Friday, October 15, 2010

Helmet Test - Standard vs Aero

Ever since I purchased my Rudy Wingspan helmet (about 6 weeks ago), I wondered how much faster it might be.  I have raced with it twice now, and had really good bike splits for each race.  But I still wanted to find out just how much faster it was.  I remember seeing some articles stating that over a 40k (25mile) time trial, these aero helmets should save somewhere in the region of 1 minute.
So I decided to perform a (non-scientific) test.  Since I don’t have a fancy bike computer or a power meter I had to go by my perceived effort, HR monitor and simple cateye bike computer.
The Helmets
Bell standard road helmet vs Rudy Project Wingspan
as you can see on the Wingspan, I used the mesh cover (right under the number from my last race).  The other options are a solid insert (no airflow) or no insert for maximum airflow.  I went for the middle.  I also had the tail cover installed (see pic below with the tail cover on/off)
The test was conducted at Prince William Forrest, a great place to ride with a 7.25 mile loop that has it all, flat/rolling/fast and a some challenging hills.  I managed to get some time mid-week, so there were no cars.  For the whole ride I only saw 2 other cyclists.    I used my road bike with aero bars – exactly what I use when racing.
the chart above (thanks to shows the course profile – harder than most of the triathlon’s that I have competed in.
After a 10 minute warm-up I proceeded to complete a single lap using each helmet.  I started with the standard helmet then followed-up with the aero helmet.
this picture shows the start/finish line – I began each lap with a standing start, the lines painted on the road made it easy to accurately repeat the start/end of each lap.
Since the laps were around 21 minutes for 7.25 miles – it would give me a decent indicator about how much faster it is, without having to spend the whole day testing.  Plus a the short laps meant I didn’t get too fatigued, although even 1 lap is a really good workout.  My level of effort was hard the whole way.

The Results
Lap Time Avg Speed Avg HR Max Speed
Standard Helmet
All speeds are in MPH.  The aero helmet was 21.3 seconds faster, a decent time improvement.  The average HR was a little higher, I think mostly because of the hard effort for lap 1, and my starting hr was higher.  I did rest for a few minutes between laps, which gave me time to take a few pics of the stats for the first lap.  The last time I rode 2 laps around this course my 2nd lap HR was higher by 6bpm, so another 7bpm this time is close enough.   My HR is always highest at the end of the lap, since the last mile or so is significantly up hill.
the 2 pictures below show my bike computer’s average speeds for both laps.  sorry, the quality is low.
Lap 1 average speed lap 2 average speed
I tried to pace myself evenly for both laps, not favoring one lap over another, however I think I pushed the steep downhill a fraction harder on the 2nd lap (max speed went up from 42.1 to 44.4) – the hill is short and steep so would not have made much of a time difference.  the helmet surely made a little difference in max speed too.
So taking 21.3 seconds per 7.25 miles and extrapolating over standard race distances, we get the following:-
Sprint Olympic half ironman Ironman
Distance (Miles)
Time Saving (mm:ss)
these numbers are of course all subjective, but I think they represent a decent indication of time savings.  Actually for a flatter/faster course with a higher average speed the time saving could increase.  I think my cateye computer also measures a little long, shows the lap at 7.2 miles.  so these times above could be even better.
What I did notice was a big difference in how the 2 helmets felt, or more specifically sounded.  The standard helmet was very loud with all of the wind rushing past my ears, especially when riding over 23mph (which was for a good part of the lap).  The aero helmet covers part of my ears, and that really helps with the noise levels, so it doesn’t sound like you are going as fast.  As I moved my head around (up/down) there was one position that cut the wind noise to almost zero.  I’m not sure if that is a faster position, or just a better position with relation to wind near my ears.  It happened as I was looking down more towards my front wheel rather than out at the road in front. Comfort wise (heat/head temperature) I didn’t notice a difference.  It probably helped that the weather was perfect for riding (mid-low 70’s) with not much wind.
The last time I rode this course was 6 weeks before.  I used the same equipment as lap 1 (standard helmet) and had exactly the save average HR.  the differences were
Lap Time Avg Speed (mph) Avg HR Max Speed
6 weeks prior
test lap 1
so I was almost a minute faster for the same effort, after 6 weeks of pretty hard training.
So we can conclude that there is really no substitute for hard training!  In 6 weeks I improved almost 1 minute.  The helmet added another 21 seconds.  But those seconds came at no extra effort.  Add that to the 2 minutes I usually save when wearing a wetsuit and it starts to add up.
In my opinion the helmet and wetsuit are the best time/speed saving for the money spent.
a great day for a ride
I had a lot of fun completing this test, and would really like to do some more.  Some thoughts on future tests, given time (and budget)
  • complete the same test with a power meter & better bike computer (edge 500)
  • road bike vs Triathlon specific/TT bike (once I get one, perhaps 6 months away)
  • race wheels vs standard wheels

