What makes new TT bikes faster than old ones? (or Optimising older bikes)

As the rider of an older TT bike I was perusing some testing data and came across a discussion about a 1999 Blade (barely recogniseable as a TT bike by modern standards) being put up against a modern TT bike in the tunnel and the difference being in the order of 20/30W.
This got me thinking about what features have brought about that improvement and could they be incorporated into an older bike to make up some of that difference.
E.g. My Blade has a conventional round headtube (some years of it had a cow catcher type setup welded to it) and a crappy front brake but would mounting an aero drinks system in front if it help direct air around?
Ps. This is purely for curiosity (and not just about my bike either), my own performance is far more of a limiting factor then bike choice will ever be, but I’m interested in this stuff and would love to get into some kind of VE/Chung testing in the future.

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What actually springs to mind is ‘what are they using as a modern day TT bike’. I would think a top end super bike is 20/30W than a current mid range TT bike

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Front brake and cables jump out there

Seat post also

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Titanium can’t be “sculpted” like carbon can, so there’s going to be less aero shapes there.

I’ve got my old Litespeed frame

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I managed to find the quote but no joy tracking the actual test down.
Year ago I rode for a test that was “old tech” vs “new tech” right before the Tour de France. An old Litespeed Blade (basically Lance’s '99 bike) and a P5 (rim) with UCI fork. The fits were matched (the P5 was mine) and it was basically a test between the fastest old stuff and the fastest new stuff (so I think Hed 3 + Disc on the Blade and 808 + Disc on the P5) with the same clothing/helmet. The wheels were probably marginally different (the Hed3 had a 19 or 20mm tire on it so it was faster at 30mph) but the overall difference was between 25-30w.


I just remembered the Aeroweenie calculator which tells you some of the benefits of changing equipment or position from your current set-up but not really anything about improving built in features.

ETA - This was the starting point for the above.

Would love to see this, however, I struggle with the numbers a bit

Conventional wisdom is that the ride is 70% of drag, wheels 20% and frame 10%… of course there is some variation around this.

Assuming a rider at 300w and 40kph, then the bike is responsible for around 30w of drag, wheels are 60w.

From my own experiments with my son on his engineering project, going from narrow, shallow wheels to modern deep section wheels could well save 20-30w

Assuming that the rider is in a similar aero position on both old and new bike, then I would estimate that an old frame is probably only 5w worse than the new frame. Seat post and cables do make a difference, but its not that massive

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That’s interesting, I’ve got an aero seat post (round at the bottom, aero at the top) but there’s not enough seat post showing to use it.
All the cables are external (which I specifically looked for as Litespeed’s idea of internal routing is to drill holes in the frame causing chafed cables and cracked frames) but the front brake does look particular bad, I’ll keep my eye out for something better but I’m not in the Tririg type market.

That’s beautiful

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I love it, as you’d expect, but it is a bit marmite with some thinking it’s absolutely mingin’

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There’s a similar rig on eBay been sprayed ( badly) matt black…

I want it !!

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Couple of hours with some paint stripper and a Brillo pad it’ll be good as new; beauty of Ti.

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Andy Wilkinson… yes. “ The “ Andy Wilkinson rode a ti bike for his fastest season

The figures are mind blowing decades later, comfort is key once you’ve start riding over 6 hours.

  1. Marketing.
  2. Placebo effect due to marketing.
  3. Comfort, primarily from fatter tyres than old frames would allow.
  4. Better brakes (more stopping power).
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What he said …

X 10

If you live on awful roads, are a crap descender and read 220 monthly On unlimited overtime …

It’s a wonder I haven’t bought a speedmax disc

I’ve amended the title as was really referring to TT bikes and what features of the new ones makes them more aero/faster than older ones.
All the points re brakes, wider tyres etc are all valid but wouldn’t show up in the wind tunnel.

I never had a ride I was happy with on my Litespeed.
I had a Retul fit and the guy said the position we could achieve was the best we could fo with the geometry.

I then got my Blue, had it set up the night before a race at Dorney lake. Never rode it other than up and down the road for about 2 minutes

Went to the race, rode the fastest split and won the race.

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As you do

Wasn’t a strong field (like the other times I’ve took the win)

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Yeah, fit is the most important factor, the fastest bike in the world is no good if you spend most of the race sat up on the hoods.
Blades are long and low compared to most newer bikes and, although I’m 6’2", I have the legs of a Hobbit with a long torso so it fits me pretty well.