Blog – Billy’s Search for the Perfect TT Setup


With help from Britain’s top British based TT rider Matt Bottrill, Billy Oliver has a blog about finding the perfect time trial setup

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Blog – Billy’s Search for the Perfect TT Setup

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Blly’s Blog is here —

Billy is based in Bristol but originally a Devon boy who has been racing for three years doing time trials after having never touched a bike since he was a kid. The coming year is the big one Billy says with multi champion and record holder Matt Bottrill coaching him and sponsoring him.

Billy’s personal bests are 19:33 for 10 miles, 49:58 for 25 and 1 hour 44 for 50 miles but he says we will smash those next year!


The start of things to come
Billy writes… This blog will look at how far we can go in the quest to do what every time trialist and cyclist wants to do – go faster. A little bit about me. I could be called a bit obsessive, stupidly focused, a nightmare etc. etc, but I’m a firm believer that cycling is 80% in your head.

How many times have you talked yourself out of a good ride, or shocked yourself on how well you have gone all from how you’re feeling in your head. If like me, loads of times. I need everything to be spot on; trained right, kit right, head right and I’m away.

If any of these things are wrong, I’m walking away thinking ‘I should of/could’ have done better.

This year I have behind me two of what I think are the strongest supporters a cyclist could have and feeling dam lucky about it all (this obviously doesn’t include the friends and most importantly family who put up with me on a daily basis).

Firstly, a man that needs no introduction; Matt Bottrill. TT superstar, master of motivation #smashit and a guy even more hyper than me when on a mission to get stuff sorted. And second, the man who has one of the best bike fit minds out there and then very generous support from bike science Bristol.

What does all this mean in the fight to beat the clock in2015. Everything.

Over the next however long, we will try and test as much as we can and find exactly what works for me. The best thing is the support from bike science and Andy is not all about bigging up products they sell or promoting products that look nice but don’t work; it’s all about going faster.

Lucky for me, bike science stock a lot of the things I want to try; Bont, Rotor cranks and chain rings, the awesome looking Boardman TTE that will come face to face with the current tt rig, a Cervelo P4, ENVE wheels, Lazer helmets … the list goes on so there is lots to test and a very interesting road ahead.

I started with a very initial fit to see how I am on the P4 and to get the measurements so the Boardman TTE can be set up for me to test. This was done using the retul 3d bike fit and this is where a really good fitter like Andy comes into his own.


I had the saddle too low which resulted in a very tight hip angle and a massive loss of power in the TT position. Some people say the saddle low can get you into a better aero position but I don’t believe it should be at the price of big power losses and for me, it caused the muscles to fatigue faster and a sense of really having to force the pedals.

Andy explained that the retul system has recommended angles. I’m pretty flexible and riding a max of 100 miles in the TT position, so I could go outside of these as we were after aero and power. The main problem I had in my current position, was getting my head tucked in and being compact at the front. I was perched on my elbows rather than relaxed and able to sink into the position. This was causing my head to lift when putting in a race effort.

Now this is key as setting up a position, I could hold my head in a great tuck and make myself super tiny frontally but as soon as I put the hammer down, it all went out the window and I became as aero as a brick with the head of a nodding dog in a TT helmet.

What we found is by raising the saddle, I could get a very smooth pedal action and a powerful one and this got me effectively lower at the front and a better head tuck. The key now is to test it. Some steady rides in the position and some harder efforts and report back.

Rotor powercranks and the rotor rings
I tried osymetrics last year and I really liked them. I had a super bling carbon osymetric from fibrelyte and these looked so good it was worth a watt of power just from the street creed! But, I ended up going faster on a SRAM red round ring!

Now this could have been for many reasons so I will have to go back and test again when we have a solid position but it has to be one change at a time, gather all the info and go from there.

First Retul 3d fit of many
Below are the before and after of the first fit with Andy at bike science. Good job it’s a side view as I’ve got a proper pain face on having to hammer out threshold pace after just finishing a training session before I came in.
The most important thing here was how the bike felt at race pace. It’s easy to hold a bizarre position going slow. My head would normally be higher in a race effort but for a short threshold effort I could hold it here.

The second pic is after. Saddle up and I’ve got the 3t ventus bars so we have added a 20 mm spacer under the extensions as I was almost going downhill on the bike otherwise! I’m so relaxed in the second pic and power is easier to find.

The importance of having trust in what’s right
I was really looking forward to testing out the new position that Andy had set up for me last week to see how it felt in the real world. The P4 was not in a fit state for testing though as I hadn’t got around to putting it all back together after its winter strip down and fit. So we lifted the front 20mm on the headset spacers but need to drop the base bar back down and add the spacers to the bottom of the extension clamps.

Plus, I’ve got some ideas about trying to run nokon cable but without the outers as I don’t think it will work but it’s all about aero. So it was a quick case of setting up the road bike saddle height to match the bike fit on the P4.

I’m back in soon for a road bike fit with Andy on the retul to get the reach etc of the road bike set up so this was just a quick change.

The saddle came up 20mm from its original position and as I stood in the garage putting my helmet on, my first thought was ‘dam that looks high’. Then, as I clipped in and left the safety of the garage behind, it felt like I was a circus performer on one of those tiny bikes on a tight rope!

My initial thought was to turn around and re-adjust the height. Andy had advised me to move it up 5mm at a time but me being me, thought, na I’ll just wack it up and go from there. The first five minutes felt crap to be honest and it was a whole body shock as it was away from the norm.

The next five minutes were a case of this feels odd but my legs are moving in a very smooth fluid motion and power seems good. Then came the point when I stopped and thought at the side of the road, allen key in hand, I was ready to go wild. It was only the memory of the last time I adjusted the saddle on a ride and snapped the nut off forcing me to ride all the way home with an old school BMX saddle slammed right down to the top of the seat tube, that stopped me.

I got back on and rolled off down the road and the next five minutes was where it all changed. I came to a junction and as I pulled out, boom – instant power. I pulled away like I had a little push off at the start of a TT and as the power flew up, everything fell into place. The bike didn’t feel like a woobly circus bike but a bike that was ready to smash power pbs.

The session was a tough one and I smashed it, riding along with a grin on my face, legs fluid and like a pair of skinny pistons as I was smashing through the countryside, it just kept getting better. No more struggling on drags with compressed legs that didn’t want to let the power out and fatiguing straight after.

I was flying.

There seems to be a fashion now of getting the saddle low and slapped back as far as it will go. A very wise man once told me, it’s all about power, then another man, all about aero. Both of them were wrong – it’s about finding the balance. You need the power to get over drags, to push when it’s a headwind but you need the aero to make everything that bit easier and make the most of the power you have.

For me, on the whole, it’s all about aero is great but you need something to back it up so you don’t become a “I’m only fast on a good dc course on a good day” sort of rider. If you have a powerful position, you can adapt to get more aero.

So the moral of the story, have a bit of faith in testing stuff before panicking, It’s not what your used to so test it properly before giving up. You might be very surprised :)

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