Road Photo

You need lots of water in the desert.

As a swimmer, years of shaved legs, arms and skin tight speedos helped me develop a hearty appreciation for anything that could shave off hundredths of a second in the pool, but now that I’m starting to explore the road, I wanted to explore a common question that cyclists encounter:  To straw or not to straw. Many athletes use straws attached to their fluid supply in order to maintain aero position while hydrating.  While the method of one’s hydration can be intensely personal for some, several studies have been done on how to cut drag and increase efficiency.  If you like biking with a straw this may or may not sway your opinion, but here are the facts. According to a study done by XLAB, a 3/8 diameter straw creates 50g grams of drag at 25 mph (try sticking a pencil out the window of your car to feel the impact).  What does this mean for your race time?  Mark Cote of the aero department at Specialized (@MITAerobike on twitter) calculated that by adding 50g of drag at 24.86 mph (40kph) you’d have to either

This is what happens when you're not looking

This is what happens when you’re not looking.

compensate by creating 4.1 watts of extra power, or suffer a .18mph reduction in speed which would result in finishing 26 seconds later in a 40km race. But how does that compare to the alternative?  Many people have asked how much time is lost by sitting up and drinking from a standard squirt bottle.  Fortunately, international endurance coach and author David Warden measured the effects of breaking aero position to drink in his TriTalk series.  In the wind tunnel, he found that by sitting up to drink 3 times for 5 seconds each over a 40k ride, you’re only losing 1.7 seconds due to the increase in drag. So what’s the verdict?  You do the math.

August 1st, 2014

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