The greatest force to overcome on a bicycle is wind resistance. The greatest source of wind resistance is your body (despite what the equipment companies would lead you to believe). What do you do when you have spun out of all your gears but you are still frantically trying to catch the pack? The answer is knowing how to tuck on a road bike effectively. There are all sorts of ways to do it wrong. Here you will learn how to do it correctly.
Taking In The Scenery – Or Not
You see pros on TV do it all the time; the aero tuck. It is a sacrifice of a bit of agility and control to go as fast as possible. It also provides a dramatic and exciting visual; riders pushing themselves to the physical limits of speed with a backdrop of beautiful vistas. But those riders have no time to take in the scenery and you don’t either if you try this. It requires the utmost focus on the road unfurling itself before you at ever increasing speeds. Your focus will have to move further and further up the road as speeds increase. It will allow you to have ample reaction time to changes in the road as you go hurtling towards them.
Safety and Starting Out
The most important aspect of the aero tuck on a road bike is SAFETY. Do not try to do anything you are uncomfortable with or puts you in unnecessary risk. There are a few steps to ensure that you get comfortable along the way. The first few times, practice on a straight road that is not too steep to get a feel for it. As you become more experienced, you can graduate to more challenging situations.
Because of reduced reaction time and agility while you are tucked on a road bike, you have to be able to handle imperfections in the road. Keep your grip loose on the handlebars yet tight enough that your hands won’t slide off and absorb any impacts in your already flexed joints. It will keep your bike tracking straight and safely over any holes or bumps.
Think about reducing your frontal area, which is also known as the surfaces that the wind will hit, when you go into the aero tuck. Bring your head down as low as it will go and still allow you to see the road. Never look down to get more aero; always look at where you’re going. Bring your arms and legs in as close to your frame and torso as they will go. To start, put your hands in the drops and bring your elbows in. As you get more comfortable, you can move your hands to the tops of the bars right next to the stem. This is a move that sacrifices a little control because it’s harder to maintain stability if you hit a bump and you’re also away from your brake levers but when your goal is maximum speed, you are not thinking of slowing down at all. It is also a bit harder to steer with your hands so close to the stem, although at the speeds you are hoping for, most of the steering comes from your body.
Where to Sit on the Seat
While learning how to tuck on a road bike, you should make sure that you are sitting on the nose of your saddle, much like a time trial position. It will allow your body to rotate forward easier than if you’re positioned on the back of the saddle. This is because it opens your hip angle and moves your thighs down out of the way.
For additional stability, grab the top tube with your knees. This is also a great tactic to counter any speed wobbles you may get at any time at high speed. It gives you another point of contact and control while you are descending at blinding speed.
How To Tuck on a Road Bike With The Super Tuck
The final addition to knowing how to tuck on a road bike is the super tuck. For the fastest version of the aero tuck, you move from sitting on the saddle to sitting on the top tube in front of the saddle. This is a last ditch attempt at additional speed. It further reduces your frontal area but it also reduces your control of the bike dramatically if you need to brake, turn, accelerate, or absorb a bump or pothole. Some riders are able to pedal while sitting on the top tube but it’s doubtful that it will add any speed. If you are going fast enough to require any form of aero tuck, you are likely going to spin out the biggest gear you have. It has to be a very high stakes situation for you to go into a super tuck. Think staying away to win a race. Otherwise it is not worth the risk in most situations.
Recovery While Tucked
An additional benefit of aero tucking is that it you gives you a chance for complete recovery while achieving maximum velocity. Opportunities like this are rare in a competitive environment. When you reach the bottom of the descent you will be ready to start smashing again, whether it is to bridge back to a group up the road or to keep building a gap to the riders behind you.
The Take Away
Like any skill that you would like to master, the key is practice. It is especially important with learning how to tuck on a road bike because it is a high-stakes activity; one small error can lead to catastrophic results. But once you master the aero tuck you will be hooked. Every descent will become a challenge to break your all-time speed record. Go and try it. You will have some exhilarating results but always make sure to stay safe.