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  1. #1
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    24 Hour Race & Aero equipment

    I'm doing my first 24 hour race in a few weeks and am wondering which equipment I should use. I have a light wheelset, 60mm aero wheelset, rear disc wheel, normal vented helmet, and an aero helmet. Looking at pictures of the race from previous years, no one is using either aero helmets or disc wheels. I can't really figure out why.

    Obviously an aero helmet is going to be hotter than a normal helmet which is a factor in a long race, but iron man triathlons last as long as the first loop in this 24 hour race. So I figure if triathletes can manage with an aero helmet, I should be able to as well especially during the cool morning hours at the start of the race. If its too hot I can switch it out to a normal vented helmet after the first 6 hours/120 miles.

    Disc wheels and aero helmets are obviously more of a benefit for when no drafting is being done and drafting is allowed during this race which I'm planning on doing a lot of especially at the start. But racers in team time trials often make use of disc wheels and aero helmets and they're drafting roughly 80% of the time. I've also done many 50+ mile rides with the disc under windy conditions and have never felt that it put me in danger of losing control.

    So what do you think? Should I buck convention and use a disc and aero helmet or should I figure that everyone else knows better than I what works and what doesn't and stick with my 60mm rear wheel and vented helmet.

    Thanks,
    -Joel

  2. #2
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    What race is it?

    Drafting is allowed??? Mustn't be a RAAM qualifier then.

    I don't know about the aero helmets. I haven't seen one on a 24 hour race ... not even on the guys who do the big distances ... and I'm not sure it would be necessary. But if you wanted to wear one, I'm sure it would be OK.

    As for disc wheels, keep in mind that in a crosswind they can be more of a detriment than a benefit. On a 24 hour event you could have any kind of weather, and even a variety of stuff during those 24 hours. A disc wheel might be beneficial sometimes, but could be more of a hinderance other times.

    Also, you might want to check the official rules about aero helmets and disc wheels. I'm not sure if there would be anything mentioned about them, but there might be.

  3. #3
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    The British often use disk wheels and aero helmets for their 24 hr time trials (they invented them over 120 years ago). Most of them swap bikes and helmets during the ride though. Will you be doing that? Have you ridden that equipment in 12 hour event? There is a lot of difference between 50 miles and 12-24 hours.

  4. #4
    Ho-Jahm Hocam's Avatar
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    Aerogear really only begins to make a difference at speeds above 20 mph and even then it's small. It's best used for time trialing and track racing, where speeds can hover around the 25-30 mph mark and in the cases of sprints up to 40 mph without drafting.

    If you're on the bike for 20+ hours, I really doubt you'll average above 20 mph for the majority of the time. I think you're better off going with a lighter wheelset, comfortable well vented helmet and geometry that you have spent 10 or more hours at a time on without issues. The weight saved from the helmet and wheelset will save you a little bit of energy on hills and your average speed won't likely be high enough to benefit from aero stuff.

    Add in the fact that you can draft and the aero stuff isn't needed at all.
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  5. #5
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    Sounds like the National 24-Hour Challenge.

    There will be folks riding rear disks, but there won't be many. Among the strongest riders out there, I recall the Guths rode them in 2005, but not last year. I don't recall any of the other contenders riding disc wheels. You'll definitely see lots of aero wheelsets out there. You'll even see a few folks try it on TT bikes (although none of the big mileage folks will be doing that). I've never seen anyone riding with an aero helmet at Michigan or in any other Ultra event (but then I confess I wasn't on the lookout for it, either). Had anyone tried that last year at the N24HC, I bet they'd have DNF'd on the 127-mile day loop. The temps were in the mid-90s with extreme humidity on that loop (the start temp was 82F!). The casualties on that loop were positively ugly.

    I'd go with the equipment that you're the most comfortable with, whatever that is. Any advantages from the most aero equipment will be radically offset by a comfort disadvantage, if that's not the gear that you're most comfortable using. One of the truths (that many don't like to admit) is that for the really long stuff, the gear just doesn't matter all that much. What matters most is that it fits you and that you're comfortable using it.

    That said, if you're still game, bring the disc wheel. There will be lots of folks still averaging in the low-20s into the night. You'll be surprised at how high the speeds at this event are. I finished the day loop with the leaders last year in just over 6 hours, and that was considerably slower than in 2005. The speeds are high enough to justify it, and the course has little climbing on it. Once you get that puppy rolling, you're not paying any real performance penalty, and the aero advantage, especially in a crosswind, is considerable over that amount of time. If you're consistently fast enough.... Personally, I'd leave the aero helmet at home, but YMMV. Good luck and see ya there!

