Specialized Human Performance Engineer, Jesse Frank, uses aerodynamics and physiology everyday to ensure athletes are as fast as possible. In this episode, Andrew Harley and John Mayfield talk with Jesse about the wind tunnel testing process and how it's applied to a wide range of equipment options and racing positions. Learn the biggest take-aways that you can apply and which products offer the most aero advantage for your dollar.
TriDot Podcast .41:
Is Aero Everything? Answers from a Specialized Wind Tunnel Engineer
Intro: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire, and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.
Andrew: Welcome to the show, everybody. We have a thrilling edition of the TriDot podcast today, lots of good stuff to learn as we talk aerodynamics with an extremely smart guy working with world-class athletes on behalf of an industry-leading company. Jesse Frank is a Human Performance Engineer at Specialized where he utilizes aerodynamics and physiology to ensure products and athletes are as fast as possible. He has a BS in Mechanical Engineering and a master's degree in Integrative Physiology from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he was also, John, the team president of the highly acclaimed University of Colorado Tri team. So, Jesse, thank you so much for coming on the TriDot podcast.
Jesse: Yeah, thanks so much for having me. I'm stoked to be here.
Andrew: That's what we like to hear. Also joining us today is Coach John Mayfield. A successful Ironman athlete himself, John leads TriDot’s athletes services ambassador and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes, ranging from first timers to Kona qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010, and coaching with TriDot since 2012. What's up, John?
John: Man, I'm just super excited to have the conversation with Jesse and get faster.
Andrew: Yes, we all want to get faster, free speed, aerodynamics. I guess it's not free speed. Get the word for it. But Jesse's going to tell us all about that. Well, who am I? I am your host, Andrew, the average triathlete, voice of the people, and the captain of the middle of the pack. Today we're going to get going with our warm up question, and then we'll move on to the main set talking with Jesse Frank from Specialized about the aero lessons he has learned working in The Win Tunnel. Then we'll cool down with Jesse, John and I, all sharing some of the gear we use to get more aero on the bike. It's going to be a great show. Let's get to it.
Narrator: Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: So, today's warm up question is a slight variation of the warm up question I asked back on episode 11 of the podcast. For that warm up, I asked pro triathlete, Elizabeth James, and TriDot CEO Jeff Booher, “If you could pick, what song would you have playing from the loudspeakers as you cross the finish line of an Ironman?” After the show, we asked the podcast audience to share what song they would choose. And we got a ton of great responses, guys. But a few of our athletes made a great point saying, “What about starting line music?” Because when you think about it, finish line music is geared towards kind of celebrating, you know, the accomplishment, you know, throwing your fists up as you cross the finish line. But starting line music would presumably be kind of chosen to pump you up or maybe get you focused for the race. So, Jesse, John, per the request of our athletes I bring you guys today's warm up. If you could choose the song blaring from the loudspeakers as you waded into the water for a big race, what song would it be? Jesse, it’s your first time on the podcast, we're going to just throw you into the deep end of the show here. So, I'll start with you. What would you go with?
Jesse: Well, I'll see if I sink or swim. A little backstory here, my musical preferences. I am a really big fan of bad music, my friends like to say.
Andrew: Bad music?
Jesse: I really like top 40 pop music. I went to a Jonas Brothers concert with my younger sister last October 2019.
Jesse: Very recently. So, just keep that in mind. I grew up watching MTV and BET like Total Request Live. So, I still love some of those… those wall call throwback songs. And to this day, one of…
Andrew: Jesse, I'm not going to lie, like with you, just this intro so far, I am like so on the edge of my seat to see what song you're going to say.
Jesse: Hey, you know, I try to keep people guessing. I hope people get a good laugh out of this because it's… it's minorly embarrassing. And I would also say, if you have young kids, don't play this song for them because it's not the most appropriate.
Jesse: But the one song that I don't know why, but anytime I hear it come up on like an old Spotify playlist, it gets me super amped, and it's… it’s Petey Pablo Freek-a-Leek. It's… it's like not a great song.
Jesse: It's just a super up tempo. I don't know what about it just gets me going. But if we have to choose a more younger crowd friendly song, pretty much anything Taylor Swift. I love Taylor Swift.
Jesse: Really want to go to one of her concerts one day. So, those are the first 2 that come to mind. So…
Andrew: Jesse just opening it up, kind of telling us about yourself just straight out the gate. I mean, the Freek-a-Leek song is definitely approved by my wife. Like, her entire workout playlist is songs from that era of music that… that go a little like that. So, yeah, I can get behind that that. I mean, because… because, Jesse, really, I mean, you can't choose what songs you love, right? A song comes on the radio, you either love it or you don't.
Jesse: This is very true. And the friends who would carpool up to work with me back in the days of going to work certainly did not enjoy my music choice. But that's why I got to drive, I get to choose the music.
John: I guess I'm showing my age because I have no idea what that is.
Andrew: I know what that song is. Yeah.
Jesse: If you want to laugh, go listen to one of those songs.
Andrew: So, John, let's… let's move on to you. What would your starting line song be going up for that big A race?
John: I narrowed it down from a few, but I think my go-to, man, this has been kind of one of my pumpup songs for a decade, but Fort Minor Remember the Name. That's… that's a good one to get going by.
Jesse: That is a great song.
Andrew: It absolutely is, because that one starts hard, that beat hits immediately and it does not let up the whole time as long as going. So, I can get behind that one. Mine isn't far off from that, to be honest with you, John, because Fort Minor is the rap name of Mike Shinoda…
Andrew: … from Linkin Park.
Andrew: And my pick is back in the day, right, Linkin Park and Jay Z put out their collision album. And they… they took 6 songs, they took 6 Jay Z rap songs, and 6 Linkin Park rock songs, and they kind of collaborated and mesh them together. Mine… and kind of like what Jesse said, he kind of threw the disclaimer like, “Okay, if you go listen to the song, it's inappropriate,” every song on that 6-song album is inappropriate. So, my apologies if anybody goes and is listening to our preferences and gets slightly offended. But there's… there's 2 songs in particular on that album that either one of them are, to this day, on my… on my running playlist, on my workout playlist. They get me more hyped than any song that's come out since then. And so, there's 2 songs in particular, I'm not even going to say the name of them. But if you go listen to that album, there's 2 that stand out as… as just top shelf. And so, that's my pick is anything off of the Linkin Park Jay Z collision album, I would happily wade into the water and have that in my head as I start my race.
So, guys, we're going to throw this out to our audience on social media. So, if you go find us on TriDot Triathlon Training on Facebook, head to the I AM TriDot Facebook group, you know, and find us on Instagram, and we're going to throw this question out to you, our audience. Because just like Jesse Frank pointed out, everybody's taste in music is different. You can't choose the songs that you love and the songs they get you hyped. And we want to know what you would want to hear playing as you start your next big A race.
Narrator: On to the main sets, going in 3, 2, 1.
