In this series, we talk to the pros about their bikes: what they ride and why. More than simply a spec list, this is an insight into how the world’s best riders select their tools.
Name: Karlijn Swinkels
Specialty: Time Trial
Frame: SLiCK, size S
Wheels: Black Inc Tri-Spoke and Disc
Groupset: Shimano Dura-Ace Di2
Saddle: PRO Stealth
As well as for TT races, I have a Factor SLiCK to train on at home and I love it. It’s really an amazing bike, especially compared to what I have raced in the past. It’s a big difference. I feel really good on the bike, right from the first ride. It’s a different sensation.
I didn’t know what to expect before I rode it. I’ve never seen a bike that looks like this, especially the Twin Vane downtube. Honestly, I didn’t know if it would be faster or not – I’m not a scientist! – but the feeling is really good. I was actually really surprised at how well this bike handles. I have high confidence with it, and that makes you faster. If you take even a tenth of a second in a corner, and there are maybe 20 corners in the course, it’s two seconds at the end and that can make a real difference, especially in a prologue.
I’m quite easy going about my bike set-up. For example, when I was younger I used oval chainrings but now because we use Shimano it isn’t possible and I don’t really mind. It isn’t essential, it’s just what you are used to. Now, I don’t think my TT bike is different at all from those of the other girls. The fitting is much more important. On my last team, I couldn’t get a good position on the TT bike – S was too small, M was too big. The SLiCK fits me so easily, especially because the cockpit is very easy to adjust.
I love riding the SLiCK. Last week I did a four-hour training ride on it! Usually the most is two hours, because you always have to do efforts, but I wanted to do a long ride and I thought I would take the TT bike so that I can spend more time in my new position and help my body to adjust.
Ride Like A Pro
My position has developed a lot since I was a Junior. I remember that I thought at the time that my position was quite okay, but now when I look at old photos I was really bad on the bike! I had a lot to improve.
When I got my SLiCK, I went to visit [aerodynamic specialists] BioRacer. They put me on the bike, tested me, and very quickly found a much faster position for me than I had on my old bike. Between the bike and the position, they said that I saved 35W of drag, which is really a lot. I am excited to see what this means in a race. It’s much more power than you can get from training, which is maybe 10W per year.
There are still some people who say that aerodynamics are less important than power. Of course, you as the rider have to be able to push hard and also be strong mentally against the pain, but the bike is really important in TT. If you want to become one of the best, it’s about details.
We have really good technical support. I’m so happy to be on this team. Everything we are doing is so professional. They arranged the TT fitting session, they made me a custom skinsuit, they put a power meter on every bike… They give me everything I need to perform.
For TT races, I love to use the Black Inc three-spoke front wheel. I have more control and more feeling with the bike when I use a three-spoke. In the back, of course it’s the Disc. I would use these for almost every TT. If it was a really hilly race we might change to lighter wheels but for the women we do not have many courses like that. For road races, I use the Black Inc 50 tubular, nearly always, or the 30 on hilly days.
We change tyres quite often. For the Spring Classics with cobbles, we use 28s; for other road races nearly always 25s, and for a few races with a lot of climbing sometimes 23s if the pavement is smooth. This year, we are starting to use tubeless tyres more.
Our Dura-Ace cranks have Pioneer power meters. On my Slick, I use 53/39 chainrings and an 11-25 cassette. I have 172.5mm cranks. The guys at BioRacer said that they thought I could be faster with 170mm cranks so that is something that we will test this season. I have always used longer cranks in TT, but my mind is open to try a different way.
For TT, I ride a PRO Stealth saddle. They put this saddle on the bike first, I sat on it, and it was fine. Like I said before, I am quite easy to please! It is not that I don’t feel differences between bikes – if I change bikes I feel all the differences between them – but I do not find it difficult to get comfortable to on the bike. I am less easy going when it is TT day. I am usually much more stressed and focused. I prefer not to speak to too many people before the race, I just do my thing.