How to setup your tri bike for a fast, smooth race

August 13, 2015 - San Francisco, CA

This is a fairly indepth writeup on how I setup my tri bike, in all its gory detail, for Ironman Cozumel. There are some notes in there about how I would modify for HIM races too. I wish I kept the links to the research that led me to make these descisions, but c’iest la vie, eh? First and foremost though, you should get a solid bike fit. If you are constantly sitting up, any aero gains you make from spending money on gear are pretty much going to be completely negated. But then again, I’m just a nerdy tri guy, so take all of this wtih a grain of salt.

I think all told, this setup ended up running about $500. Its going to seem like I’m paid by XLab, but I promise, that’s not the case - they just make the stuff that I want :)

Ok, lets take it from the front to the back.


cockpit view 1 cockpit view 2

The stuff:

I like the torpdeo for a few reasons.

Zero, its really easy to refill and drop in Nuun tablets. Especially when considering you are probably pulling bottles from the aid stations, then filling up the holder and then adding your powder/tablets/etc. No messing around with screwing/unscrewing anything. But that is table stakes to me.

First, its aerodynamically invisible, if you have it positioned correctly - too far forward or back, and its not as much, but it should be hidden by your arms from the side view. If you put the drinking straw under the notch, its hidden from the wind. Lots of others leave the straw up and that creates a major point of drag.

Second, the velcro lets you attach up to two Salt Sticks to the bars without any extra junk, I use one (as in the second picture, though it is missing the characteristic bright red cover). Bonus is that its already at hand, so no fumbling around and also aerodynamically neutral, since its with the profile of the bike.

Third, it also fits a regular water bottle just as easily as the torpedo water bottle. Not ideal for racing, but makes life much easier for just spinning at home or lazy training rides.

Lastly, the torpedo has the option for a bike computer mount. Note, it only works with the smaller bike computers, so I had to buy a separate bar mount. Still, a very compact profile on the bike and all together works really great.


I went through a straw in about 7 months. But it could be I was chomping down harder than most people. It was $12 to replace it, NBD.

Mid frame

frame triangle

The stuff:

Keeping it really simple here. Just the top tube bag. I really like Dark Speed Works b/c it integrates into the top tuber ferrings pretty cleanly (well, had to swap one of their screws for one of the down tube screws, but besides that, it was fine). Its a decent size bag - fit most of my food for IM, with just a few bars/gels that I had to stick in my jersey. I don’t know of any product big enough to fit all the food one would need for an IM, but its plenty for HIM.

Otherwise, I don’t mess around with any bottles on the rest of the frame. Research shows a lot of different things, sometimes just the seat tube is best, sometimes none, etc. Basically, I trusted that the Cervello knew what they were doing and built the frame to be aero - any additions starts detracting from there. Now, there are a few bikes that have integrate water bottles already - that is the only time I would put a water bottle on the frame because its designed with that in mind.


rear end view 1 rear end view 2

The stuff:

Ok, that’s a lot of crap in a very small amount of space. Unfortunately, this is where XLab kinda gets you on random crap (e.g. sonic nut), but you can find most of it on EBay for reasonable prices.

Its all built up around the Turbo Wing. Now, right behind the rider is the most aerodynamic place to stick a bunch of stuff. Its kind of a dead zone as your body is blocking a lot of the wind. Now, as you get further back, this becomes less true, so be wary of hanging too much stuff (I push it a little bit with the tool bag).

Gorilla cages are excellent and I’ve only ever had a bottle eject twice, both on ridiculously bumpy roads and never during a race. Two bottles lets you store enough water for a good long ride (including the torpedo in the front) and to not sweat it during races. It also gives you the option to swap a bottle for a tool kit (see below).

I do something a little unusual, at least from the standard directions and attach both the inflator and the mini-bag. Generally, its one or the other. This gives me the peace of mind to be able to fix 2 flats and not worry about it. The inflator is great, just practice using it before race day (I didn’t and regretted it Santa Cruz 70.3 last year… DNF’ed). Since the inflator/CO2 sits in line with the bike and lower, its out of the wind.

In the minibag I’m storing a tube, levers, patch kit and bike tool. Its all come in handy and I wouldn’t race without those things. A nice alternative, especially for shorter races is using the mini-pod. Stores all your fix your bike crap and doesn’t suffer aerodynamically.

Lastly, I also attach an extra tube to the wing, under the seat with a reusable zip tie (so its easy to take on/off). This gives me the second tube, ready to go, if I need it. This was a late addition, but was an extra piece of mind with relatively little weight.


I generally ascribe the “go slow, to go fast” model of training. In this case, it means training with a freaking heavy wheelset (generally whatever comes stock on the bike) and a set of Gatorskins, which are slower tires, but you will almost never get a flat; I’ve only ever had two flats on them, both on crappy city roads. They are worth considering for races where the course is not as well groomed (i.e. Santa Cruz 70.3, which I DNF’ed after 3 flat tires… yeah). To that end as well, I tend to prefer clinchers - they are much easier to change in case of flat, though they might not be quite as comfortable or crisp as a ride.

Come race time, I recommend riding the deepest rim wheels you can handle. If its windy and you aren’t comfortable on the wheelset and are constantly sitting up to control the bike, you are going to loose any aerodynamic gains from the wheel.

Rear wheel

At Cozumel they don’t let you ride full disc wheel because it is so windy so I opted for a HEAD Jet 9 - its a decently deep rim for a reasonable price. However, doing it again I would spend the more money for a nicer Zipp or Enve rear wheel; HED wheels just aren’t as reliable as the higher end wheel sets (plus they are little heavier). However, the Jet9 is just as aerodynamic. Your call.

Front wheel

In the front I ran a Zipp Firecrest 404. Zipp just makes a solid product - never had any issues - and have a great cusomter service department.

Race Tires

For longer races, e.g. half or full ironman distance, I would recommend Continental GP 4000S II tires. Pretty fast spinning but still really good puncture resistance; the five minutes you spend changing your tube because of a flat is going to negate whatever speed you might gain from a faster tire (unless you are in the .01% who is winning races, but then, you probably aren’t reading this :). Just use the GP 4000s, its what everyone else is doing.

Wrap up

I tend to redundancies to ensure, as much as posssible, that I can at least finish any race I start. So yes, that does mean that I carry a bit of extra stuff, which weighs more, so maybe it negates the gains… I dont know. Really, unless you get into a wind tunnel and really measure stuff, its hard to say how much any of this really helps. Hey, maybe the biggest gain is shaving your legs rather than spending money on any of this stuff. But at the very least, its certainly entertaining.

Hopefully this helps in some small way. See ya on the road!


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