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In every industry, there are a few brands that stand out as the absolute leaders in product quality, innovation, and performance. In the world of cycling and aerodynamics, Specialized is one of the undisputed names at the top of the charts. Producing world-class bikes and components from their headquarters in Santa Clara, California, one of the keys to their success is the on-site wind tunnel that helps their team perfect products and set their athletes up for success. Today, we're joined by Specialized Human Performance Engineer, Jesse Frank, who will take us inside the work his team is doing in a Specialized wind tunnel, and what triathletes can learn from their findings. So, Jesse, before we dive into the knowledge you have as Jesse Frank, the engineer, let's talk a little bit about Jesse Frank, the athlete. So, from… from your years of triathlon, because you've… you've had, you know, so many accomplishments and got the race, you know, collegiately for the University of Colorado, Boulder. So, just from your own tri journey, what is maybe one of your favorite like race day stories to tell people?
Jesse: Oh man, there are so many, so many stories. I have 3 that come to mind. They're fairly quick stories. So, I know you asked for 1.
Andrew: Yeah, let's do them.
Jesse: But I figured since it's triathlon, we can do 3; 1 for each sport.
Jesse: First thing that… story that comes to mind is my first triathlon ever, that one in Belle Isle that I just mentioned, the Motor City triathlon. I had massive prerace nerves, as I'm sure most of us did have at one point, or still do have. And of course, the… the line to the bathroom is super duper long race morning. And I got into the stall, and you know, did what I needed to do, flush the system, and looked over and saw there was no more toilet paper.
Jesse: So, that… that was not so great, but it was a life lesson. And now, I always pack my own roll of toilet paper in my transition bag.
Andrew: In that particular moment in the Porta Potty with no toilet paper, what did you do?
Jesse: You just… I just sucked it up and figured the water would help get everything out, you know?
John: So, on one of our early podcast, Andrew actually shared a very similar story and shared a fate of his favorite run singlets.
Andrew: I thankfully was wearing a tank top and so I was able to kind of use my tank top as… as toilet paper in that moment. And I no longer own that tank top, long story short.
Jesse: That's unfortunate. That could be a good warm up question for you guys is, what's your favorite alternative toilet paper, singlet, running sock, leaf? I'm sure every triathlete has some experience with alternative toilet paper.
Andrew: That's a good point.
John: Very pertinent information as well. Good… good go-tos.
Andrew: I want to hire Jesse as a writer for the show.
Jesse: That's a dangerous game.
Andrew: Yeah. So, Jesse, story number 2.
Jesse: Story number 2 is going to the college days. It's kind of more just a general theme through college. You know, we talked about pumpup songs at the start of this podcast. But one of the things unique to collegiate triathlon I've noticed is of course, it's a team event, and most of the college teams especially at collegiate nationals have team cheers. And our team cheer for the University Colorado Tri Team is a chant called akilah boomba [spelling?], which I believe is a Tahitian chant that was brought to the team by a former member who graduated just before I started. And you basically repeat this Tahitian chant 3 times, you start off at a very soft whisper, and gradually rise your voice, raise your voice until you're yelling at the top of your lungs. You finish the chat and you spell out Colorado and you asked, “What does that spell?”
“What does that mean?”
“Victory!” and then you kind of like mosh pit push your teammates around.
And I remember just getting so jazzed up about that, even if it was just a small conference race. And it was my first experience at collegiate nationals in 2012 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. For collegiate nationals, they split up the men's and women's races. And that year, the women raced first. And the girl who normally led the team cheer hadn't finished her race yet because she started in the later wave. And the men’s races were about to start. And so, we're getting ready to do the chat and someone's like, “Who's going to do the cheer? Who’s going to do the cheer?” and someone just said, “Jesse should do it,” which I was surprised about because… because I was a sophomore, but I gladly stepped in and led the cheer. And I was shaking for like 10 minutes out of just pure excitement. And of course, I was the last wave to go. So, by the time my wave started 40 minutes later, I had calmed down. But that was one of the cooler experiences I've had. And had the pleasure of leading many more chats, thankfully, as an officer on the team for so long. I was on the team for 7 years for context, and so I got 2 degrees from CU.
Andrew: Well, it sounds like a nice way to spike the heart rate before you… before you actually get racing. So…
Jesse: It really was.
Andrew: Alright, Jesse, story number 3.
Jesse: Third story would be from Escape from Alcatraz triathlon in 2014. 4 of my teammates who happened to be my roommates, we all road tripped or flew out to the Bay Area in California and did Escape through… Escape from triathlon through the collegiate cup sponsored by Muscle Milk at the time, so they got heavily discounted entries. As college students, that was spectacular. And I remember, you know, for those who haven't done Alcatraz, you have to get there super duper early, you put yourself in transition. And then you go from transition onto a bus. They bus you to the ferry. You get on a ferry, they ferry you out towards Alcatraz Island. You're on the ferry for like 45 minutes to an hour just like in your wetsuit, nervous as heck, thinking about, “Holy crap, I'm about to jump into a shark-infested body of water where it's like 550 F,” which is like 100 C or something. And so, you're just in your head the whole time. And I think a lot of us have experienced, you know, prerace vibes are pretty serious. There's, you know, not a lot of smiling going on necessarily, a lot of prerace visualization. I tend to be a pretty laid back guy who does better when I'm keeping it loose and dancing and having a good time. So, as part of the collegiate cup, there were a few different teams there and it was us, Cal Berkeley, and Texas, University of Texas, Austin I think were the 3 teams in the competition, because it was in…
Jesse: Exactly. It was… it was a newer event for them. And I remember sitting on the ferry, everyone was super serious. And I just looked around and like all the people were sitting together, kind of fraternizing, just chatting. And I looked around I just said, “Hey, anybody want to play duck, duck goose?” and the CU Tri Team and Cal Berkeley and UT Austin played a game of duck, duck goose in wetsuits on the ferry out to Alcatraz. I don't know if that was appreciated by the non-collegiate folks, but we sure had a good time.
Andrew: You don't expect when you ask somebody their favorite triathlon memory, you don't expect to have a grown up adult tell you about their game of duck, duck, goose played as a college student. So, I appreciate the mess out of that story. So, Jesse as we slide into kind of talking about aerodynamics and what your team is doing in The Win Tunnel, tell me about kind of your background and your education and how you landed at Specialized in the first place.
Jesse: Certainly. You know, as we've talked about, as you've mentioned, I was at the University of Colorado for 7 wonderful years. I took the Van Wilder track, except I got 2 degrees, not just 1. I initially went into school as a mechanical engineer for my bachelor's degree, which is what I ended up finishing with. But I had the intention of going into biomedical engineering. You know, after I tore my ACL, I remember the physician's assistant showed me a picture of the inside of my knee from surgery. I thought it was just the coolest thing ever, and pretty much decided right there that I wanted to kind of have a hand in surgery or some kind of athletic medical practice, but did not want to be a doctor because that sounded like way too much schooling; so, kind of planted the seed for Biomedical Engineering.
