Colnago unveils radical new TT1 time trial bike

Whoever said time trialling was boring, Colnago wants a word.

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Hot on the heels of BMC and Red Bull’s prototype Speedmachine launch, Colnago has now unveiled a new time trial rig it is calling the TT1. Much like that BMC offering, the TT1 is still a prototype and, as such, is not yet available to the public. But unlike that BMC, we do know the TT1 complies with the UCI prototype regulations, and that the Team UAE-Emirates riders will take to the Giro start ramp on Saturday aboard the new rig. 

Perhaps more interesting though is the design, with Colnago’s new TT offering aesthetically much more innovative and akin to what many cyclists would consider an F1 bike than BMC’s actual “F1 bike” launched Tuesday.

The TT1 follows Colnago’s recently launched new C68 road bike and delivers a striking new design and, at least visually, a notable upgrade from the current Colnago K.One time trial bike. While every tube has been significantly redesigned, the most eye-catching updates are to the forks and seat stays. The forks feature a bayonet headtube/external steerer and incredibly deep fork legs, all in the hunt for an improved aero profile and a more welcoming face to the wind.

It’s a design similar to what we have seen on the likes of the current and new Cervelo S5 road bikes and the Canyon Speedmax. What’s interesting about Colnago’s new design is the shelf-like forward stepped crown and the decision to go with less aggressively angled fork legs, like those unveiled on the BMC just 24hours ago. While certainly questionable aesthetically and presumably with knock-on effects on geometry, the upright forks offer significant gains when it comes to reducing aero drag and is a design seen on that Canyon Speedmax and more recently, and noticeably, on the Hope GB road-going time trial bike

Moving to the rear, dropped seat stays are now commonplace on many time trial bikes. But Colnago has dropped its stays to a new low with a radical new design that looks to be right on the UCI limit. Seat stays are a real conundrum for aero bike designers. While manufacturers can easily design bikes to work perfectly without seat stays, the UCI regulations mandate their inclusion on any frame design seeking UCI approval. With that in mind, designers attempt to eliminate as much of the stay on an aero bike as possible, but their inherent upright design means they nevertheless present an aerodynamic penalty.

Colnago’s intention here is to eliminate and hide as much of the seat stay to the airflow as possible while making the remaining section as aerodynamically efficient as the rules permit. Where other manufacturers have lowered the intersection where the stays meet the frame, Colnago has almost split the stay in two with the large shelf-like tube extending horizontally back from the seat tube creating a considerably shorter upright section and a much smaller frontal area. The design is much more pronounced than anything we have seen previously, with only the new Trek Speed Concept coming close to Colango’s new design within the UCI regulations. The design is likely only possible thanks to the relaxation in the UCI regulations which permit thinner and deeper stays with less drag and taller bottom brackets to pick up any drop off in stiffness. To understand the presumed aero benefit here, we must first look at Colnago’s other design choices. 

Aerodynamics is largely a holistic thing, one tweak here can cause an effect there and nowhere is that more evident than in Colnago’s new design. While the seat stays themselves catch the eye, and presumably the aerodynamicist’s attention, the gains at the stays start as far forwards as the front wheel. As is often the case, the deep and aero profiled down tube hugs the front wheel. Much like BMC’s design, that downtube flows smoothly into a dedicated storage/hydration box that doubles up as an aero fairing, or is at least a lot more aero than a traditional round bottle.

This is where things get interesting with the Colnago. While the bottle integration could be more, well, integrated with less gaps, the objective is clear here. Colango has effectively created one aerodynamically optimised profile from the down tube, bottle, seat tube, and seat stays, which all flow into and onto one another. The design aims to smooth the airflow over the frame and improve aerodynamics. While Colnago has not yet provided any aero test data, presumably, the savings here are quite significant, given we already know even a small increase in bottom bracket height to smooth the airflow from down tube to seat tube can offer substantial gains. 

The new bike was developed in collaboration with UAE Team Emirates time trial specialists and aims to build on the success of the K.One. Colnago used CFD and 3D models to evaluate initial designs before progressing to the prototype unveiled today. That design and testing process led the Colango team to develop a bike with a significantly shorter and deeper head tube, a horizontal top tube, a wider seat tube section immediately in front of the rear wheel, and those stays mentioned above. Presumably, much of this new design is now possible thanks to the UCI decision to relax some of the frame regulations back in 2020, including the often mentioned “compensation triangles” where the top tube meets the seat tube and head tube.

While Factor was the first to unveil a frame design under the new rules with its Hanzo TT bike at the Giro last year, many other manufacturers are now catching up. If rumours are true, we can expect a new TT bike from Pinarello and Wilier in the near future. In fact, a new Wilier Turbine SLR has already appeared on the UCI frame approval list. And while Cadex is also working on a new triathlon only bike, all these brands will have a job on their hands to create something as eye-catching as the new Colnago. Eye-catching is not always aero though, and just like with BMC’s launch yesterday, we are eagerly awaiting testing data and race results to understand how fast the new bike truly is.

To presumably no-ones surprise, the new TT1 will be disc brake only, with no plans to develop a rim brake option. Colnago expects a finalised TT1 to launch in the Autumn with three size options (S, M, and L) but no mention yet on pricing. 

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