Optimizing your bike to improve your performance

Rob Cummins Ironman Bike

We head back to Sydney in Australia today to catch up with Campbell Hanson and find out how he optimized his bike to improve his Ironman bike performance.

We also chat about his approach to training and what his favorites bike workouts are.

(Read the transcription of our chat here)

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Podcast Transcription:

BRAD BROWN:  Welcome back onto yet another edition of The Kona Edge, it’s time to chat some biking as we head back to Sydney and catch up with a returning guest, Campbell Hanson, Campbell, welcome back on.

CAMPBELL:  Thanks Brad, nice to be here.

BRAD BROWN:  Campbell, last week we spoke about improving your swim and one of the things that blew my mind was the drag effect in the water and just by fixing that how much improvement you can get. You focused quite a bit in the buildup to Kona last year on getting your position on the bike a lot better and you got some big gains just by getting more aero, changing crank lengths, talk me through a little bit about what you did and why you did it?

CAMPBELL:  I think it’s something I hadn’t really looked at too closely in the past. I’ve always been a big believer in you’ve just got to physically do the work and become a stronger, more powerful, fitter, faster athlete and then I was sort of thinking, well, probably need to start looking at a few of these finer details and then you look at some of the numbers around. If you can gain two seconds per km over 180km, that’s a six minute gain and that’s pretty hard to train for. That’s probably about two seconds a km, is probably at the upper end of what you’re going to get when you collate all your little aerodynamic bits and pieces.

Then talking to some of the bike fitters, they talk about what some of the pros do in terms of optimizing things as much as they can and so I rejigged my bike fit and basically with the idea of getting my upper body a little bit lower and did that by dropping my seat and stretching myself out in the front end a little bit. I went to 165mm cranks down from 1725s and I’m 178 tall and I’m pretty sure some of the much taller athletes, Jan Frodeno as an example, I’m pretty sure he rides 165mm cranks. As a time trialist, you’re looking to generate torque or accelerate like you are as a road cyclist, so once you’re up and running, having shorter crank length will allow you to have less hip flexion at the top of the pedal stroke which means you can get your back a little bit lower and flatter without unhinging your hip.

You’re probably disturbing less air with your pedal stroke, so I think there’s some data to show that your heart rate can be a little bit lower for the same power output and aerodynamically you’re potentially disturbing a little bit less air with a smaller pedal stroke. I switched to those and sometimes it’s probably psychological but I think it made a difference the first few races. I felt like I rode better and ran better off the bike. Some of that, I think it’s also due to being further forward and more open hip angle. Other things I looked at, I played around with oversized pulley wheels and wax covered chain, potentially that made a difference, silicone tubes. They talk about up to a 12 watt gain on each wheel, sorry with the latex tube.

I’m not sure whether that’s a bit far-fetched but I think all of these things add up a little bit and potentially that’s led to having a good ride and then I also did some really solid training sessions. I did a 10 week block middle of last year culminating in a 60 minute fall out FTP test on a trainer, which is probably, I’ve only ever done it twice and it’s dreadful. It’s probably the most painful session I’ve ever done. It’s literally pass out, vomit sort of stuff at the end of it. Every two weeks leading up to that, I’d start off with a 20 minute and then maybe 2 x 15s and then a 30 and then 2 x 20s and then a 60 minute FTP test, with some solid sessions during the week building up to that.

I think that helped lift the threshold and then obviously dropped off a little bit. I wasn’t hitting those numbers by the time I got to Kona because the training changes and you’re doing more endurance race pace type work or slightly above it but yeah, I think a combination of optimizing the bike for aerodynamics and then some just good, honest, hard indoor training made the difference.

BRAD BROWN:  What’s your favorite workout on the bike?

CAMPBELL:  That’s a good question actually. I think leading into Kona I did a couple of sessions which will be 2:45 to three hour sessions on the trainer where I’ll ride say a road course or a Kona course. I’ll be sitting at say between 240 to 260 watts, I’ll ride a little bit harder than my Ironman numbers but I think there might be three 40 minute blocks in there at say 250, 260 watts and that sort of thing I enjoy. I think it pays big dividends going into an Ironman.

BRAD BROWN:  Brilliant, Campbell it’s been amazing once again, I look forward to talking about your run but we’ll save that for next time out.

CAMPBELL:  All right, cheers Brad, thank you.

About Us

Brad Brown is a 40 something age grouper that dreams of one day qualifying for and racing on the big island (He may have to outlive everyone in his age group though).

Morbidly obese in 2009, Brad clocked in at 165kgs (363lbs) at his heaviest.

He's subsequently lost a third of his body weight on the way to a half Ironman pb of 5:06 and a full Ironman pb of 12:21.

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