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In.Triathlon - Robin Aerts

In.Triathlon - Robin Aerts

12th Jan 2024

From the gun at 6:30am, to the firework display at 11pm, Challenge Roth is an epic experience. Over 300,000 spectators line the circuit where more than 3,500 athletes compete. The small German town only has a population of 25,000, but it holds one of the greatest triathlon spectacles on planet earth.

It’s a triathlon fever dream mixed in with a German party. It has the atmosphere of a Tour de France stage and attracts the biggest names in world triathlon who put down some of the fastest times the sport has ever seen. It’s a triathlon, it’s a race, it’s a party.

The Ironman race that is not on the official Ironman calendar, it holds a unique place in the heart of triathlon athletes and fans across the globe. If you ever have the opportunity, head to Roth. Whether that’s to swim, bike and run or simply support with a German beer, we’ll let you decide.

For twenty-six year old Robin Aerts, Challenge Roth will be the biggest race of his young triathlon journey.

“I’m a new athlete, my background is in weight training and bodybuilding. I was looking for a new challenge during the COVID years and a friend of mine lit a fire inside of me to train for a triathlon.
I had to learn all three sports from the beginning. Most people come into tri with a background in at least one sport, apart from swimming a little as a child, I knew nothing. I went from nothing to everything in two years.”
— Robin Aerts

There are certain stereotypes about triathletes. Stereotypes that the sport attracts those who are competitive, goal-orientated and ultimately, obsessive. Triathletes are often Type A personalities.

“Nothing, to everything, in the blink of an eye, my personality man, everything I do is 100%, it’s addictive. I cannot just do triathlon for a hobby, I want to see what’s in it for me. The best coaches. The best material. The best team. I want to improve as much as I can.”
— Robin Aerts

It was on his quest to find the best triathlon setup, that Robin came across Sync Ergonomics.

You’ll feel this in everything that we do. At Sync Ergonomics our singular focus is on improving the human-bike interaction. Position optimisation is never one-dimensional.

Just like everything Robin has done in triathlon, his bike position has evolved at a great rate of knots. The first year was a simple road bike with clip-on TT bars, the upgrade from there was rapid, and an S-Works SHIV came into the garage.

The S-Works SHIV is one of the best bikes on the market. There have been countless hours spent developing the bike and it costs thousands of dollars. Yet, just jumping on a fast bike won’t make you a fast athlete. Robin quickly realised that he needed to make changes to his front end.

“I found it hard to get comfy while riding”, Robin recounts when we ask about his first experience on the SHIV.
The position was okay, but the SHIV’s cockpit doesn’t leave much room to play with position. Everything was a little short, I felt cramped and my arms almost touched my knees.”
— Robin Aerts

Robin’s situation was not a new one in triathlon. When looking at the equipment on the market, it can ironically often seem like an athlete’s needs are not considered. The SHIV comes stock with relatively traditional flat extensions, something that in our experience doesn’t work for a majority of athletes.

“I found some bars which allowed me to angle my front end. This had the benefit of narrowing the gap between my head and my hands, but the issue of my legs almost touching my elbows remained.
I looked to the top of the triathlon. Riders like Sam Laidlow and Daniel Baekkegard move a little further forward with their elbows so they can go lower with their head between their shoulders. But, at the same time they don’t lower their stack height so they maintain their hip mobility.”
— Robin Aerts

Robin is currently using the Project 0.2 EVO Ecosystem with the long extension option and the 125mm forward offset top plate. For additional angulation, Robin uses the +5 degree angled spacers, providing a total of 20 degrees of angulation. This has allowed him to move forward and, in turn, fix the length problem, which was manifesting in elbows clashing with knees.

He’s more comfortable, more aerodynamic.

“For us, Robin’s experience summarises what the Sync brand is all about. The inspiration for our products is finding solutions to these basic bike fit problems and this is really what differentiates Sync Ergonomics components.
With the EVO and EVO PRO Fit Kits and extension solutions we have worked hard to normalise the positional outcomes, within a practical performance window.
Achieving the correct length is a common setup option that athletes struggle to achieve, we see it in our position optimisation work, and this is one such quality we cater for. ”
— Ken Ballhause - Sync Ergonomics

In the past, there was an obsession in triathlon with flat extensions. Jan Frodeno was dominating male triathlon, and his “classic” position has without question inspired triathletes around the globe. To his credit, Jan was able to execute this setup well and he is arguably one of a select number of athletes that have truly looked optimised with a low-angle aerobar solution.

By the norms of 2023, the “Jan style” position is now outdated, nobody rides low-angle extensions anymore and not surprisingly, bike leg speeds are getting faster and faster. The reason? Forearm angulation is one aspect of the overall improved quality of the time trial positions that athletes are now employing.

Robin is no different to many triathletes. All in, all at once. The Dutch rider is not just a new triathlete, but owns a media business too. His life runs at a million miles per hour. On July 7th, 2024, Robin Aerts will compete in Challenge Roth. It will perhaps be the biggest challenge of his life, on one of the greatest stages in world triathlon.

His goal is simple: finish in under nine hours. We can’t wait to see him execute the performance to the best of his abilities, knowing that no reasonable stone has been left unturned.

If you want to find out more about Robin and riders like him, be sure to follow us on Instagram.

To take a look at how Matt Burton, a pro-Ironman athlete, overcame adversity to a stunning second place at Ironman Western Australia. Click here.


Images by: @brett_focusphotography

About the author

Joe Laverick’s cycling introduction was via the British time-trial scene, since starting the sport, he has been all about speed. He’s a freelance writer and privateer racer who mixes road, time trial and gravel racing. To this day, he remains one of the only riders on the planet to have beat Remco Evenepoel in a time trial.