Last year on one of my bi-weekly trips to the Manchester Velodrome for a training session, I started chatting to a Canadian rider (Mike Nash) who was there doing some final training for what turned out to be a record-breaking ride the following day. He had just finished riding in the Master's Track World Championships and had decided to stick around for a few days to make an assault on the Hour Record for his age group. (For those unfamiliar, it's basically a test to see how far you can ride your bike in one hour – on the track.)
We spent some time chatting about equipment and one thing I was immediately drawn to was a special set of aero bars he had on his bike. The thing about the Hour Record is, besides needing to have incredibly good endurance and an ability to suffer for the entire hour, you also need to maximise aerodynamics – both as a rider and with your equipment. Anything you can do to cheat the wind is going to give you extra distance when attempting to assault the record books. The bars on his bike were designed to do just that.
|The Brezza Nano bars|
What I was looking at was a set of the brand new Brezza Nano bars from 3T (www.3tcycling.com). If you didn't know much about cycling you would think they were just a smaller version of their normal Brezza II aero bars – and you'd be correct. 3T took their top-of-the-range aero bar and made it smaller.
What's the big deal about that you ask? Well, a normal aero bar has a width of around 40-42cm. The Brezza Nano is only 30cm wide. Not much difference, right? Well, the theory goes that by reducing the width of the bar you are reducing the amount of material that has to cut through the air. Less air resistance = faster times. I've read claims of as much as a 30% decrease in drag over their standard Brezza bars. Add to this the reduction in weight from less material and there is the potential for some good gains.
The next day I did a quick online search of the rider I had met that night. It turns out that he did indeed manage to break the Hour Record that had stood for 8 years. I was now definitely intrigued by these bars! You see, I am obsessive about my equipment. Anything I can find that will legally give me an edge over the competition – I am willing to try and if it works for me, use in competition. Especially in track cycling where races can come down to tenths of a second, I need to make certain that I have the best equipment available. I wanted a set of these bars.
I got in touch with 3T and it turned out that the bars I had seen were a rarity in the wild. The were due to hit the market, but not for a while. However, in hearing about my background as a Paralympic hopeful and already being a World Champion in the time trial, something clicked with the folks at 3T, and they offered to get me a set of the bars before they went on sale to the public. What 3T didn't know at the time was that I was actually already a faithful 3T user. I have (and have had) 3T bars and stems on ALL my bikes! I had won the TT Wolrd's with their aero bars on my TT bike and my road and track bikes both sported their bars and stems also. And now I had a set of their new Nano's to test out on my Pursuit bike.
|Nano width compared to Brezza II|
Upon receiving the bars, my first impressions were, like all my other 3T products, they were superbly crafted. Light, sleek and well-made. In comparison to my 'regular' aerobars that I had on my TT bike, they seemed absolutely tiny! I strapped them onto my track bike and headed for the velodrome to give them a good test.
3T readily admit that these bars are designed for either smaller riders, or events where you are mostly travelling in a straight line. Despite seemingly travelling around in circles, pursuiting in the track is really just following a straight line – meaning you don't have to manoeuvre in and out of traffic or avoid obstacles. The narrowness of the bars makes it harder to steer the bike, when compared to the wider bar. It took me a short while to adjust to the different feel these bars gave to my steering whenever I was actually trying to negotiate around other riders on the track.
Let me be clear: there is nothing 'wrong' with the steering of these bars. It just feels different to a wider bar. It took me all of one session to master them. I would happily use these bars on my TT bike IF I primarily did flat and straight(ish) courses. But if you have to ride technical courses with lots of turns and are out of the saddle climbing regularly, then these bars probably aren't for you.
|Head on view with my risers. I built a small bridge |
between the aero extensions to add stability.
Over the period of the next few weeks I continued to ride with the bars, getting more and more comfortable with them. I made a series of adjustments until they were perfect for my needs. Due to the particular set-up of my track bike and the need to get maximum leverage when pulling up on the bars when doing a standing start out of the start gate, I opted to drop the base bar down as low as my bike would allow – but kept the arm rests up high in my normal position. This meant I had to use some large (60mm) spacers between the bar and the arm rests. The spacers are from 3T themselves and current opinion is that separating the base bar from the arm rest actually improves aerodynamics. It does make the bars look quite 'extreme', but trust me – they feel fantastic.
On the track I ride two different events with these bars; the Individual Pursuit and the Kilo (1km time trial). When you start the Pursuit you 'ease' into it. This means you don't come out of the start gate as hard as you can. You still need to be able to pull not he bars, but it isn't a maximum effort. When starting the Kilo though, it's a matter of giving everything you have. What I personally found was, that the bars were fine for Pursuit starts, but lacked enough leverage for Kilo starts. Being as narrow as they are – it's just difficult to be able to pull on them with 100% effort. For Kilo starts you ideally need the wider bar.
|The bars in action|
In the end, the bars were a key part of my arsenal in winning the Individual Pursuit title at the World Championships. Not only winning, but doing so by a convincing margin against the reigning World Champion and World Record holder (more than 6 seconds over 3km). I have been asked by many riders and other coaches about the bars – my impressions, where I got them, etc. I have always given my honest and candid opinion (as I have done here). And I will continue to use the bars as I prepare to win gold in London!
The best part of this whole experience, is that 3T offered to be one of my sponsors leading into London. I will be using their very best bars and stems (both road, track and TT) on all my bikes, and will even be riding on their new carbon race wheels (wheels are a new entry into the marketplace for 3T this year). It's so rewarding to work with companies that you believe in and who are willing to go the extra mile to help YOU succeed. 3T definitely fits into this category. I humbly thank them for their support and I look forward to many more victories using their products!