Very quickly into my engineering curriculum at CU, realized I really missed my connection to sport. As we said earlier, I was… I've been doing sports for as long as I can remember. And… and once I had that taken away, to an extent, I wanted to get back into it. And so, I did some research online and I looked at professors who are doing exercise physiology, biomechanics research. Even though it was a different department, I figured they might be attracted by an engineering student who is interested in their fields. And so, I sent some… some cold-call emails out basically introducing myself, saying, “These are projects I see you're doing on your website. This is how I think I can help those projects. Let me know if you need any… any help in the lab.” And one professor emailed me back. His name is Dr. Rodger Kram. He's in charge of the University of Colorado locomotion lab. He just retired from teaching. He's now a professor emeritus who pretty much just does research now. Awesome guy, huge impact on my life. And he… he saw my email and shockingly responded. I went in for an interview with him with a very terrible handlebar mustache that I thought was really cool at the, you know, sophomore-year level of college. Looking back on pictures, that was a mistake. But he… he liked what I had to say during the interview and brought me on as a lowly undergrad who just helped out with data collection, would hand the data over to the postdocs and the PhDs to do the data analysis. And over time, after my sophomore year, I kind of worked my way up through the ranks. And by the time I was a super senior in college, I was leading my own research studies, dividing my own protocols, and having undergrads working for me.
Andrew: That's awesome.
Jesse: And as I was getting towards the end of that period of undergrad, I realized I was not ready to join the real world, and asked Dr. Kram if I could stay on for a master's degree, to which he responded yes. Part of that was also, the last year and a half of my undergrad career, I had been working with a master's student whose research was sponsored by the Italian cycling company called Physique. They make shoes and sandals and handlebars, perhaps some most…
Andrew: Yeah, they make they make great stuff. Yeah.
Jesse: Yeah, awesome products. I mean, not as good as Specialized, of course; obviously, I'm obligated to say.
Jesse: Obviously. But I really enjoyed the research I was doing. I really enjoyed having that connection to sport and having a connection to a product that I could take science and apply to. And so, I ended up staying on for a master's degree. That was totally sponsored by Physique. But one of the great things about Dr. Kram, who, outside of his awesome personality and understanding of work-life balance and being a super smart individual, he's… he sits on the Nike Science Advisory board, and is pretty well respected within the running community. So, he has a lot of cool connections. And I was very transparent with him saying, “You know, I don't want to do a PhD like most of your students. My goal is to get to industry. I like having a product that I can apply the science to.” Then he took that information and took it to heart, and we had those projects for Physique. We got… I got to work on The Nike Vaporfly 4% study with a couple colleagues in the lab.
Jesse: That 4% number that you see on the shoe from the first shoe, that 4% comes from research that I was a part of, in terms of the percent savings for running economy.
Andrew: We're going to have to get Jesse back on the podcast just to talk running after we do this episode on cycling, John.
Jesse: We can arrange that. We can get some my old lab friends on too for a group discussion.
Andrew: Yeah, that would be super interesting.
John: I actually just got my first pair of Nike running shoes like since I was a kid. So, yeah, I'm enjoying the fruits of Jesse's labor.
Andrew: Yeah. No, literally.
Jesse: So, in addition to Physique and Nike, Dr. Kram connected with Specialized HQ to do a study on the Future Shock, which is a small 20, 30 millimeter headset shock on… you see more popularly now on our gravel bike, on a Roubaix, but at the time was new. And so, we helped prove that that Future Shock didn't cause the rider to use any more energy expenditure. And so, I worked on that project. Specialized like the work we did. Finally, one day, I got invited to dinner with Specialized. And being a college student who also was a triathlete, I never say no to free food.
Jesse: And so, I went to dinner and happened to sit across the table from Chris Yu, who helped design and build The Win Tunnel at Specialized. Chris and I connected, 3 years later, I'm still working for Specialized. So, it was… it was pretty awesome, right place, right time. That's… that's how I got to Specialized. I'm sorry for the very long rambling story there. Hopefully no listeners are… are asleep.
Andrew: What's so cool about hearing your journey is just how… how many different really cool projects you got to work on along the way. You know what I mean? It wasn't just like, “Oh, I went to school and got hired by this company.” You know, you really entered into an industry where you got hands-on on actual development projects, products being developed, and got to learn by doing and working on products that actually hit the market, and are now still doing that for Specialized. So, now we are about to be the beneficiaries of your knowledge.
Andrew: So, I’m glad… yeah, glad to hear the journey. So…
Jesse: And before we continue, I want to give a quick shout out to my fellow grad students from the CU Lab, Shalaya Kipp and Wouter Hoogkamer, who worked with me on the Nike 4% study. They're both super smart individuals. Wouter’s now running his own lab at University of Massachusetts, Amherst. And Shalaya is a PhD student at the University of British Columbia looking at respiratory physiology, and a former Olympian in the steeplechase. So, super smart people that really did a brunt of the work. I kind of just rode their coattails and helped in when I… when I could.
Andrew: Well, let's… let's kind of start talking about your work in The Win Tunnel. And I want to distinguish for people, it is a wind tunnel, but you guys at Specialized call it The Win, w-i-n, Tunnel. Because, I mean, wins are produced there, correct?
Jesse: That is correct. We try and produce as many wins as possible. And thankfully, many people in the office also value puns, like myself. So, I had no… no bearing in naming that. I'm glad to walk into a work environment that cultivates puns.
Andrew: Yeah. So, Jesse, when an athlete or a product comes in for testing, what does The Win Tunnel testing process look like? Kind of maybe walk us through the scientific method to the aero madness.
Jesse: Sure. We'll… we'll focus on athlete testing for now. I think that's a little bit more interesting, especially for… for the listeners here. The first part of an athlete test at headquarters is taking the athlete to the espresso bar. You know, cyclists, whether it's a world tour athlete or pro triathlete, love their coffee. So…
Andrew: That's what I'm talking about.
Jesse: Can’t go wrong, you always got to do… have a good step 1, right?
Jesse: And get people excited for the rest of the day. So, coffee, usually… usually gets that fix done. And then we go into our Retül fit studio, where we… we make sure a rider is biomechanically optimized on the bicycle. And so, we use a Retül Müve fit bike, which essentially is just a bicycle that has adjustable components. So, while a rider is actually physically on the bike riding, you can move seat height up and down, you can move the handlebars up and down, front to back. So, you can really have this dynamic experience and make these small changes, and helps to speed up the process of the fit and also get a little bit finer resolution. In addition to that, we'll do some motion capture with a LED harness system that we can put on either side of the body. We put these LEDs on a handful of different joint locations in the upper body and lower body to look at knee angle, shoulder angle, elbow angle, things of that nature to, as I said, make sure our athlete is biomechanically optimized.
Once that fit is done, we'll move over to The Win Tunnel and Human Performance lab. Just in the past year and a half, we've started a new process that we call metabolic fit that we squeeze in before The Win Tunnel. This metabolic fit is done to make sure that an athlete is not losing any efficiency in their time trial position. So, this metabolic fit is only for a time trial or triathlon position, when you’re in the aero bars, closing down that hip angle. Previously, if you look at classic pictures of TT position, whether it's triathlete or World Tour cyclists, the trend was let's slam those arm pads, let's get as low as possible, and maybe as long as possible…
Jesse: … and get that flat back and low arms, low torso angle, which we'll talk about more if, when you get in The Win Tunnel, sure, it's a super duper fast number, it’s a fast position, but maybe that's only fast for 5 minutes, because the aero bar is only fast if you're in the aero bars. When you're riding in the base bars because your back hurts because of how low your position is, cumulatively, that aero position isn't very fast.
