Handsling TSTRevo TT Bike Preview
UK brand Handsling launches a new TT bike – the TSTRevo
Time trialling is a bit of a British obsession. It goes back a long way to when mass-start racing was illegal and is still a firm favourite amongst many club riders. Much time and expense is expended trying to break a PR, so it’s only fitting that Handsling – a British company with a racing background – should name their new TT bike the TSTRevo. Pronounced Tester-evo, it’s an homage to the British cyclist’s love of time-trialling, as in the UK a time-triallist is referred to as a ‘tester’. It is ‘evo’ as it’s an evolution of an older TT frame and now will be as effective in a triathlon as your evening 10.
We’ll be reviewing the TSTRevo in the future, but first let’s take a look at the heart of the bike: the frame. This is made from Toray T800 carbon-fibre. According to Toray – the world’s leading carbon-fibre manufacturer – T800 is an “intermediate modulus, high tensile strength fibre”. They say it was developed “to meet the weight saving demand of aircraft and high performance recreational products“, perfect for an aero bike!
Simon Whiten, MD of Handsling, told us, “We use T800 as it’s a high performance material, yet it’s also very tough. Most riders who buy this frame will want it to last. They will be putting it in and out of their car, leaning it against fence posts, and so on. It will get bashed about, so the frame needs to be tough to protect their investment.”
Handsling’s frames are made using internal expanded polystyrene (EPS) moulds, in conjunction with the large aluminium outer moulds. This is a big improvement on the old system of inflatable bladders, which didn’t always evenly distribute pressure as they expanded. This could lead to an inconsistent internal finish or wrinkles, which could cause delamination or premature stress fractures. Now manufacturers can lay their carbon-fibre directly to the EPS internal mould. This goes into the external mould and then into an autoclave – basically a pressurised oven. Under heat and pressure the EPS swells, exerting even pressure on the carbon and resin, squeezing it into shape. Fun fact – if the EPS wasn’t in the mould, it would expand to forty times it’s original size!
Talking of moulds, as with all their frames, Handsling own their moulds and the production process. In reality this means their engineer can control things like carbon lay-up, specifying how much carbon goes where. Lay-up has a massive effect on how a bike rides and feels, so being able to control it is vital. Handsling say they run their bikes through “rigorous testing procedures” that “surpass ISO standards”. The frame also has the “UCI approved” sticker, so if you are thinking of going World Tour, or indeed to any UCI accredited event, the TSTRevo won’t let you down.
“Aesthetics are very important”
“Aesthetics are very important with our bikes and that is where my initial involvement is. It has to look good, look like a Handsling. I do look at some bikes and wonder what they were thinking,” says Whiten. “But they also have to perform, so beyond that initial design, our engineer takes over and makes sure that the 2D design can work as a practical frame. He produces various CAD drawings, in 2D and then 3D, before making a prototype, which is usually destroyed in factory fatigue testing. Only once that is done and he is satisfied, do we see the finished prototype frame for road testing here in the UK. It is a frustratingly long process…”
A year in the making
The guys at Handsling are proud of their racing background and wanted to make sure they got this new bike right. So the Handsling team spent over a year working the details. Aerodynamics, stiffness and comfort all had to be considered.
Comfort and Stiffness
Time-trial bikes are notoriously uncomfortable beasts, the TSTRevo addresses this in a couple of ways. First up there is the tube size. Bigger tubes are stiffer but may add significant weight. Just take a look at the massive headtube, downtube, bottom bracket shell, and beefy chainstays, which all scream stiff! However, while a stiff frame is fine for short events on smooth roads, in longer events this stiffness may start to negatively affect your performance.
To address this Handsling took what they learned from their A1R0evo road frame to make this bike more user-friendly, tuning the frame’s carbon-fibre lay-up. The TSTRevo’s fibres are laid in different orientations, to introduce some flex, or ‘compliance’, in particular areas of the frame, such as in the seat-tube. Handsling say the dropped seat-stays also play a part here. As well as being aero, apparently this allows the seat-tube and seat-post to flex slightly, helping to soak up those bumps and road-buzz. “It is tough to do with a deep, aero seat-post so it is a minute movement, but it is there,” Whiten assures us.
Larger clearances allow fatter tyres
Another simpler way to introduce comfort is by running fatter tyres. It’s been proven that wider tyres are faster than rock-hard skinny tyres. To facilitate this Handsling have allowed for larger clearances, so you can run tyres up to 32mm as a simple, but effective way to dial in more comfort.
“We were keen to be able to run wider tyres. A wider fork, keeping the fork blades aerodynamically separate to the tyre and wheel, is accepted as being more aero, but it also allows the fitment of larger tyres should you need them, maybe for a longer event, like an Ironman or a 24 hour time trial. And let’s not mention off-road time trials!” Whiten said. ” Seriously though, this also allows the fitment of the wider rims and disc wheels that are becoming more and more popular.”
In time-trialling, as with a lot of cycling, aerodynamics are everything. A slippery bike is a necessity, there’s no hiding in a bunch saving watts. Instead you need a bike that allows you to get in to the most aerodynamic position, whilst being itself as aero as possible. Handsling say the the frame “utilises cutting edge aerodynamics” and that “every tube profile is aerodynamically optimised“. This is something I can’t confirm, but hopefully our reviewer can prove with some fast times!
Whiten tells us, “Luckily for bike designers, most frame tube shapes are well known now, and have been through wind tunnel testing, real world racing scenarios, and multiple cfd simulations. This means that our engineer has a vast database of known tube shapes, that he can call on to both fit a design brief and get the exact combination of properties we require in the finished bike. With a TT frame, it is tempting to focus solely on straight line aerodynamics, but actually most races aren’t going to play out like that. So we have created a real world aerodynamic frame, that works and is fast in all conditions, not just that one idyllic, windless summer’s evening in July. It is narrow, but it’s not a twitchy blade.”
Heading to the front of the frame and the low-slung carbon base-bar extends the line of the top-tube, resulting in a super-aggressive profile that just looks fast. On top of the base bar is a mono-riser that holds a pair of carbon aero-extensions that wrap around your forearms. The bars can be moved side to side, rotated in or outboard, and up and down, while the forearm-cups can be adjusted laterally. All this adjustability should allow you to find your perfect position. Extra aero efficiencies come from the bladed seat-post and hidden cable routing.
If you’re going for a full build, then you’ll want to know which aero wheels are on offer. On this particular bike, Handsling have chosen Surrey-based wheel maestros, Parcours, to equip the TSTRevo. You can choose from their shallower 49/54mm Strade, or the deeper 77/86mm Chrono. Then there is the 83mm Chrono Max and the rear Disc, with the option of the new Powershift Disc that works with Classified rear hub technology. This promises the extra aerodynamic advantage of a single chainring set-up…
Pre-order the TSTRevo and get a power-meter!
Now that the TSTRevo has been UCI approved, Handsling say they are taking pre-orders ahead of the bike’s official launch in 2024. It will be available as a frame only or built up with Shimano Dura Ace, Ultegra or 105 Di2 12-speed groupsets., and you can spec it with a Classified Powershift rear hub shifter. As a little incentive Handsling are offering a free 4iiii Precision 3+ single sided power meter to anyone ordering a full bike before January 2024.
Look out for a review of the Handsling TSTRevo soon. If you can’t wait for the review head over to Handsling to find out more.