Video: How bulky winter clothing slows you, wastes your energy

Posted on: November 29th, 2016

The energy saved and time gained from wearing kit that fits better was more significant than buying faster wheels worth thousands of Euro.


The major bike manufacturer Specialized has carried out some wind tunnel testing comparing the time gained and energy saved by a rider who wears a loose jersey and one who wears a tighter, or fitted jersey.

The results apply to everyone; whether you’re a top domestic racer, a sportive rider or somebody who cycles simply for some exercise and has no goals beyond that.

And though the comparison here is between a tight fitting and looser jersey, the results should really hammer home how important it is to buy winter clothing that fits, rather than buying kit slightly too big because you’re “only using it in winter”.

And the longer you’re out in the elements training the bigger difference there is in how aero you are, and so how much energy you waste.

So this really is important in winter.

Obviously when it’s cold and/or wet you need to wrap up and it would be very silly to go cold because you wanted to be aero.

But when you are buying kit you can still focus on it being neat-fitting even though it’s for winter.


You need to dress for the elements, but don’t have baggy clothing flapping in the wind on your winter rides because you’ll be making it much harder for yourself.


The data thrown up by the testing featured in the video below shows that selecting a fitted jersey over a regular shaped one can be very significant.

This is especially so over a long ride. Even opting for a smaller size when you buy a jersey can make a considerable difference in terms of what you get for the effort you put in.

Irish rider Philip Deignan, who races with Team Sky, revealed in his stickybottle diary during the Giro d’Italia two years agoo that his skinsuit – that’s a one-piece tight fitted jersey and shorts – was so tight and was fitted to the riders’ time trial position to such an extent that he had to be helped into it and could not stand up straight in it off the bike.

When you look at the results in the clip below, it’s little wonder the pros are wearing them so tight, especially when time trials, and major races featuring time trials like the Tour de France, can be won and lost by seconds.


The Results

Testing a rider wearing a fitted, versus looser winter top was worth 83 seconds over 40km. That’s more than 5½ minutes over 100 miles.

And if you are riding in a group, while the time saving is irrelevant because you will clock the time of the group; you save the energy that it would take you to ride the same course 5½ minutes faster.


The wind tunnel test simply dressed the rider in slightly different jerseys – in terms of fit and size – and blasted them with the same wind speed for one minute to gather the data on how far they traveled.


In other words, if everyone in the group switched from regular or baggy winter jerseys into fitted or smaller ones, the group would complete a 100 mile ride 5½ minutes faster.

And when it came to a short sleeve jersey that you’d wear in warmer weather, the difference between a fitted and baggier jersey was 91 seconds per 40km.

That saving was made by not only wearing a more fitted jersey, but also by choosing a smaller size. So the test basically involved a medium size regular, or ‘club fit’, jersey against a size small fitted jersey.

That section of the testing was interesting because it means even if you are not going to go out and spend extra money on fitted racing-style kit, you should be at least thinking in terms of buying the smallest jersey possible, while also taking comfort and look into account of course.

Simply choosing a smaller sized jersey is worth several minutes over a long sportive or training ride, according to this wind tunnel research.

And if you are riding in a group, while you will not save that time, you will save the energy that it would take you to cover the course several minutes faster. It’s not to be sneezed at.

Have a look at the video below; it will probably influence your jersey choice for the rest of your life.


The Video


The guys from Specialized did what where, on the face of it, some pretty simple tests. But the data that resulted should be extremely useful for riders whether they race, take part in sportives or simply do a bit of biking for the love of it.