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Tour Tech 2017: What makes a time trial bike so fast?

The features that save time when you're racing against the clock

This year’s Tour de France opens today with a 14km (8.75 miles) individual time trial in Dusseldorf, Germany, and here’s the type of bike the riders will be racing.

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We grabbed the Giant Trinity belonging to Team Sunweb’s Warren Barguil to check out the key differences between a time trial bike and a road bike.

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Time trial bikes are all about aerodynamics. The frame tubes are designed to be aero and virtually all come with features like a deep section down tube, a seat tube that’s cutaway around the rear wheel and seatstays that join that seat tube very low down. 

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A time trial bike’s geometry is different too. Not only do time trial bikes have a short head tube to keep the front end low, the seat angle is usually steep to help the rider get into a flat-backed riding position. This isn’t necessarily a position they’d be comfortable maintaining all day, but it’s okay for the shorter distances associated with Tour de France stages against the clock.

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Electronic shifting allows riders to change gear whether they’re out of the saddle and using the base bar or in their aero tuck with hands on the aero extensions.

The second individual time trial in this year’s Tour de France is in Marseille on the penultimate day – Saturday 22 July (there’s no team time trial this time). Again, it’s a short one at 22.5km (14 miles) but if things are close in the general classification it could be very interesting.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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