Saturday, 25 April 2015

Evolving with the TTE

My race report on Putrajaya 70.3 gave a glimpse on my new steed - the Boardman Air TTE 9.8. In the past 3 weeks in my preparation leading up to Ironman Port Macquarie next weekend, I've logged close to 600kms on this beautiful machine and it's high time to do a bit of a write-up.

The TTE was launched a couple of years after Pete Jacobs won the 2012 Ironman World Championships on it's predecessor - the Air TT 9.8. It has only recently been released to the market of the general public. I've been really fortunate to be among the first few to get my hands on one. Boardman says that the E stands for Evolution and the TTE has been developed in the wind tunnel using computational fluid dynamics and technology derived from Formula One racing.

Like the Air TT 9.8, the TTE also features integrated front brakes but these are further enhanced on the TTE with the brake cables well integrated into the fork. Same deal with the rear brakes under the bottom bracket, these are improved to be integrated and hidden from the wind. After cycling with SRAM components for the past 6 years, I've decided to make the shift (pun intended!) to Shimano as I've been wanting to try out an electronic drivetrain, with Ultegra Di2. It's so convenient - I am able to switch gears on the aerobars as well as on the hoods when I'm climbing. And the front derailleur automatically trims itself as the rear derailleur switches gears, thus eliminating chain rub. All this while, I've been known to be a lazy gear shifter - well, not anymore!  Plus, I cannot discount the cool factor when I hear the whizz whizz sound each time I change gears - feels like the bike is going to transform into something else like in Transformers!

As I paid close to nothing for this bike, with the spare cash, I decided to invest in a power meter. And some Rotor aero Q rings as I've been wanting aero chainrings for quite some time now. The TTE has a BB386 bottom bracket for those wanting make a power meter purchase as well. I got the Power2Max Type S FSA K-Force Light, colour co-ordinated to match the colour scheme of the bike of course! I'm still learning to use the power meter and looking forward to getting some useful data to help my training and racing in the coming months.

The TTE still has some visible similarities to the Air TT 9.8 but with some notable improvements. Apart from the improved front and rear brakes as mentioned above, the rear seat stays have been changed and cable exit points for the rear derailleur have been moved to the bottom of the seat stays, instead of the end of the chain stay. This is done to reduce drag. The seat post has been completely redesigned to improve aerodynamics but also to add flexibility, allowing for four different seat post angles from 78 to 80 degrees. The front end is fully integrated with no bolts or cables visible. However, the bike is still very adjustable and offers many options for the width of the aerobars and arm pads as well as the length of these from the saddle.

Boardman claims that the TTE is at least 4% faster than the Air TT 9.8. Doesn't sound like a lot, but that's close to 15 minutes improvement over a 6 hour Ironman bike split. I haven't given it much testing on the race course but it does feel faster. What made a significant impact was this bike fitted me much better than my Felt DA, which allowed me to ride in a more optimal position. I can definitely feel a significant improvement in the power transfer from the saddle to pedals. It handles very well too in technical corners and I think this has to do with it's relatively slim tubes in contrast to most of the new tri bikes in the market now, which are adopting the wide down tube look like the Felt IA and Specialized Shiv.

Massive, massive thanks to Ah Siang of H2C, the exclusive importer of Boardman bikes to Malaysia for setting me up with this unbelievable bike. These guys do an excellent job in not just running a bike shop but supporting local athletes as well. Although technically, I'm not based locally in Malaysia, I am very much Malaysian at heart and would continue to participate actively in the Malaysian triathlon scene. I'm honoured to join the ranks of elite athletes under Team H2C Boardman Malaysia! Looking forward to racing well in months to come, starting with Ironman Port Macquarie in week's time!

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