Andrew: Yeah. No, very true.
Jesse: And we'll also see from, not only from a discomfort perspective, but also from a power perspective, people won't be able to put the same power in the TT position, or tri position as they could in a road position. And so, we kind of want to figure out, how can we quantify that loss of efficiency? How can we quantify or say, “This is where the lower limit of your handlebar stack height,”? And so, what we do during the metabolic fit is take advantage of a metabolic device that can measure oxygen and carbon dioxide production while you're exercising. It just consists of a mask that you put on your face, tightened down, and then just measures flow of your breathing and the gas components of each breath. And we’ll have a rider on a Retül fit bike again that’s set up to their TT triathlon fit. We’ll keep power constant at a low-tempo effort, nothing too hard, something you can do for, you know, 40 to 60 minutes without struggling. And then we'll measure that oxygen consumption. It’s kind of like gas consumption in a car, where if you're going 40 miles an hour on a flat road, your gas consumption might be 25 miles per gallon. And then as soon as you start going uphill, but you keep it at 40, your gas consumption’s going to go down. What we want to do is… is make sure that that aero position isn't going to be like going uphill where you're losing that efficiency, your gas mileage is going to go down. We don't want that. We want the gas mileage to stay the same.
Jesse: And so, we'll look for those differences. Is oxygen consumption increasing? If so, your (what I'm saying here) miles per gallon, your efficiency is getting worse because you need more fuel to go the same effort. And so, we'll do variations of up and down, you know, 2 cm up, 2 cm down 4 cm, up 4 cm down, see what that response looks like. And then we'll go to The Win Tunnel.
Jesse: So, step 1, coffee. Step 2, biomechanics. Step 3, metabolics. Step 4, everyone's favorite, aerodynamics. Let's go turn the fans on, blow your hair back and test these positions. So, we'll… we'll take a look at this metabolic results, pick a couple positions and test those in The Win Tunnel. Then we can combine the aerodynamics with the metabolics and get a combined fastest position. It might not be the position that is the best aerodynamically, and it might not be the position that's the best metabolically. But what we want is the combined fastest position of those 2 components. And dial that in, and once we dial that in, we can go on to equipment testing, we can go on to head position, shrugging, and things of that nature.
John: So, I will say, Jesse, that nothing happens here at TriDot without copious amounts of coffee also getting things kicked off.
Andrew: That's accurate.
John: Yeah, that's… that's a shared core value of how we… how we operate in our…
Andrew: Specialized and TriDot. Yeah.
Jesse: Specialized and TriDot.
John: So, Jesse, what is an example of a Specialized product on the market today that received a specific revision after time in The Win Tunnel?
Jesse: I think a better question would be what product hasn't had a revision because of The Win Tunnel.
John: So, for example, I ride a… I have a 2012 S-Works Shiv. It's… it's got several thousand miles on it, it's still a fantastic bike. But now, there's a super sexy, even… even newer version than mine. Can you maybe speak to some of the differences between some of those original Shivs and what's on the market today?
Andrew: John's looking for an excuse to justify a new bike purchase, is really what this is.
John: If you have any like used that are just sitting around The Win Tunnel and looking to get moved on, you can send one out to Texas.
Jesse: I mean, what more excuse do you need other than it's a new bike. That should be good enough, right? You got to have the latest and greatest shiny…
Andrew: That’s what I'm saying.
Jesse: … it's new. So, the development of that new Shiv pretty much was finished by the time that I got to Specialized 3 years ago, but I can talk at a pretty high level in terms of what went into that and the changes. And what they really wanted to do with that bike was optimized aerodynamics of storage capacity. And we know triathletes, we do these longer events, half Ironman, Ironman, we’re on the bike for 2, 4, 6, however many hours it's going to take, you need a lot of food and fuel to get through that race. And in days of old, you’d tape your gels onto the top tube, or you’d tape your gels onto your aero extensions. You have water bottles hanging off of every section of the bike. And as you can imagine, as we know now with aerodynamics, that's not aerodynamically fast. There's just too many things open to the wind. And so, the goal for this new Shiv that came out recently was to make that fuel storage… storage aero.
John: It has like a trunk on the back. It's like the old… like the old cars with a massive… you can like fit a person back in that.
Andrew: I don’t think ‘trunk’ is the scientific aerodynamic marketing word for it.
John: That's effectively what it is.
Jesse: It’s a hydration fuel cell.
Jesse: That depending on the size of the frame can hold somewhere around like a liter and a half of fluid. Looking at some of those design pictures from the process, the engineers literally started with that reservoir as the R&D, just like a 3D print or a cardboard mockup of that reservoir, and then built the bike around it. So, at the first picture you see from… from development are like reservoir prototypes and 2 wheels, and that was it. Just that's how we started was, “How can we make this fuel storage system aero?” and then try and make the SWAT system, which… oh, boy, I might get this wrong. I think it stands for Storage Water Air and Tools, SWAT.
Andrew: Nailed it.
Jesse: You can look that up. And the 2012 model, we have like a triangle that sits in the frame in that open space that you can put gels and tubes or whatever you want in. The newer model actually has that SWAT box in the actual down tube. So, it's not an extension, you pop off… you pop out a little box and it just kind of sits in the frame. And so, those are the 2 big differences in terms of storage. And then, I mean, you look at the fork blades in the front of the bike, it's radically different. You look at the mana riser extension from the aero bars in the front, instead of having 2 posts. And so, just some small tweaks like that just to kind of give it a different visual aspect and just eke out as much speed as we can.
Andrew: So, what is a, you know, a product that's maybe more of a component, a non-bike product that folks would be familiar with on the market that you had a hand in kind of helping shape?
Jesse: Oh, man, it's… one of the great parts about my job is I get to work across all the product functions. You know, I'm not just working with road bikes. I’m not just working with… with mountain bikes. I get to work with helmets and… and shoes and apparel and… and… and the bikes themself. And so, I usually am on those products pretty early on with that research and development, that R&D phase. And so, it sometimes can be hard for me to keep track of what suggestions get put into the product and what don't.
Andrew: I gotcha.
Jesse: But that being said, one product that I did have a bit of a hand in was our most recent triathlon skinsuit that came out almost a year ago I think now. It's… it's through our custom apparel. So, there's… there's 2 different apparel fashion through Specialized. One is… is inline that you can just buy the clothing from… from our website. You have you know, 3 or 4 color options and black bibs, that's your option. The custom apparel team works with clubs, groups such as TriDot. Specific to that trisuit, I helped with the determination of the sleeve fabric. You… you guys might notice the trend in triathlon, a trend in time trialing in general, that kits have become sleeved. We're not seeing as many sleeveless.
