Tour de Georgia tech, April 21, 2005
Steve Hed is the aerodynamics guru who makes sure that Lance Armstrong and the Discovery Channel team have the quickest, slipperiest equipment for the all-important time trials in events like Georgia and the Tour de France. Cyclingnews' Mark Zalewski spoke to Hed before the Georgia stage three time trial to find out what's new and what's coming in time trial equipment.
While all of the teams of the Tour de Georgia were busy preparing their time trial machines for the stage three time trial, Steve Hed of Hed Design was thinking ahead for the Tour de France time trials. Hed was on hand in the Discovery Channel camp making last-minute adjustments and getting valuable feedback from Lance and Co. on how to improve the aerodynamics and performance of the Trek speed machines.
Cyclingnews' was able to have a chat with the guru behind many of the latest advancements in bicycle aerodynamics in between tweaks and adjustments. We kicked off by asking Hed about the most recent improvements in time trial technology.
Steve Hed: It's interesting. Time trial bikes are finally catching up. Now what you are seeing is going to be interesting -- to see who does the next [big] redesign. I mean people are looking at what everyone else is doing and it all looks pretty good. Things are more sleek and a lot more aero than they were four or five years ago.
CN: What have you been working on lately for Lance and Discovery Channel?
SH: The big thing is still fine-tuning the S-bend aero bars. [Bontrager] is selling those bars with those bends. The bend becomes very critical. You are seeing all kinds of straight extension or just a curve up. A lot of that is going to end up on personal preference. Like Eki at the moment has a bad wrist, and he likes the S-bends, but you can generate so much more power with them, that it hurts his wrist. So for this race he is using his normal bars which takes pressure off the wrist.
But where that bend really comes into play is you want that ability to choke back and get a really incredible and powerful position on a roller. You want a position where somebody can stay [in it] instead of having to go wide.
CN: So what else will follow to help with climbing improvements?
SH: That becomes critical, where do you go? What's the next step on a climb [like the one today?] When you have a climb like that, traditionally a TT bike is a little bit heavier. So what you are going to see on a climb like that the aero bike being a little bit heavier than your road bike is going to be a disadvantage where aero is not as important. So what I am looking at is, as carbon technology gets better and people know what works, you are going to see the TT bikes eventually have the weight come down on them, so that there's no decision you have to make between a TT bike and a road bike.
CN: I see you still have the trademark HED tri-spoke on the front?
SH: Yeah, I think this version is about five years old. Today we have this wheel with a carbon rim which is a lot lighter. But it's starting to rain and braking performance on a front wheel... a little bit of weight versus not being able to control your bike... The feeling is you are going to go faster having good braking than you are with a little bit lighter weight. The carbon braking surfaces aren't quite there yet, especially when it's raining. The rear wheel is Bontrager standard disc -- flat and fairly smooth.
CN: What is next on your list to make the fastest components possible?
SH: The next project I think is a new rear wheel. As bike design is changing, as aero seat-stays and aero seat-tubes are changing, a disc wheel is probably not the best wheel for the future anymore. I think a tri-spoke or some version of something else... that's what we are working on next is trying to replace that wheel with a wheel that will be lighter and little bit more aero.
Go get 'em Floyd*
Poking around the pits, Cyclingnews also got a good look at Floyd Landis' Phonak BMC TT01 'Time Machine' time trial bike, an all-carbon wonder that, like Discovery's Treks, has had every available innovation in aerodynamic equipment thrown at it. Landis' BMC uses an all-carbon frame with a seat tube that wraps round the rear wheel and and a one-piece fork and stem that includes a fairing for the front of the frame. The overall effect, as Landis was to prove shortly after we took these shots, is a very quick bike indeed. Having a rather useful pilot doesn't hurt, of course.
Landis was also using Zipp's rear disk and 808, deep-rim front wheels, and Easton aero bar. Interesting to note the Selle Italia SLR saddle - a classic weight-saver on a TT course where aerodynamics had to be balanced against climbing weight.