Kona 2013 Pro Bike: Pete Jacobs' Boardman AiR/TTE/9.8

Defending Ironman World Champ Pete Jacobs unveiled his new machine at the Kona expo yesterday. Boardman Bikes founder, Olympic gold medalist, hour record holder, and yellow jersey wearer Chris Boardman was on hand to explain some of the development that went into the bike. See the video of the unveiling below where both Chris and Pete talk about the design philosophy and features of the AiR/TTE/9.8.

Clearly the artfully curved and blended front end of the bike catch the eye. As is the current trend, cables are hidden. The bike looks exceptionally clean, almost minimalistic. The integrated bars/stem blend beautifully with the head and top tube, and a removable hatch provides access to cabling and the Di2 junction box, as well as a large opening in the frame. The frame is compatible with both mechanical and electrical shifting. The front brake cable descends through the steerer to the brake encased in the massive fork (there are removable covers on the sides of the fork for brake access). Apparently Chris has tested the fork and brake in the alps to make sure that it is up to his standards for braking and control under extreme conditions. The integrated aerobars will provide a range of pad stack, reach, width and angle adjustments. The pads on the show bike were just prototype pieces – seeing as the bike had just arrived from the factory hours before the unveiling, there are still a few details to be ironed out for production.

The rear end of the bike continues the clean, no-frills theme. The seatpost binder is a standard collar clamp, but it is buried inside the frame. Pieces of tape covered the binder bolt access holes on the prototype. At first glance, it looks as if there is no seatpost binder mechanism at all. The rear brakes are the now common TRP mounted beneath the stout chain stays. The seatpost has a 4-position clamp. The frame is built on a 78 degree angle, but the forward clamp position gets the effective seat angle to 80 degrees. Interestingly, Chris mentioned to me that he believes the trend will be to even steeper seat angles over the coming years. Back in the day Chris was known for riding the Lotus Superbike at ridiculous speeds both on the track and the road. Although that bike was built around typical slack road bike frame angles, Chris sat on the last few cms of the saddle nose, at a very steep effective seat angle.

One of the main themes of the Air/TTE/9.8’s design was drag reduction at wide wind yaw angles. The Boardman design crew believe that real world athletes experience on average broader yaw angles than most bikes are optimized for. So their new design was aimed at performance at 20 degrees yaw. There is no doubt that Kona athletes experience very high yaw on the queen K.

I had the opportunity to speak with Chris about his hour record days. He said that the Lotus bike was worth about a second per kilometer over anything else they tried. And the non-protective thin shelled aero helmets also created a great aero advantage versus today’s certified helmets. But the biggest gains he achieved were via the superman position. He recalled that the first time he tried it on the track, he rode three laps and then looked at his average power and speed, and was shocked at the gains over his standard TT position. He said he then knew he had to ride that position. And amazingly, he said it was quite comfortable and efficient despite appearances. No word on whether the next Boardman Bikes TT model will offer an optional “Superman” front end…