to do some testing on the road. You can get even more precise in an indoor velodrome or wind tunnel. But careful on-road testing can help identify real winners and losers—including some big surprises. In my case, for example, many well-regarded and sleek fitting “speedsuits” were measurably slower than the short-sleeve no-frills team-issue Metromint skinsuit I’ve been wearing for years. But after testing at least 10 different skinsuits, I found a couple of speedsuit designs that are worthy race-day picks for me. Watch on race day to see one in action!

All of this testing is important because the equipment that works well for one rider might not work for another—in part because everyone has a unique on-the-bike position. That’s also something that can be modified and improved through testing and practice. That will be the topic of my next blog post. Stay tuned!

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