Jesse: It’s more sleeved. And that's because our arms, for most cyclists and triathletes, are shaped like cylinders because we normally focus on our legs and our arms. And as such, cylinders actually happened to be one of the worst shapes aerodynamically.
Andrew: Of course they are.
Jesse: Which… which means it's not very fast.
Jesse: It's not good for us. So, what we can actually do is… is try and help our arms aerodynamically by adding texture to our sleeves. Similar to the dimples you see on a golf ball that help the golf ball fly through the area a little farther and faster.
Jesse: And so, we can take different fabrics and basically try and optimize a suit for different speed ranges, whether it's as a sprinter at the World Tour level, whether it's a pro triathlete that's going to average close to 50 k an hour, or World Tour athlete that’s going to average close to 50 k, or a pro triathlete is averaging 45 k, or an amateur is going to be at 35 or 40 kilometers an hour, we can go in and pick different fabrics. And so, we went through, I don't know, 20-30 different fabrics for this custom trisuit and landed on a fabric that had the right texture for the speed range that our designers wanted the suit to be. And so, that was… that was pretty cool to have a part of that and see that come to… to production.
Andrew: Yeah, that's… that's fascinating. And I know that, just as your average athlete, right, I mean, you see all these different companies marketing their trisuit, and you see some, you know, marketing their… their, you know, hexagon, you know, design and some have the golf ball dimples. And you see everybody kind of… kind of trying to advertise their particular texture for… for their aero suits. And so, to hear just for Specialized, you know, how much work is done in The Tunnel and how many different fabrics are taking in there to find ‘the one’ that has the most aer… you know, efficiently aerodynamic as possible. It's super interesting. So, I know you've done a lot of work with professional tour teams and elite triathletes on improving aerodynamics through bike position. And you kind of touched on something a second ago that… that I want to bring back around because it's… it's super interesting to me. You started talking about how the aerodynamics of a… of an athlete's position. And sometimes, the most aerodynamic position possible isn't the fastest position for that athlete. And I think for a lot of average triathletes out there, you know, you see the pictures from professionals, you see, you know, kind of those… those sexy, you know, flat back, you know, perfectly aerodynamic… dynamic arms together, positions from the pros. And so, as a average athlete, you kind of equate that to, “Oh, you know, a lower front is more… more aerodynamic. You know, get… getting lower and longer is more aerodynamic.” But to your point, that might not be the fastest position for us or for anyone. So, talk to me just a little bit about what are some of the lessons that everyday triathletes can learn from your Win Tunnel testing with the elite athletes who test?
Jesse: Well, this answer probably will not enthuse you too much, but it depends, is I think… I feel like it's my catchphrase a lot in The Win Tunnel, is I came into… well, I think a lot of people expect me to say, “These are like the 4 aero pillars that are true for every single person.” And the more I work in The Tunnel with athletes, the more I realized that everyone is their own individual and what works for one person might not work for someone else. You know, I get asked, “My aero extension, should they be angled up and like pointed up or should they be flat down?”
Andrew: It depends.
Jesse: Well, it depends. Like, what's comfortable for you. It could depend on the fabric of your skin suit and how the air interacts from going around your hands to use your… your arms. “You know, is it better for me to have my hands stacked on top like praying mantis or like grabbing each cylinder?” It depends. What's more comfortable? So, it's kind of a tricky question to answer. But I think the easiest thing to do, the easiest and cheapest thing to do to improve your aerodynamics is drop your head in the aero position. You see, a lot of people newer to the sport kind of poking their head up in the aero position, almost like they're a periscope on a submarine looking ahead to the next aid station, don't… don't do that. I know it's… it's definitely more comfortable to do that, but it's also definitely slower. What you want to do is basically just drop your head straight down, pretend as if there's a weighted suction cup hanging from your chin down to the ground, and it's trying to pull your chin straight down to the ground. That's going to help just, again, decrease that frontal area. Our heads are weird shapes, they’re not very dynamic. So, you don't want that just sticking out in the wind. And if you can drop your head, you'll get it out of the wind and it's also going to help your helmet sit a little nicer against the curve of your back. And that will help a lot with aerodynamics. So, that's the biggest, biggest tip I can give. I think it's pretty easy to do. Like I said, it's cheap. So, that's… that's… yeah, that's the one thing that I like to yell at people about, and something even I forget to do or get lazy about. And I'll be doing a race and realize I'm periscoping and there's no coffee ahead, so drop my head, stare at the white line.
Andrew: So, I've been in the sport as an athlete for about going on 6 years now. And I've had, in that time, you know, multiple bike fits. My first bike actually was a Specialized Allez. That's what I started my tri career on. Not even with clip-on Aero bars, just a Specialized road bike; really enjoyed that for a year or 2 before I got a TT bike. And I had had multiple bike fits on that, on my TT bike. And it was just this last year, getting ready for Ironman Texas, I was going in for a new bike fit, I was with a new fitter I hadn't used before, and he was the first one to talk to me about that. He was the very first fitter to kind of get done with a bike fit, you know, work on my position, and at the end of it say, “Okay, now that we have this position, this position is only as good as you can hold it. This position is only as good as you can keep your head from periscoping and keep it out of the wind.” And he talked to me about doing kind of the shrugs where you can practice that. I think, John, you referenced those earlier, right? You've been practicing your shrugs here in COVID quarantine on the bike trainer. So… so, Jesse, for somebody who's looking to kind of improve on that, talk us through kind of how you advise people to practice those shrugging.
Jesse: Shrugging position, turtle position, whatever you want to call it, it's… it's also super effective in getting your aerodynamics to be improved. It's admittedly not a very comfortable position. And it's… it's… it's a 3-step process. The first step being that head drop, is dropping your head like there's a suction cup dragging it down. The next part of the shrug is trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together. If you think about the human body, right, your shoulders have clavicles, those are bones. And unless you have surgery to remove part of that bone, you can't change that length. So, you can't change that frontal area from the bones. But what you can do is, is change the muscle, the musculature, so that you squeeze your shoulders together and it brings your shoulders in a little bit closer to the centerline of the body. It's just trying to think about getting those 2 shoulder blades to touch behind you. That's something you can practice where you're doing a plank. Drop your head and try and squeeze… squeeze those shoulder blades together. You can probably hear my voice straining a little bit because I'm trying to shrug as I'm talking, even though no one can see me. So, step 1, drop the head. Step 2, press the shoulder blades together. And then step 3, is where the name comes from, shrug your shoulders up towards your ears. So, you're hiding the neck a little bit, almost like the Master of Disguise.
Andrew: Oh, yeah.
Jesse: That movie with Dana Carvey, the turtle, you know?
Andrew: “Turtle! Turtle!”
Jesse: “Am I not turtley enough for the turtle club? Turtle! Turtle!” So, that's what you got to do to shrug is drop the head, pitch your shoulder blades, and shrug the shoulders. And you'll notice, when you start to do this for the first time, it's very uncomfortable. And honestly, it might even be possible for some of you. I am someone who has very, very limited flexibility. And so, I pretty much cannot move my shoulder blades. And I've… I've tried my… my other aero colleagues at Specialized have tried to coach me through this, and I am just terrible at it. So, for those of you like me who don't have control over their shoulders, don't worry so much about shrugging those ears… or shoulders to the ears, don't worry as much about getting the shoulders together, focus on the head. That's going to be huge. It’s going to be majority of it. And for those of you that can shrug, I'm jealous of you, and practice that.
