Bunch Riding Etiquette – TT Bars Allowed?

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There’s been a debate brewing in the Beach Road peloton over the past few weeks.  Lately we’ve been seeing more and more riders sporting their time trial bikes in the bunch rides.  The fact that more triathletes are out riding and the National TT championships are fast approaching brings out the TT bikes and aero bars into the bunch rides.

The unwritten rules of bunch etiquette typically states that if you’re riding among the bunch with aerobars, do not use the aerobars. Stay up on the hoods where the brakes are. TT bikes and aerobars do not have the same control as a normal road bike and cannot react in the same way to obstacles on the road.

That said, I know of a few accomplished high profile athletes who have been using the bunch rides to prepare for their TT events lately.  I certainly don’t have a problem with this because I have complete confidence in their judgment and abilities.  Plus I get a 50km/hr free ride home on a windy morning!

However, if some rider with less experience were to ride their TT bike in the bunch and try to pull turns in the aerobars I might think differently.  The odd time I see someone who I don’t recognize riding with a TT bike or aerobars bolted on I’ll get as far in front of that rider as I can as I don’t feel safe – even if they’re on their hoods.  This raises the question: should these experienced and influential riders in the bunch be setting this example for the rest?

This week I spoke with a couple experienced riders who have vastly different views on TT bikes in bunches.  Keep in mind that both these opinions come from world class riders.  Here’s what they had to say:

Views from the TT’er

In other parts of the world I’ve seen TT biks and regular bikes mix it up regularly on bunch rides. No one has ever had any problem with it assuming this golden rule always obeyed:

Never be in the TT position when you’re in the bunch.  You don’t have access to the brakes when you’re on the aerobars.  Always be on the hoods where you have much more control.  Only when you get to the very front should you ever get into the aero-tuck position and go into timetrial mode.

Time trial training in bunches can be good because they’re hard and fast rides.  Getting in a few 2-3 minute very hard intervals on the front can be excellent speed endurance work that’s difficult to train when out on your own.  The bunch rides really push you because the pace is dictated by the group and can push you beyond your comfort zone.    Once my hard effort is complete I can get back in the bunch and use the fast pace as active recovery until I can get to the front again.

View from the Anti-TT’er

Riding a TT bike in bunch rides is poor form, poor etiquette, or just plain dangerous for everyone else if not the rider on the TT bike.

Four main reasons to discourage TT bikes/profile bas from the packs are that:

  1. UCI regulations prohibits use of TT bikes in the peloton
  2. Bull-horns are both less stable for bike control and risky for close proximity riding
  3. Riders positioned on Profile bars have no access to the brakes on the bike at that time
  4. It goes against bunch Etiquette which we are all desperately trying to exemplify to the masses in the current culture of bunch riding

A history of ‘Bunch Etiquette’ (which is currently all we have to rely on in the impending dangers of bunch practices) has it that riders who want to ride on TT bars should responsibly choose one of these options:

  1. Ride off the back of the pack or off the front of the pack (not hard to do with the aerodynamic advantage)
  2. Go riding in a group of riders all using profile bars together
  3. Go riding solo

The reason we would all generally NOT take up option 2 is that nobody in the group can stop if a kid or a car comes out suddenly ahead of the riders!

What are your thoughts?  Should TT bikes and aerobars be discouraged from bunch rides?  Or should certain etiquette be obeyed while riding this equipment around other riders?