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    Thanks for the responses. I'll try to address them here.

    The race is indeed the N24HC. There are three different loops, the longest of which is ~120 miles which I will be doing once. So I will have the ability to switch equipment during the ride (for example, switching to a normal helmet during the hot daylight hours).

    From what I've read, disc wheels are always beneficial no matter where the wind is coming from. The downside is the potential loss of control which I've never experienced in even rather high winds.

    I hope to average between 18-20 mph for the 24 hours. The first loop in the morning should be significantly faster than that. I've never ridden longer than 9 hours though so I don't have a great idea of what I'll be able to do for 24. The course isn't mountainous so aero should be more beneficial than lower weight as long as its comfortable.

    Hocam, if aero equipment and drafting don't belong in the same sentence, then why do team time trials make use of them?

    Octopus, last year was indeed terribly hot. I rode 7 hours that morning and was glad to be done. If conditions are the same this year, I won't be using the aero helmet. I won't be using my TT bike for the race, just my road w/clipons with the possibility of the disc.

    I also wonder if the fact that very few people are using aero equipment could be that very few of the people doing the race own the equipment.
    Thanks again. More thoughts/responses welcome.

    -Joel

  7. #7
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbierling
    I hope to average between 18-20 mph for the 24 hours. The first loop in the morning should be significantly faster than that. I've never ridden longer than 9 hours though so I don't have a great idea of what I'll be able to do for 24.
    Expect the leaders to average 22-23mph for the 127-mile loop if the weather is good (as it was in '05). We had a nearly 24mph average going into the first checkpoint that year. Note that the 7-mile night loop has an annoying climb on it that by the end of the ride will only succumb to my 39x23. If you're riding over 400 miles, you'll see this climb more than 20 times! Consider ditching the disc at night.

    You didn't ask, but I'll give some unsolicited advice anyway. Really resist the urge to hit the jets early in the ride. Let the big boys and girls go up the road. There will be lots of pacelines at lower speeds and your odds of riding all day increase dramatically if you don't burn up all your matches in the first dozen or so hours. Now if I can only get myself to take my own advice, I'd be much more effective at 24-hour races!

    That said, the avgerage pace you identify above is enough to win the race in many years (although I know some folks who are shooting at 500 miles this year). If you can do that, you definitely don't need my advice, and I look forward to you lapping me repeatedly! You also won't want to let the big boys get up the road. My understanding is that the winner of the event always comes out of the lead group from the 127-mile loop.

    I also wonder if the fact that very few people are using aero equipment could be that very few of the people doing the race own the equipment.
    I think many folks who race ultras own aero gear (I personally do not), but don't typically race with it in ultra events for a few reasons. One is comfort (TT bike, helmet, skin suits, etc.). With respect to disc wheels, most folks aren't fast enough over 24 hours to take advantage of the aerodynamics. There's also a durability issue. The Michigan course is pretty clean, but the roads at some of these events can suck. Whacking a pothole in the middle of the night with your 808s could be heartbreaking. That said, a lot of the Bachetta recumbent guys are riding a Renn disc these days. I think the majority of the Killer Bs had discs at Calvin's this year. Since they ruled the roost at that ride, it'll be interested if we see more discs among the diamond-frame ultra racers in future events.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Octopus
    Expect the leaders to average 22-23mph for the 127-mile loop if the weather is good (as it was in '05). We had a nearly 24mph average going into the first checkpoint that year.
    I'd like to stay with this group if possible.

    Note that the 7-mile night loop has an annoying climb on it that by the end of the ride will only succumb to my 39x23. If you're riding over 400 miles, you'll see this climb more than 20 times! Consider ditching the disc at night.
    I was thinking the night portion would be the best time to use the disc since it would also be when the least amount of drafting would be done. Maybe I should rethink that.

    You didn't ask, but I'll give some unsolicited advice anyway.
    I'll listen to any advice you can give!

    Really resist the urge to hit the jets early in the ride. Let the big boys and girls go up the road. There will be lots of pacelines at lower speeds and your odds of riding all day increase dramatically if you don't burn up all your matches in the first dozen or so hours. Now if I can only get myself to take my own advice, I'd be much more effective at 24-hour races!

    That said, the avgerage pace you identify above is enough to win the race in many years (although I know some folks who are shooting at 500 miles this year). If you can do that, you definitely don't need my advice, and I look forward to you lapping me repeatedly! You also won't want to let the big boys get up the road. My understanding is that the winner of the event always comes out of the lead group from the 127-mile loop.
    Maybe I should have differentiated between disappointed, happy, expected, and hope. 18-20 is what I hope to do. My expectation and "happy with" speeds are each probably a mph slower. Like I said, I really have no idea what will happen. I'd like to do 400+ miles. I don't consider myself a big boy though. I'd be ecstatic with just finishing!



