Update on my TT bike
Third post today. You wait for a bus, etc.
Recent weeks and months have seen a few changes to my bike. I have replaced the Tubular, deep-section Pro-Lite Vicenza wheels with a set of FloCycling clinchers. Flo are a relatively new company, selling wheels from across the pond. The wheels are made in Taiwan, shipped to the US and supplied from there.
Having started off my TT career with tubulars, I was keen to switch back to clincher tyres. For those of you who, quite understandably, don’t know what I’m talking about, clinchers are the bike wheels you know, where you have a separate inner tube and tyre. Tubular tyres are, well, tubes, where the inner tube is completely encased by the tyre and then glued, or taped, to the wheel. Historically, tubulars, or tubs, have been the choice of racers. These days, the pendulum is swinging back towards the centre, with lots of racers choosing clincher wheels. I wanted to use clinchers because they are what I know. And you don’t have the mess, or painstaking process of the glueing. Also it is easier to fix a puncture. I chose Vittoria Corsa CX tubulars, as they were a good compromise of speed, puncture resistance and price. There are faster tubulars out there.
Anyway, Flo have caused some ripples in the wheel market, because their wheels are substantially cheaper than the competition. I really wanted some Zipp wheels, but a Zipp disc and deep section front would cost around £2500. Flo wheels, taking into account delivery and customs duty, came in at around £1000. They aren’t exactly comparable – the Zipps are lighter, being all carbon, but the aerodynamic effect might well be the same. I decided to gamble on the Flo wheels, despite not seeing any UK reviews, because I am a cheapskate and wanted to be a bit different.
So what do I think of them? Well, they arrived in perfect condition and seem well made. They are not lightweight. Instead of a carbon rim, the Flo wheels are effectively a normal, shallow section aluminium wheel with a carbon fairing. I was less concerned by weight because conventional wisdom says that a wheel’s aerodynamic properties are more important in a time trial than it’s weight, particularly if the course is relatively flat, as most UK TT courses are. I paired the wheels with Continental GP4000S tyres, because Flo’s wind tunnel tests found them the best performers for the wheel. This is good because the Contis are pretty ubiquitous, and fairly cheap.
I have ridden a few races on them now. I think they save me around 15 seconds over 10 miles, versus the Pro-Lite Vicenzas. I don’t have any real hard data to back them up, because during that period I was improving all the time anyway. But performance did seem to take an extra jump on switching to the Flo wheels. I can say almost for certain that they are no slower than the Pro-Lite wheels with tubular tyres. And I think in fact they are a little faster.
The Flo disc, being a fairing rather than a structural disc, does not make the whoo, whoo sound of a true carbon disc like the Zipp. This is disappointing. One day I will probably buy a Zipp disc. But for now, in trying to keep the expenditure just this side of absolutely ridiculous, the Flo wheels are suiting me just fine.
Shortly after the arrival of the wheels, I bought my self a set of USE Tula bars, second hand from a chap on the TT forum. Not so long ago, these bars were the state of the art. Now they have been superceded to some degree, but I still think they look killer, and to the naked eye, they appear more aero for sure. They allowed me to drop the front end much lower, which I think was responsible for the improvement in time I found in July, as well as the drop in power. I blame the power loss on the front being so low. I intend to try and prove this on the turbo during the winter, so for the moment it is only a hunch. I first ran these bars in the same position as my old ones. I think they made a few seconds difference, 5, maybe 10. No more than that. But it’s finger in the air, of course.
Before I went off to the race this morning, I took some (rather poor) photos of my bike in it’s current configuration. They are below. Eagle eyed readers will notice the cabling and fork steerer issues. The cables are currently cut to allow me to raise and lower the front end quite a bit. And the fork steerer remains uncut. Until I know what the best compromise position is between power release and aerodynamics, I am not going to make any changes to the front end that would be necessarily permanent.
Please feel free to comment or ask questions. As ever, happy to discuss my experiences 🙂