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Thursday, 29 August 2013

The Evolution of Elbow Width in Time Trialling

I've been noticing a trend with time trial positions in the last few years with the elbow position getting narrower. Here are a few good examples:

This is Brad from back in his Cofidis days: Elbows and hands quite wide.

And here he is in all conquering Sky set up: Elbows and hand very narrow.

Tony Martin during the early days of HTC: Elbows wide, hands narrow.

Tony Martin now: Super narrow.

David Millar in 2003.

David Millar more recently.

It's also interesting to see how Matt Bottrill's position has changed from his days before his involvement with Simon Smart:

To that after hours of wind tunnel testing:

The original theory used to be that having the elbows wider meant that your knees came up into a low pressure point behind the elbows. However, for the majority of the pedal stroke, your knees are out of the low pressure anyway.

I believe we're seeing more a trend towards this kind of a position as more and more information is coming from wind tunnel testing. A journal published last year ( stated that "Data statistical analysis clearly shows that the hands positioning on shifters and the elbows joined together are significantly reducing the cyclist drag force.". Narrow elbows presents as small a frontal area to the wind as possible and allows less air to get between your legs where it can get disturbed.

There will always be exceptions to the rule: Cadel Evans has always ridden a very wide and open TT position

But what are the down sides? Well, flexibility for one. Not everyone can just drop into a super narrow position and maintain it. Another aspect is whether a narrow elbow position detrimentally effects your breathing. Therefore, I think elbow position is something you should experiment with. Start reducing the width in stages and find where it starts to feel uncomfortable. Try riding a few weeks in that position and see if your body can adapt to it with increased flexibility. Time your self over a set route a number of times and average out the results. 

Narrow looks like it's the current theme in the professional peleton, let us know if it works for you? 

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