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Giant Acorn Olympic Tri 2010 Relay Race Report

Last year was my first year at triathlon’s.  My last race of the 2009 season was the Giant Acorn Sprint.  My friends Diane and Kathleen were also there competing.  Each of us is better at 1 of the 3 legs, and together we thought  we’d be able to do a decent relay time with Diane on the Swim, Kathleen on the run and me on the bike. 

With that in mind we thought it might be a fun way to end the season with a relay.  So that’s exactly what we did.  We chose the Olympic distance because the sprint distance seemed too short.

All three of us completed our first Olympic triathlon only 3 weeks before – at The Nation’s Triathlon so we had a good idea of what to expect for each of the 3 legs.

We arrived and got setup early and managed to get a great spot in transition – right next to the aisle.

The relay was the last wave, 18 minutes after the first wave.  Since i was doing the bike, i could sit back and be a spectator for the first 30 minutes of the race.

The first swimmers came out of the water in just over 24 minutes, 4 minutes ahead of us.  Diane had a really good swim and since all of the relay teams were in the same area in transition i had a good idea of our position at T1 (7th).   

Transition for relays are pretty easy, we were allowed to stand at our bikes, with helmet already on.  All we had to do was switch over the timing chip and i was away.  It was a different feeling running the bike through transition; usually i jogged, but this time i could run.  I passed a lot of people, especially on the uphill section just before the mount line.

I’ve worked hard on the bike for the last few months, which really showed with a great bike split at the Nation’s Tri (1:08:27).  My goal for this race was to beat that time.  I knew i could push hard because i didn’t have to follow up with a 10k run.  As i started on the bike, things felt really great. 

The relay teams were in the last swim wave, so that meant a lot of traffic on the bike course, especially on the first lap.  I found myself hailing ‘on your left’ a lot.   The bike course is a good one, mostly flat with some up/down hill sections, but one that you can keep a pretty good average.  The whole course is a single lane road, so there is really not much room to overtake, especially when it there are a lot of people on an up-hill section.  The one thing that really annoyed me is when people just would not keep to the left.  I often would see people riding right next to the middle of the road when no one else was around.  A  few were more scary; swerving out of nowhere.  I try to be as polite as i can letting people know i am there and want to pass with the standard ‘on your left’ call.  When i do this, i will often say thanks or offer word of encouragement to anyone who looked to be having a hard time.

The nice thing about the course was the markers on the road at every 5 miles.  This is a simple thing to do, with some orange spray paint, something that other races could learn from.  I use a cateye bike computer with speed and cadence, but i don’t use it to track distance during the race.  i like to get an idea of both my speed and current cadence, so that is what i usually have it set to.  I was already familiar with the course, however seeing these 5mile markers was a good check-point to monitor my progress.  Shortly after the first 5 mile marker there is a right hand turn from Moody Town Rd onto Kentucky Springs Rd/SR 652.  At this point the road is very smooth, and a little downhill.  The smooth surface is nice, especially since the other roads are a little rough.

