Time Trialling on the Cheap (maybe)...
I have always enjoyed watching individual time trials during the Tour de France. The "Race Against Truth" is exactly that--you cannot hide behind teammates or blame anyone else for how your ride goes. In his book, "A Significant Other," Victor Hugo Pena talks about the pain of riding a time trial and how it requires the ability to suffer beyond anything else in cycling. For most people, this would make time trialling in itself pretty unattractive but I enjoy being able to focus exclusively on the race and not have to worry about: a) others crashing into me; b) me crashing into others and c) any form of strategy. The basic rule is just go fast and don't blow up.
I rode a few time trials in Ottawa on my Bianchi Limited with Scott time trial bars (the kind Greg Lemond used to win the 1989 Tour de France!) and had a lot of fun. I was determined to do some more time trialling in a serious way and I determined pretty quickly that a tt-specific bike was necessary. E-Bay to the rescue!
After some shopping around and checking out roadbikereviews.com, I decided to put in a low-ball bid for a Leader LD-735 TT aluminum frame, sold only over the Internet. I calculated that the bike should fit although I was a bit concerned that it only came in one size. To my surprise, the frame was mine for $169. For another $115 I bought an aero carbon fork and I was in business. Well, not quite. Next came the hunt for parts on E-Bay and this took some time before I was able to take a big box of parts to Kirk the Mechanic.
At the end, this is what I came up with to practice the fine art of time-trialling:
Leader LD-735TT aluminum frame
Leader L-806 carbon aero fork
Leader integrated headset
Shimano Dura-Ace 53-39 crankset and bottom bracket
Shimano Ultegra 11-23 cassette
Shimano Dura-Ace 9 speed bar-end shifters
Shimano Ultegra brake calipers
VisionTech base bar and TT clip-on aerobars
VisionTech brake levers
Velocity Spartacus aero wheels (20 spokes in the front, 24 in the rear)
Michelin Axial tires
Cateye CC-HR200DW bike computer, including heart rate monitor
Selle Italia SLK saddle
Speedplay X series pedals
For time trials I have a silly-looking Louis Garneau teardrop-shaped Rocket helmet, with a very cool visor. Most recently I have added a Renn disc wheel to my arsenal of time trial goodies. At the time of writing, I have ridden the Leader about 350 km. I competed in the 2006 Dismal Dash time trial in Suffolk, VA, one of the Peter Teeuwen Memorial time trials in Chesapeake, VA and a Red Rose/Cadence time trial in Pennsylvania. So far in 2007 I have ridden the US 40 km Time Trial Challenge in Middletown, PA. I am not very fast yet since it takes me about 1:07 to ride 40 kms on a rolling course but I will improve. One disadvantage with racing time trials is that there are very few of them in the Mid-Atlantic so I have to do a lot of driving to get in my timed 40 kms.
The Leader is pretty fast but it lacks the sophistication of the better tt bikes like the Cervelos. It is brutally stiff and you end up taking a lot of the road shock. The head tube is too long so you actually sit up a bit too high for optimal drag reduction and the gap between the frame and the rear wheel is too large. The workmanship is decent but not comparable to my other bikes. And the phrase "78 Degree" is actually misspelled on the decal on the top tube! But through a judicious mixing of new and used parts with my bargain frame and fork I probably have US$1100 invested, plus $450 for the disc wheel, which seems like an exceptional value. Once I have done time trials for a few years I plan to keep the parts and upgrade the frame to become more competitive.
The Leader and me in action, May 2006, Pennsylvania--at least it looks more aerodynamic than me!