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Episode #60 – Aerodynamic Fit Testing – Is It a Real Option?

Episode #60 – Aerodynamic Fit Testing – Is It a Real Option?

Aero is the new buzzword – but manufacturers aero claims are worthless to you unless you test them in your own setup. Testing this is now possible – and cheaper – than ever before. But is it worth it? Find out the three most common testing options, including what to look for when testing yourself.

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It seems everything is getting the aero treatment these days. I’m not sure of the roots of this latest push – but it has been a steady progression ever since say Greg Lemond? Probably earlier, but I can’t see past the Lemond’s fluro.

What we do know is the aero gear on the market is exploding: wheels, frames, tires, handlebars, helmets, seatposts, clothing, brakes, cranks and even pedals are getting the aero treatment.

Manufacturers are continually developing products that allow cyclists to be more efficient on the bike, however, some of these products work great for some people, and not so well for others. So why have aerodynamics become a major priority for so many companies? Because aerodynamics matter!

 

What about the claims made by the companies making the products?

The claims made by each company really don’t mean anything on an individual level- every situation is different – so unless you’re able to somehow test your own personal setup there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the advantages some manufacturers claim.

There are also other factors in your personal setup that may change the outcome. It could mean making simple changes like – cleaning up your front end cabling, flattening your back or widening your handlebars.

Regardless of any exotic gear your body still represents the vast majority of total drag (up to 80%) so if you can’t adopt a fast position on a fast bike – or if you can’t maintain power output in an aerodynamically fast position – your gear counts for nothing.

What’s crazy is that even as little as 2 years ago, I would have never ever considered testing for aerodynamics. Now that consumer facing options are popping up, which are comparable to a good bike fit in price – and include a bike fit – it’s something to definitely throw into the mix.

Other than just more marketing hype though, let’s take a look at the options out there, and how can you run tests yourself.

3 Options for testing your aero additions, and tweaking your setup.

When doing aerodynamic testing the first step is to do a baseline. Then you can look at helmet options, wheels and where to place nutrition and hydration on the bike. Then clothing options.

Wind Tunnel

Wind tunnel measurement is currently considered the gold standard of bicycle aerodynamic testing. This starts with a baseline – then a bike fit – then a return back to the wind tunnel.

It’s $750 for a bike plus aero session.

Track Aero System by Alphamantis Technologies

Is able to determine aerodynamic drag in a dynamic environment where you’re basically doing laps of a velodrome while testing out different options in your setup.

Is this better than a wind tunnel? Yes.

It’s $800 for a two hour session (including bike fit).

Self-Aero Testing

When setting out to conduct an experiment of one style tests that I have advocated in the past, you need to define the goal of the test and what you have to work with. Start with your position though.

Test on a flat course without obstacles, and ride at a constant power or a constant speed.

Determine a baseline first. After the baseline test is completed, make the adjustments to the bike and repeat the tests. Again record the data for each rep.

It’s free! (except for the equipment).

Conclusion

Surprisingly – or not – bike fitting is the first step in getting your bike setup for better aerodynamics. This technology is more about quantifying the balance between comfort and performance. It’s not as simple as purchasing a new aero bike, wheels, or a new helmet

Just like bike fits are unique to each individual, aerodynamics is also unique to each person. Like Steve Hogg might say – it’s about working within the limitations of each individual – this newly accessible technology is simply reinforcing that but it also gives peace of mind that you have done everything possible to optimise for performance within your limitations.

So trying a free test yourself, only changing your position is a great place to start. Then if you can borrow the aero kit before you buy – and test – it will give you a better idea what works for you.

Tech, Hacks & Products

Zephyr Bioharness

Measurements

  • Heart Rate

  • R-R Interval

  • Breathing Rate

  • Posture

  • Activity Level

  • Peak Acceleration

  • Speed & Distance

  • GPS

 

Mentioned:

 
Photo Credit: exit17 on Flickr

 

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  • Alphamantis Tech

    Thank you for your coverage of our aero testing system. We now have test centres in Los Angeles (USA), Ballerup (DK), and Sydney (AUS). We’d be happy to give you more details.

    • Damian Ruse

      Hi Andy,

      It’s a great value add for cyclists. Well done for developing the product, and getting it out there.

  • Alphamantis Tech

    I am also the developer of the Aerolab module in Golden Cheetah. I wrote it so people could do self-tests for free. Consult the “Pltypus Thread” on Slowtwitch for details, tips, and tricks: http://forum.slowtwitch.com/gforum.cgi?do=post_view_flat;post=3536905