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Wondering how to execute a bike change in a time trial? Let Will Barta explain how

TTs increasingly feature a route with a wicked final climb, making a mid-race change to a road bike a necessity. Barta guides VeloNews through the perfect bike swap.

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Love them or loathe them, bike changes in time trials are now a thing.

TTs with a wickedly steep uphill finale are increasingly a feature of top-tier racing. The 2020 season saw two high-profile hockey stick-shaped time trials, first with the dramatic Planches des Belles Filles test at the Tour de France, and a few weeks later, the Ézaro TT at the Vuelta a España.

You know the script.

Start on the TT bike. Reach the changeover zone at the bottom of the steep final climb. Toss your finely-tuned carbon machine to the floor. Waddle on your cleats over to a waiting staffer holding your road bike. Clamber aboard, get a push, hope you clip into your pedals fast enough to not look a dufus, and carry on your merry way from there.

With WorldTour time trials being won or lost be a matter of seconds, the changeover process can make all the difference between victory and anonymity.

So how do the pros execute a perfect bike change? Will Barta performed a textbook switchover in the time trial at this November’s Vuelta. The young Idahoan explains how it’s done.

Barta came to within one second of victory at the TT in Spain this fall. Photo: Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Practice – even if you have to do it in your parking lot. 

“I did a lot of cyclocross when I was younger and you do bike changes there,” Barta told VeloNews. “It’s really quite different than that when you go from between road and TT bikes though. It’s really difficult on the muscles because you’re so locked into that TT position and it’s a position that I don’t think many guys are all that used to. You almost feel sloppy when you switch to your road bike because it’s not such a locked in position.

“I’ve trained at home switching bike before, but I live in an apartment building so I went into the parking garage, and tried it, but it wasn’t super quick. It wasn’t so realistic, but it was something.”

https://twitter.com/As_Ciclismo/status/1323565579962372107

Keep your cool.

Doing anything when your heart is pounding at 190bpm is difficult, so you’ve gotta find a little zen before the big moment.

“The biggest thing I felt was important going into the changeover was just to take a few deep breaths beforehand,” Barta said.

“You have to be quite steady and even just getting clipped in with road pedals quickly is not always easy if you’re getting stressed. I just tried to get a few deep breaths to get my heart rate lower and aim to come off like it was a cyclocross bike.”

Make sure you get your leg over …

You’ve successfully dismounted your TT machine. The camera is on you and the world’s cycling fans are watching with expectation.

Now, don’t mess up the basic bits – make sure you can actually get onto your road bike.

“When you’re in the race, your glutes are on fire from being in that low TT position,” Barta said. “And so, even just getting your leg over the seat – to be honest, it’s not that easy. I watched the video of myself doing that, I looked like an old man because I could barely get my leg over it looks like.”

… and make sure you get clipped into the pedals.

“One of the main things for me I think was really just focusing first and foremost on getting clipped in,” Barta said. “It sounds super-basic but it really isn’t that easy under pressure. Just getting clipped in I would say is the most crucial thing.”

Barta was lucky – or skilled – enough to get into his pedals at the first time of trying.

Some were less lucky, engaging in the cringeworthy battle we all know too well of clumsily stomping at the pedal with the trailing leg, desperately hoping to get the cleat engaged. Next time it happens to you at a stoplight, don’t worry, it happens to the world’s best too.

Then get a heave from the biggest dude you can find.

“At CCC Team, we put quite a lot of thought into who should push,” Barta said. “Obviously you wanted a big person to push, so we chose our bus driver. He likes to lift weights and is a strong guy!”

Next, trust your burly aide to push you straight and not tip you straight into the tarmac.

“He could easily have pushed me over,” Barta said. “Luckily he pushed straight so it worked out well.”

Bike change complete, Barta went on to motor his way up the steep 1.8km climb to the finish, taking the provisional race lead.

When the day came to a close, the 24-year-old was just one second slower than stage-winner Primož Roglič. Barta will be forever wondering where he could have made up that extra second. But at least he knows it wasn’t lost in a botched bike change.