One of Win-Win Tweaks: Relaxed Hands
We've got a couple of "Win-win" tweaks that we've learned and discovered at Output Speedlab. A lot of it comes from our education from Mat Steinmetz at 51 Speedshop and Steve Merz (founder/original owner of Output Performance Optimization). A "win-win" in this context is something that's all upside: no sacrifices, just good news. The one that we most routinely deploy is the concept of relaxed hands.
Years ago, everybody thought that you wanted as many things as possible pointing straight ahead, to hide the forearms behind the fists/hands, that sort of thing, and you ended up with positions like the one below:
This isn't a bad position, for sure, but you can see the tension in those hands as they ratchet down and forward. You can also see how far off the pads this rider's elbows are, which turns his forearms into levers that he had to control with his upper body and shoulders. This particular rider came to us basically hating his triathlon bike, saying that he was riding his road bike almost exclusively, despite the fact that his goal half-iron is only five weeks away! Something had to be done. The other issue with this position is that aerodynamic testing, both in the wind tunnel and out in the real world, has found that the higher those hand are, the better a rider moves through the wind (why? well, with lower/flat hands, you're basically forming an air scoop between your forearms and torso; the more we can close that scoop, the better!). That's why you're seeing positions like this on all of the riders that Mat Steinmetz fits at 51 Speedshop.
Elbows directly on pads, hands elevated. The other reason this works so well, is that angling the pads allows the rider something to press into at the front end of the bike. If you go back to our initial rider, nothing is keeping him from sliding off the front of the saddle, and indeed, he often displayed the "TT reset" where every thirty seconds or so he readjusted his position on the saddle. We tipped his bars up to around 13 degrees of angle, and ended up here:
More relaxed, more aero, and, most importantly, more comfort! Comfort = power = speed, remember.
51 Speedshop has just released their custom extensions that make achieving this position easier, and we're working to get them into the lab, but in the meantime you can check them out here.