First there was the “Obree Egg”:
Then there was the “Superman”:
Followed by the “Landis Mantis”:
Now we have the “Tollakson Tickle”:
Why the “tickle”? It’s all in the armrests, which were procured from two major “athletic supporters”:
Ok I’ll stop.
So what do these positions have in common (other than the first 3 being promptly outlawed by the UCI)? Well we know the each of the outlawed positions generated excellent race results. We also know that TJ arrived at his new position in the A2 wind tunnel. So he clearly was happy with the drag numbers it generated, and he recently tied for 2nd fastest pro bike split at IM 70.3 NO. You could also say that each of these setups somewhat resemble a ski-racer’s crouch.
Why should/could these positions be more aero than standard flat forearm setups? Although Obree’s positions may have reduced frontal area, the last two probably don’t. They may well however reduce drag through improving the rider’s shape. Whereas a standard aero position may approximate more of an open half-sphere (or a skinny coffee cup going down the road open-end first) which is a high-drag shape, these ski-racer setups could approximate more of a tear-drop or fairing shape.
The potential drag reductions are significant. Consider that a rider sitting upright on a basket-toting 3-speed may need to generate 400 watts to go 22 mph, whereas a decent aero position might only require half of that power. Amazingly, putting a Kyle faring on a road bike reduces the power required to go 22mph to only about 50 watts! (Source: Wilson 2004). So to the extent that these positions turn the rider into more of a teardrop (or dirigible) shape, there could well be lots of “free” speed generated.
The rideability of TJ’s position is debatable, as in my experience any position with high hands greatly reduces rider comfort, not to mention handling could well be sketchy. I do give TJ credit for addressing the elbow issue, as regular aerobars will leave your elbows “unsupported” (pun intended). It will be interesting to see if any other pros try this position.