It's just like doing strength work… strength work in the gym, right? You go back week after week and increase the reps, increase the weight week after week, and you build up the strength in your legs. You might be super sore after day 1 with, you know, a 5-pound dumbbell, but 2 months later, you're doing 20-pound reps and you're doing great. So, you think of that with the shrug too is when you're doing an easy day, keep the leg spinning easy, but do some shrug intervals. Do 30 seconds shrugging, and 2 minutes off, and repeat that for, you know, 10 minutes. And then over the course of 2 or 3 sessions during the week, you know, if you get 20 or 30 minutes of shrugging in every week for 2 months, you're going to be in a pretty good spot. And something we've also found with the shrug is, if you squeeze your shoulder blades as hard as you can, you give it 100% effort, or if you shrug with like a 75% effort, the difference in width of your shoulders between 100% squeezing and 75% really is not that much.
Jesse: But the difference between totally relaxed and a 75% shrug is quite a bit. So, even just training that shrug to get you more comfortable at 70, 75% is going to get you some time. That being said, especially for us triathletes who are doing these Half Iron and Ironman distance events, holding a shrug for 2, 4, 6, however many hours, pretty much across the board is not possible. And so, use it strategically. If you're on a flat road, you don't need to worry about sighting as much, shrug. If you're going into the wind, shrug. If you're going uphill, don't shrug, relax and just focus on getting up the hill. So, you can use that strategically throughout the race.
John: So, Jesse, when you're working with an athlete on their ideal position, how does race distance impact the decisions that are made for that athletes position?
Jesse: That… that is an excellent question. And it's something I really only advise the athlete. But at the end of the day, I'm not their… I'm not their official coach, right? Maybe I'm their aero coach, but it's… it's up to them and their coach to decide how they want to prioritize it. And what… what I like to preach from this metabolic fit for those Lord of the Rings fans out there, I like to say there's no one position to rule them all. So, like there's no one ring to rule them all, there's no one position to rule them all. Perhaps if you're… if you're doing a sprint triathlon and it's a flat course, maybe you're okay sucking up that metabolic penalty for a 30-minute ride or a 45-minute ride and going a little lower than you're used to. But on the flip side, if you're doing an Ironman and it's a hilly Ironman, maybe you want to bring up your handlebar stack height a little bit. And so, with our professionals, you know, they're in a position where they get to come in The Win Tunnel, and they get to get their aero position tested and have data for 2 cm lower…
Jesse: … and 2 cm higher, so they can make an educated decision there and actually have the data. Most of us amateurs are not quite so lucky. And so, you can err on the side of caution, or you can even do some tests yourself at home. You know, put yourself on the trainer, on your TT bike, on your triathlon bike. Set yourself at a constant power. If you have heart rate… well, heart rate strap is pretty key for this, but put your heart rate strap on. Ride for 5 minutes in a position. Put your phone in front of you and video yourself. And, A) look at your heart rate data over 5 minutes at that same power. Does a different position elicit a different heart rate? And also, you can look at the video and just put it in slow mo, and look what happens to your shoulder, look at what happens to your head. If over the course of those 5 minutes, you notice your head going for a pretty nice non-periscope position to slowly creeping up a little bit higher, you might be too low.
Jesse: Or if you notice your shoulders coming out a lot, you’re probably too low. Almost across the board, from, you know, minute 1 to minute 5, your shoulders are going to get a little bit wider, just because you get… you get aggressive at the start. It's kind of like doing a, you know, a 20-minute power test, you're going to go out a little bit hard and then really regret that in those last 3 minutes. So, it's the same thing with shrugging is you get excited and then you loosen up a little bit. We just don't want to see an exaggerated increase in width. So, that's… that's a DIY… DIY way to do it at home.
Andrew: Everybody has their… their homework from Jesse Frank from this episode is to film yourself on your trainer and doing just that. So, thanks for that, Jesse. That's great. There… another thing I want to ask you about is there's just a plethora of products on the market today promising triathletes a faster bike split from improved aerodynamics. From your experience, which of these kind of aero products actually make it the biggest real-world difference?
Jesse: So first, I want to say thank you for using the word ‘plethora’.
Jesse: That’s my favorite word. I don't know why it is, but it just is.
Andrew: You’re welcome.
Jesse: So, I appreciate that. But to actually answer your question, what aero product makes the biggest difference? Apparel makes a huge difference. You can go on to YouTube, and type in Specialized Win Tunnel (Win, without the ‘d’), and there's a series of videos that kind of get at this question in a more specific way. Because we have our own wind tunnel, we're able to fool around, I guess, and answer some weird questions that people have. And so, we can look at the differences in helmets or skin suits or like baggy clothes versus tight clothing. And we've seen a nice tight fitting skin suit versus a baggy or like windbreaker could save 5 minutes over the course of an Ironman.
Jesse: That's… you know, you're not changing your effort at all, it's just what you're wearing. And then going from just a tight skin suit to a skin suit with some kind of texture on the sleeves can be even more time.
Jesse: And so, you know, you're looking at $200, 300, maybe $400 for a skin suit for potentially minutes of speed. That's pretty good bang for your buck.
Andrew: Yeah, no kidding.
Jesse: Wheels are another pretty good bang for your buck option there. Getting some… some good aero wheels rather than just shallow training wheels, that's going to be a good bang for your buck, and also aero helmets. Nowadays, there's a lot of options out there with aero helmets. You can go for the full like tailed aero helmet, like our S-Works TT helmet. You can go for more of an aero road helmet like Specialized Evade.
Andrew: The evade.
Jesse: Exactly. And so, that's another really common question I get, “Well, what… what helmet should I wear? Should I use a TT helmet or should I use an aero road helmet?”
Andrew: It depends.
Jesse: And… thank you. You can read my mind. You guys are very good listeners, you learn quickly. It does… it just depends on how your helmet sits and how your head sits and how the helmet interacts with your back. So, I personally use… use an Evade. I've seen better results in the tunnel. And a lot of people, when they… you know, if they move their head around, perhaps the Evade or aero road helmet’s a better option. Also, heat regulation. Some people like the aero road helmets better. It can be also be more versatile. But that being said, majority of people, a full aero helmet is usually faster.
Andrew: I've also seen some people debate whether a full aero helmet with the kind of built-in face shield versus the full aero helmet with the just sunglasses without the built in visor. Have you seen much of a difference between those 2 options?
Jesse: So, we actually did a Win Tunnel video on that. We tested I believe it was visor versus sunglasses, versus actual ski goggles…
Andrew: Oh wow.
Jesse: … with… with a helmet, and found there was no significant change in aerodynamics with the 3. So, use whatever you prefer.
John: So, it depends.
Andrew: Yeah, it depends.
Jesse: It depends.
