Why being aero matters in cycling?
Words: Prue Fowler & Charlie Coquillard / Pictures: Hugh Baird
Why being Aero matters? The question always burns the rider's lips. Does it REALLY matter? What's the difference? Will I ever notice it? Because at Soomom, we take pride in crafting tight and aero garments, we wanted to know a pro's thoughts on the matter.
To celebrate the re-opening of the border between New Zealand and Australia, we have teamed up with NSC carbon wheels and went to ask a few questions to Prue Fowler, multiple national NZ champion and Olympic team contender for road and track cycling. Read what she thinks about being aero, bike fit, and how much "feeling good" matters.
Hi Prue, can you introduce yourself and what got you into cycling?
My dad has always been into Iron Man. When we were kids, we traveled the country, and the globe, to see him race. He went to Kona twice, so he was pretty serious about racing. Firstly he got my older sister into it; school cycling is huge in NZ. There is a lot of discipline, support, and so on, so we got very involved early.
I come from a swimming background, so I got hold of my sister's old bike at the start, then things went uphill from there; I started taking cycling more seriously. One summer, I got into rowing; then, at the end of that, I had to decide whether I should pursue this or cycling. I think my dad's past with cycling and my sister being keen on it too made me choose the latter, it kind of runs in the family.
What do you like most, and what was your most significant achievement?
I love all types of cycling, but at the moment, I focus on track and road. I was supposed to go to the World Championships in Egypt this year, but with Covid, we had to stay put at home. I hope they can organise something for 2021, but it will be challenging as they have to change locations due to the Pandemic, and it makes it expensive for us to get there.
I'm 18 now, and I'm coming up to my 8th year on the bike, so I started pretty early. My most significant achievement was when my team and I won the Oceania competition with team NZ. Pretty special to win an international level event. Now I'm focusing on the world; it depends on how much travel we can get next year, I guess.
What do you ride most between track / ROAD, and what do you like best?
I like the balance of the two of them; I think it would be hard only to do one. It's so nice to jump from one to another and get different experiences, feelings, plus I think they complement each other. In Auckland, we only have an outdoor velodrome, so it's not state of the art, Ahah. So It's nice to train on the road and have different feelings, even if it can get pretty sketchy on the road here. Track racing improves my road riding a lot, top-end power and speed develop quicker, and because riding on a track is tight, it helps you be more comfortable in a bunch where sometimes, handlebars touch.
With your ironman dad, How does aerodynamic impact your ride? With clothing / with wheels?
On the road, like on the track, I think the look good feel good is very important. Knowing that you have clothing on that's as tight as it can be and designed to make you win milliseconds makes you more confident. When you're racing, confidence is essential, and that gives you that edge. When it comes to track, it matters a lot because sometimes races are won by .01 of a second, so you need all the streamlining and aerodynamic you can get. That goes through sleeves, collar, tight bibs, and even seams sometimes; the more streamlined the garment, the better.
Obviously, Disc wheels are an essential part of the equipment; it gives you a tremendous competitive edge when it comes to rotating masses and speed. Once you're launched, you're not stopping anytime soon! On the road I ride a NS50 x NS50 wheelset from Negative Split Carbon.There is a huge difference between age category with equipment, and it can be quite intimidating. You go from the most junior categories where you're only allowed small rings and standard wheels and bars to full disc, two big rings, and bull bars. That's quite a change.Getting used to double-disc can be challenging; a lot of people find it intimidating because it's harder to find balance. But once you get used to it, it's a totally different ball game. You go quicker, more pace, and you find a different rhythm that you would with regular wheels on.
When was the first time you could feel the difference between riding normal gears and aero wheels.
I was scared to try them at the start because it's such a different feeling. The first time I tried them was on track at Cambridge, which is world class. You have to get used to it because it's tough to get stable, almost like learning to ride again. However, it's crazy how much smoother it feels once you get used to the feeling, it's like rolling on velvet. Once you get up to speed, it's almost like you're on a rail; you just have to keep spinning your legs quicker.
How do you choose your clothing for racing and training / what fit do you like?
For racing, we don't choose; we always get TT suits for maximum slipstream abilities. When it comes to training, though, we ride in many different conditions, so it varies a lot. I always wear a cycling kit with aero pockets that don't flap around for the warmer days and longer sleeves for a better feel and aerodynamics. A super tight kit is always a must, for the aero properties like for the "look good feel good" part. When it comes to color, I like something bright. Traffic can be pretty bad in Auckland, so I want to make sure people see me from their cars. That's why I ride with a Reflective kit from Soomom. It's tight, streamlined, and super visible, even when it gets dark. I'm currently riding a prototype we are developing for the upcoming women's reflective range. It allows me to mix performance and safety. When you train so much, you also ride at different times of the day and sometimes it's quite dark!
Have you got any advice for people that want to become quicker on the bike / More aero?
Being comfortable on the bike is what makes the most difference, nothing worse than having a sore back or knees. It can come for different things such as choice of the saddle, bike fit, handlebars, wheels; it's all about finding what's right for you and make you comfortable on the bike—having all the best gears and the "supposed" best/fastest position on the bike is useless if you're in pain. For comfort, clothing is essential and especially bib-shorts. I always go for a tight fit and an Italian Chamois pad; they are the most comfortable to wear on short and long distances in my experience. More thin pad type of person. most comfortable ones are the triathlon one.
Prue is wearing a prototype reflective kit from Soomom and riding NS0 x NS50 wheelset from Negative Split Carbon.
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