After a slight decline there are a few hills.  I was really feeling good and passing a ton of people, especially on the uphill sections.  I don’t have the best bike, no carbon or anything fancy.  I have recently started using some clip-on aero bars (Profile T2+) which i really love, i was in them for most of the race, except for the some tighter turns and when needing to brake for some sections where there were tons of bikes in front.

At one point on the first lap, a few cars (the road was open) were stuck behind some of the slower bikers – i came up to them at the crest of the largest hill.  I had 2 choices, sit back and wait for them to move on, or pass the cars (on rt 652, with double yellow lines).  As much as i want to go fast, i know the rules and want to be safe.  that means no crossing the double yellow lines and basically being safe.  I tried to get the attention of the drivers ahead to give me a little room, and managed to squeeze by.  The extra bike training has really given me an extra kick if i need for passing or hills. 

I got to the end of lap 1 in exactly 33 minutes – ahead of schedule for a 1:08, now I’m thinking i can get close to 1:06!

the second lap was much easier, way less traffic to pass, but i still passed a lot of people.  I can only remember 3 people passing me for the whole 2 laps.  All of them were on really nice bikes TT bikes.  I passed many others with the full carbon TT and some with racing wheels.  This usually gives me a boost, with my alloy road bike.

for a lot of the 2nd lap – i found myself dueling with an age grouper, he had a really nice Cervelo P2C – he’d get more aero and pass me on the flat/downhill sections, and I'd come right back going up hill.  With about 5 miles to go he passed me again.  So I decided to try and drop him.  I upped the intensity all of the way to the finish and never saw him again!  Actually at the last turn i managed to pass 1 of the 3 people that passed me on the first lap.

I finished with a bike split of 1:05:42 and managed to negative split the 2nd lap by 18 seconds.  I couldn’t be happier about that!

T2 was fast, however it took me a few seconds to get the timing chip off.  I passed it to Kathleen and she headed out for the 10k run.  We were the first relay team out of T2! 

Kathleen put in a great run.  Diane and I walked up to the turn-around, right at the fork where you go left for the 2nd lap, or right to the finish.  We shouted words of encouragement for everyone we could.  After completing a few races now, i know how good it is to have people cheering you on, especially on the run.  Kathleen came past us in around 23 minutes for the first lap, and she looked strong.  We had a pretty good idea that we were still in 1st place, but we didn't know much about the other teams; and it is hard to see the ‘R’ marked on the legs of anyone coming by.  Kathleen is a great runner and gave it her all.  We moved a little closer to the finish line, and waited for her to come past for the final push to the finish.  She finished strong; our total time was 2:23:28 – good enough to win by over 3 minutes!  My first time on the podium.

here’s the relay results for the top 3 – full race results here Giant Acorn International 2010 Race results


so where did the team name J-SHORE come from?  Diane used the names of all of our kids :-

Jacob Sam Hugh Oliver Ruby Ethan

We had to wait a while for the awards ceremony.  To the credit of the race organizers, ceremony went quickly, and we got a nice engraved stone for our first place!



  • the bike training continues to produce results.  the last 2 races have been great! 
    I am at least 10% better than 2 months ago
  • after the tough ride my legs felt good.  A little wobbly after a fast slightly downhill flying dismount, but i think i could have posted a decent 10k run.
  • i am starting to think about purchasing a TT bike.  I’ve had some good races on my current (road) bike and think I'll improve my times with a real TT bike.  Perhaps I will start seriously looking early in 2011.  I really like the new Felt B16/B14.

In summary – this is a great race, not only because we did so well, but a good venue with a fast course.  I would definitely consider doing it again, but i haven’t really looked at my schedule for next year yet.  My main/’A’ races will be Eagleman 70.3 in June and the Nation’s Olympic distance again September – possibly the beach to battleship (70.3) in November.

Since this is my last race, of any kind, planned for this year; I'm officially in the off season!   I still have a lot of things to work on for next year.  The main thing i want to focus on is solid technique for the swim and run, and continue to improve on the bike.