    There's also a durability issue. The Michigan course is pretty clean, but the roads at some of these events can suck. Whacking a pothole in the middle of the night with your 808s could be heartbreaking. That said, a lot of the Bachetta recumbent guys are riding a Renn disc these days. I think the majority of the Killer Bs had discs at Calvin's this year. Since they ruled the roost at that ride, it'll be interested if we see more discs among the diamond-frame ultra racers in future events.
    My disc is a Renn. I also got it used so it wouldn't be the end of the world should something happen to it. I'd rather use up its life than never use it and it die a dusty death someday. With that said, I definitely don't want it to die mid 120 mile loop!

    So many things to consider...

    Thanks,
    -Joel

  9. #9
    Ho-Jahm Hocam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbierling
    Hocam, if aero equipment and drafting don't belong in the same sentence, then why do team time trials make use of them?
    -Joel
    What's the average speed of a typical team time trial? A lot faster than 18-20.

    I think you'd be fine with the disk wheel but it's a pretty small change at that point. I think being able to spend more time in the drops will be worth more than the disk wheel but it could help.

    Just for comfort I would leave the aero helmet home, I really don't think it will give you any reasonable benefit. The speeds you're talking are slow for cat5 races, which are around 1/10th as long and you never see aero helmets there.

    Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to pick a setup and ride 100+ miles before the race to see how it feels.
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  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hocam
    What's the average speed of a typical team time trial? A lot faster than 18-20.
    Point made.

    I think you'd be fine with the disk wheel but it's a pretty small change at that point. I think being able to spend more time in the drops will be worth more than the disk wheel but it could help.
    True, but a nickel here a nickel there, pretty soon adds up to a quarter ;-), especially over the course of 24 hours.

    Just for comfort I would leave the aero helmet home, I really don't think it will give you any reasonable benefit. The speeds you're talking are slow for cat5 races, which are around 1/10th as long and you never see aero helmets there.
    There is a more intense effort in a race like that so I'd think the danger of overheating is also greater. You also won't be spending a lot of time out front whereas in a 24hr race, while I'd like to be drafting the whole time, its also quite possible I will find myself pedaling alone.

    Whatever you choose, the most important thing is to pick a setup and ride 100+ miles before the race to see how it feels.
    Good advice. Train on what you race.

    Thanks,
    -Joel

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    Pete Penseyres (sp?) won the '86 RAAM on a bike with aerospoke covers on the rear (Like a disk but cheaper and more comfortable), a full aero (unvented) helmet, and aero bars. (Side note: AFAIK, this was the first use of aero bars in a race. I believe Penseyres developed them for comfort and discovered the aero benefit by accident, but am not sure of that detail. At any rate, I think of him every time I hear Boone Lennon credited as the inventor of aero bars.)

    FWIW!

  12. #12
    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbierling
    Hocam, if aero equipment and drafting don't belong in the same sentence, then why do team time trials make use of them?
    This one's easy. Teams train together and know how to ride together with aero gear.

    I suggest that you try riding 200K, or longer with your aero gear. If you like it, then great. But you shouldn't wait until the big race to try riding long distances the first time with the equipment.

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by supcom
    This one's easy. Teams train together and know how to ride together with aero gear.

    I suggest that you try riding 200K, or longer with your aero gear. If you like it, then great. But you shouldn't wait until the big race to try riding long distances the first time with the equipment.

    +1

    If the OP is at the stage where he is speculating about how aero gear will perform over a long distance, and doesn't actually KNOW. It is time he got out there and rode a long distance. Good practice/training anyway for a 24-hour event.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    If the OP is at the stage where he is speculating about how aero gear will perform over a long distance, and doesn't actually KNOW. It is time he got out there and rode a long distance. Good practice/training anyway for a 24-hour event.
    If I knew, I wouldn't be here asking the question

    -Joel

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    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    You might look around and go for a 400k, the sooner the better. Our local BB (training to break his last year's N24HC record) did his 400 in 12:35, weekend before last. Only beat me by 2.5 hours, the slug. But he should be able to improve on that quite a bit between now and then. It was dark at the start, so I didn't get to check out his gear.

  16. #16
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbierling
    If I knew, I wouldn't be here asking the question

    -Joel
    Go!! Ride!! That's the only way you'll find out if you like riding long distances with all that stuff.

    Besides, if you're going to get a good time on a 24-hour event, it's a good idea to have ridden something more than 12 hours all in one go anyway. If you haven't done that yet, there's no time like the present to install all the gear you want to take with you on the 24-hour event, and go ride.