Andrew: It depends on your preference in this case. Yeah.
Jesse: You guys just want to take like a short audio clip of me saying, “It depends,” and you could answer the rest of the questions with that.
Andrew: For all of our future podcasts Jesse Frank, just on repeat, him saying, “It depends. It depends. It depends.” So, Jesse, I kind of want to, you know, lead us to the finish line of our main set today with… with this. There's a great story that I read behind the development of what's now become the legendary Specialized Chewbacca scale. Tell us what you all found when you study the drag coefficient of leg hair, and what sequence of events led to that study being conducted in the first place?
Jesse: Well this… this Chewbacca scale and test was created, again, before my time at Specialized. Chris Yu and Mark Cote the original Win Tunnel engineers aerodynamicists were the brain man child's behind this scale. And ironically, it was also Jesse Thomas was the first. So, while it wasn't Jesse Frank, there was another Jesse in the development here.
Andrew: Pro… recently-retired pro triathlete, Jesse Thomas.
Jesse: Recently-retired pro triathlete, Jesse Thomas. Congratulations to him on a…
Jesse: … wonderful career. It's been fun to follow along. I'm looking forward to more inflatable dinosaur PRs from him.
Andrew: He's a great social media follow, and his company, Piggy Bars, makes my… makes my favorite oatmeal in the world. So, go check them out.
Jesse: I would agree with all of that. And so, of course with The Win Tunnel, as I alluded to earlier, we get a lot of weird questions from people about what's aero and what's not. And back when The Win Tunnel was… was created and built in 2013, one of those cycles myths was, “Well, if you shave your legs, you're going to be faster, right? That's why we shave our legs, right? Are we just saying that to make ourselves feel better? Is it for the massage? Is it because we crash and then it's easier to clean?”
Jesse: And there's all these urban legends. And so…
John: It depends actually.
Jesse: It depends, exactly, it depends on whatever answer you want to say. But Chris and Mark weren't happy with, “It depends,” back then.
Andrew: Of course not.
Jesse: And so, of course not because they're… they’re… they're geniuses who don't like that. And they decided to test this for themselves with Jesse Thomas, who actually had this question himself. And so, in The Win Tunnel, Jesse put his legs in a trash can and shaved his leg hair in The Win Tunnel. We took data points before he shaved his legs with hairy… with heavy legs, and then after with fresh baby skin legs, and looked at the aerodynamic difference. And Mark and Chris saw such a large aerodynamic benefit, aerodynamic gain from shaving your legs that they thought it was a fluke.
Jesse: But unfortunately, when you shave your legs, you can't retest it, because you can't put hair back on.
Jesse: Shocking. We haven't created a product yet to do that. And Elmer's Glue probably would be painful. So…
Andrew: Yeah, nope, no fun.
Jesse: Chris and Mark decided to recruit more people to volunteer and shave their legs for science. And I think they tested another 5 or 6 people and found that on average, over 40 kilometers, shaving your legs will save you about 70 or 72 seconds with the range being from 50 seconds to about 90 seconds.
Andrew: And that's just at 40 k, I mean, that's just an Olympic distance tri. That's not even getting at a Half Ironman to an Ironman.
Jesse: Exactly. Multiply that by about 4 and a half for an Ironman and there's your savings. And so, after… after this test, Chris and Mark affectionately called the… this… this legs hair scale the Chewbacca scale, because they'll get plenty of people, sending them pictures, asking them, “Well, how… you know, how much time am I going to save?” And so, if you're super hairy or super, super Chewbacca-ey, more like Jesse Thomas, you're going to be on the higher end of that 90 seconds. And if you are less endowed with hair, you're going to be closer to 50 seconds.
Andrew: So, I read about that story. I don't remember what exactly which, you know, triathlon cycling publication it was in, but… but I read that story. And this was back when I was just a couple years into being a triathlete. I hadn't done an Ironman, half… even a half Ironman yet, and I showed my wife. Because I've got fairly hairy legs and I was like, “Oh my gosh, look, Specialized did this study. And I could save a ton of time just by shaving my legs.” And she was adamantly against it, like did not want me doing it. Was… she's like, “There's no way it's… it's… it's going to be worth that. Like, I don't want you shaving your legs.” And so, she's come around because I've worked on it slowly over… over the years. And so, not to be like weird or anything, and this will definitely be a first for the podcast, and hopefully the only time we do this on the podcast, but guys, before we started recording, I emailed Jesse, a picture of my legs and John Mayfield's legs, knowing that we'd be chatting about the legendary Chewbacca scale. And because I just had to know, where John and I measure up and how much time we could expect to save just by shaving our legs. So, Jesse, you should have that email from me. So, John, admittedly, John does shave his legs on… on an ongoing basis. So, what you see in the picture from John is, what would you say, John, like a week?
John: Yeah, probably about a week.
Andrew: So, his is already pretty lean anyway, but he's got a pretty, pretty light leg hair anyway. Mine is there and it is large and in charge. I do have permission from my wife to shave for my next big race, which will be my first Ironman. So… so, Jesse, tell me, where do John and I rank on the Chewbacca scale?
Jesse: Yes. So, I received your email after I turned safe search off. And, John, I would say, based off this picture, I haven't zoomed in, but you're looking pretty good. I'll give you a 1 there. I can't really see any hair. So, you have maintained a low level of Chewbacca with your weekly shaving, so I applaud you for that.
John: Excellent, excellent. Yeah, I'll take that.
Jesse: Andrew, I just… I see a lack of effort here is what I see really.
Andrew: No effort, Jesse, no effort at all.
Jesse: You know, that's… I'm going to give that about a 7.4 on the Chewbacca scale.
Andrew: Okay. So, as a 7.4, what… what approximately would my… my time savings be? Am I like Jesse Thomas level, or is he like the 10 like an epitome?
Jesse: Well, we'll guess you're going to be in the… the 65 to 75 second over 40 k range. That's… that would be my guess.
John: You insert the Chewbacca noise here. I can’t… I won't even attempt to try, but yeah, I think… I think that would be appropriate here.
Jesse: I'm not going to try either.
John: Yeah. We need one of those like soundboard things.
Andrew: Yeah, we sure do. That'd be a podcast upgrade, for sure. So, what I'm hearing is that I need, not just permission for my next Ironman, I need permission for my next any race…
Andrew: … to shave my legs for the time saving. So… so, Jesse, tell us this, after the Chewbacca leg hair like revelation, has your team gone back and tested things like facial hair or long flowing hair versus like a ponytail, versus battle braids? Have… have you done any other kind of, you know, hair-related test for people?
Jesse: We've done all the hair tests.
Jesse: Again, before my time, it's all on YouTube, I definitely encourage you to watch really all the videos. When I interview for Specialized, I study for the interview by watching every single YouTube Win Tunnel video.
Jesse: They're pretty entertaining, if I do say so myself. But… but yes, we've tested shaved arms versus hairy arms, and we see usually like a 12 to 16 seconds per 40 k save there with arm hair. We've tested for longer haired people, I'm trying to remember. We tested bun versus ponytail versus freely flowing hair versus I can't remember if it was battle braids or just 1 pigtail. But the bun and either battle braid or 1 pigtail were the 2 fastest.
