How Much Should I Ride The TT Bike by MBPC Coach Tom Davis
It's a very common question, and a point of much debate, as to when and how is best to spend some time on the TT bike. A lot of triathlon racing is TT style, non drafting, head down and full gas on the TT bars, so it's only natural that we have to practise in position, but is it necessary to spend all your rides on the bars?
Firstly, let's talk about why it's important to ride on the TT bike - it's important to ride in position because normally compared to a road bike, the hip angle is far more closed, and if were not adequate conditioned, its a recipe to all sorts of aches and pains towards the end of the ride, or if not then its certain to impact the run.
It's also important to condition the arms and shoulders to ride in position. Riding on the TT bars will have a greater impact on the shoulders, and holding a good TT position takes practice. If you save this just for race day, then you will be wasting speed/ watts with having to sit up and keep adjusting your position - and will lead to a miserable day.
With that said it's also far from necessary to spend every ride on the TT bike, and is more than acceptable to have a nice relaxed ride on the TCR or gravel bike!
So when should we ride the bars, and when should we not? My general guidelines are as follows -
For sessions that include a lot of race pace training or conditioning, or sessions where you’re doing aero drills obviously it's essential to ride the race bike, as otherwise you lose a lot of the benefits of the session. However for steady rides and intervals, it becomes a bit more about personal choice. For me, and a large majority of people, top end Vo2 style intervals, or sprints, it's all about hitting the best numbers, so that's when I'd stay on the TCR and really push the physiological benefits of hitting the higher powers, rather than keeping it super specific.
With long rides, and easy spins, it's a bit of a grey area, and this is when I think it's fine to choose depending on how you feel day to day. If you’re riding as part of a group then it's usually frowned upon to rock up with the TT bike, but if it's just you and a friend or two, then id make sure you discuss between yourselves so that one member of the group isn’t in for a tough ride trying to keep up on their roadie, while you're spinning along on the bars.
One thing I would say about taking the TT though on choice sessions like this, is to be realistic about how much time you would spend on the bars. If you take the TT bike, and spend the whole ride sitting up, then in my opinion you’d have been better off taking the bike you're more comfortable on, saving the shoulders, and nailing that TT position next time you take it out!
The final aspect to consider is how far out you are from the goal race. As you get closer to the big day, then more and more sessions should be on the TT - its all about making it as specific as you can as you head to race day, and getting happy with how the bike rides, handles, and to make sure that you won’t have any unexpected suprises come race day.
Hopefully that helps, and gives a bit of guidance to make the most of all of your sessions, and if you’ve got the luxury of more than one bike, then it should make that tricky decision of which one take out a little bit easier!!!