  17. #17
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
    You might look around and go for a 400k, the sooner the better. Our local BB (training to break his last year's N24HC record) did his 400 in 12:35, weekend before last. Only beat me by 2.5 hours, the slug. But he should be able to improve on that quite a bit between now and then. It was dark at the start, so I didn't get to check out his gear.
    Agreed that it's a good idea to get out and test the equipment on something long before the event. You've got plenty of time.

    The 12:35 400K is smokin' it. Ragsdale by chance? I rode with him a bit at last year's event; the guy is a stud. I don't recall what he was riding, but I don't think he was riding particularly aero wheels....

  18. #18
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Octopus
    Agreed that it's a good idea to get out and test the equipment on something long before the event. You've got plenty of time.

    The 12:35 400K is smokin' it. Ragsdale by chance? I rode with him a bit at last year's event; the guy is a stud. I don't recall what he was riding, but I don't think he was riding particularly aero wheels....
    Yeah, he cooks all right. I rode with him on part of a 200 and a 75 mile day ride. He cooked my legs in 50 miles in the first and was kind enough to stick around in the second, provided I'd sprint up every hill in sight with him. He's fun.

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    Hi
    New here, no real ultralong experience, but quite a bit of Ironman Distance triathlon experience. On the subject of disc wheels, they all ride rougher then a spoked wheel in my experience. On the kind of courses I have raced on , 6 hours on a disc is more then enough. I think over 24 hours, comfort might trump aerodynamics. It's hard to ride well when your numb. Just my 2 cents worth. Have a great ride whatever you do

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    Post ride/race report.

    8am Sat - 8am Sun. 443 miles. Highs in the mid 80's. 4th overall out of 366. (502 miles, 458, 450, 443, 426, ...).

    I did indeed end up using my disc. I used my aero helmet until roughly 3:45pm. I didn't have any issues with the disc and I actually had most of my heat discomfort after switching to my vented helmet around 4:30pm.

    The guy who finished #1 was using a softride TT bike after his first 121 miles and used an aero helmet at night. There was one other person who wasn't among the top riders using a disc. So other than the three of us there was no other aero equipment in use.

    If I changed anything next year it would probably be to mount my helmet light to my aero helmet for night use as I rode alone almost the whole time and it was plenty cool. Other than that, I was happy with my equipment choices.

    -Joel

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    Ho-Jahm Hocam's Avatar
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    Wow! 443 miles! That's amazing!!! 18.4 mph average for 24 hours! Glad the equipment worked out.

    Any training tips?!
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    Quote Originally Posted by jbierling
    Post ride/race report.

    8am Sat - 8am Sun. 443 miles. Highs in the mid 80's. 4th overall out of 366. (502 miles, 458, 450, 443, 426, ...).

    I did indeed end up using my disc. I used my aero helmet until roughly 3:45pm. I didn't have any issues with the disc and I actually had most of my heat discomfort after switching to my vented helmet around 4:30pm.

    The guy who finished #1 was using a softride TT bike after his first 121 miles and used an aero helmet at night. There was one other person who wasn't among the top riders using a disc. So other than the three of us there was no other aero equipment in use.

    If I changed anything next year it would probably be to mount my helmet light to my aero helmet for night use as I rode alone almost the whole time and it was plenty cool. Other than that, I was happy with my equipment choices.

    -Joel
    well done...!
    (scratching his head wondering how to get his 200k speed up to 18 mph...)

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hocam
    Wow! 443 miles! That's amazing!!! 18.4 mph average for 24 hours! Glad the equipment worked out.
    Thanks! Actually a bit over 19 if you don't count my stopped time.

    Any training tips?!
    Nothing magical.

    First ride longer until you lose weight so you can't pinch an inch anymore. Once that's accomplished, ride faster. Best way to do that is to ride with people faster than you.

    -Joel

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    Joel,

    I just joined this conversation today and I would have told you not to worry too much about aero equipment but seeing how great your performance was I see that you didn't need my advice. For the sake of conversation I will add that in the 7 years of doing Calvin's 12 Hour Challenge and The National 24 Hour Challenge I've never seen too many using aero equipment such as disc wheels, aero helmets, and tri bikes. Even though these events are time trials, they are so long that comfort could be more important that aerodynamics. One year at Calvin's there were a lot of tri bikes. The following years I didn't notice so many. Calvin's is tough because of the wind. At the N24HC, there are a lot of rollers on the first loop.

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    On the issue of disk wheel comfort, a "tension" disk like the Falcon or the top-end Campy functions and feels much like a traditional spoked wheel. They're fragile and horrifically expensive, of course...

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