Jesse: With the ponytail and freely flowing hair being slower. I can't remember off the top of my head what that difference was, but go give us an extra view on YouTube, go check that out for yourself.
John: So, with as much as you interface with athletes in your line of work, I'm sure you've heard it all when it comes to aerodynamics. So, what are those aero myths or the things the triathletes believe that The Win Tunnel has proven wrong?
Jesse: I think that goes back to kind of the impetus for the metabolic fit, it's lower isn't necessarily better. We've… we've seen that even at the World Tour level for pro cyclists. And if you look at pictures from 2016, you're going to see a lot lower positions compared to 2019, 2018. And by bringing up that arm pad stack height, it makes that position more comfortable. It's less strain on the shoulders. You decrease the vertical arm that's exposed by bringing those arm pads up. And so, that's going to help with aerodynamics. We actually have had some pretty positive experiences with our World Tour athletes in bringing them up with that metabolic fit. Some of the… some of the Old Guard has been more encouraged to actually even attempt to bring their arm pad stack height up. Most… most of the time, they're not even going to be able to convince anyone, any pro rider to bring their arm pads up 4 cm. But with one athlete in particular, we did a metabolic fit, found that he was much more metabolically efficient 4 cm higher. Brought him in The Win Tunnel, convinced him by pointing at the data to say, “Just let us please try 4 cm. You don’t have to do it, just let us try.”
Jesse: And we actually found that, not only was he more metabolically faster, more metabolically efficient in that plus 4 cm condition, he was also aerodynamically faster because he's able to shrug more comfortably.
Jesse: So, that was pretty cool. And he had some pretty good success in time trials after that. And so, that's… that would be 1 big myth… or myth. And the other I think, would also have to be flat back, everyone needs to have a flat back. I tend to disagree with that. We'll go back to the, “It depends.” Get your soundboard going, “It depends.” It really, from what I've seen more, depends on the interaction of back shape with the helmet.
Andrew: Okay, that make sense.
Jesse: If your helmet is sitting against your back and you can kind of look from the front and see the hump of your back over the helmet, probably not great. If you can't see the hump of the back, then that's fine, you have a flat back… or rounded back, excuse me. And alternatively, the flat back could also be as fast, if it's comfortable. And, you know, you can't see it over the top of the helmet. But don't… don't necessarily feel like you have to have a flat back and a super low position.
Andrew: Yeah, no. So, everybody, you have homework work from this podcast; the first time we've ever assigned post-podcast homework. Get your cell phone out, record yourself on the trainer in your, you know, racing position, and look at your back. Can you see your back past your head? Are you periscoping your head up? Or are you shrugging it down, kind of melting into the handlebars? You heard what Jesse said, he gave you guys some workouts to do to kind of get better at that turtle kind of shrugging position. So, you guys have some homework. We can gain speed, we can get faster, you don't have to drop the front end of your bike way insanely far to where you're not comfortable anymore. But… but there should be kind of that flex point, and Jesse, hopefully I'm saying this correctly, but that flex point where you're metabolically efficient, but also somewhat aero, as opposed to just dropping all the way down and trying to look really good in pictures, right?
Jesse: That is correct. Nailed it.
Narrator: Great set, everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: For our cool down today, I want to do something with John and Jesse that we call ‘gear we use’, where we take a specific topic from the multisport world and share what gear we actually use for our own training and racing. With today's focus on aerodynamics, fellas, today, let's talk about some of the gear we use ourselves on race day to help us slice through the wind all the more efficiently. So, let's go around and maybe share 3 key things we do, or pieces of gear we use for those race day aero gains. And, Jesse, as our aero expert, I'll have you go first.
Jesse: Oh man, I'm going to disappoint the crowd here and go with some pretty boring standard items here. But of course, my Specialized Shiv triathlon bike, that's going to be the first one. The second one is going to be my Specialized skin suit, help me cut through the air. And the third is going to be, in my case, a Specialized Evade helmet, but I do have a TT helmet that I use for some shorter races as well. And then I'm going to throw in a bonus item just to hopefully make it a little less boring. Number 4 is my pink Venus Embrace razor to help remove the hair from my arms and legs, as we talked about to make me faster.
John: So, that one's probably the highest time per dollar savings is that $2 razor.
Andrew: No, absolutely. I'm going to give a shout out to 3 items. One, you know, Jesse talked about the importance of having that aero helmet. What I do personally, Jesse, since I don't have a Win Tunnel and I have no idea which helmet would be the most aerodynamically efficient for me, I just went to my good friend eBay and found the first kind of pro grade aero helmet that was on sale for a price I could afford. And that ended up being a POC Cerebel. And I've enjoyed it. The second thing, I've always used kind of the more aero tube shaped water bottles. I know profile design has… has one. I know that Elite has one. You see them on a lot of pro’s bikes out at Kona and various races. So, I'm sure you can tell us more about the… whether or not those actually do us any good, but they're the same price as a normal bottle. And so, I figured kind of, why not throw those on my bike?
John: It depends.
Jesse: You don’t even need me for the next podcast.
Andrew: And my third item, I'll give a shout out to my tri kit. You know, at TriDot, we have our TriDot kits. And I really enjoyed the sleeve kits. I enjoy, the older I get, you know, keeping the sun off my shoulders, particularly for long distances, and just knowing that those aero gains, that those fabrics are helping out the cylinder trunks of my arms, is just good too. So, I'll give it a shout out to my tri kit as well. John?
John: So, I'm going to agree with our aerodynamic guru with number 1, my Specialized Shiv, my go-to bike. I've been riding it for a number of years. It's a great rig. It continues to be everything I need and more. So, I do love my Shiv. I'm a big Specialized fan. Along with that, just recently, I was… I was… as y'all were talking, I was doing… thinking back, and I just recently acquired my 4th pair of Trivent Specialized triathlon shoes. So, this is 4 pairs of triathlon shoes that go back well over a decade. So, they're great shoes, and the last pair I had was like… I've had them for years, ridden hundreds of hours, thousands of miles. They're… they're just quality. And as high quality as they are, they finally were starting to give in. So, I just replaced those with my 4th pair of Specialized shoes, and just recently picked up a new set of Zipp 808 wheels. So, a little something new for my… my little bit older bike. And so, yeah, I'm rolling good with my Specialized Shiv and my new 808 wheels, so looking forward to getting back on the racecourse.
Andrew: That sounds like it should be like a rap song, like refrain.
John: I was going there.
Jesse: I'll contact Petey Pablo, see if he can turn it into a banger.
Andrew: Well that's it for today, folks. I want to thank Jesse Frank from Specialized, and Coach John Mayfield for talking with us about saving time by getting aero on the bike. Shout out to Garmin for partnering with us on today's episode. Head to garmin.com to check out what tri tech should be your next upgrade. Enjoying the podcast? Have any topics or questions you want to hear us talk about? Head to tridot.com/podcast to send us an email or record your voice for the show. We'll do it all again soon. Until then, happy training.
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