by ALP Cycles coach Patricia Schwager
While working at the team TIBCO-Silicon Valley Bank Pro Women's Cycling camp this spring, I had the chance to go to the FASTER AZ wind tunnel in Scottsdale Arizona. I spent a whole day at the wind tunnel with 3 of the TIBCO riders. I never had the chance to test my bike position/ equipment in a wind tunnel during my own racing career. So this day at the wind tunnel was a very interesting experience for me. It was impressive to see the results of each rider and understand how individual the most aero position really is.
Since this year, the team has a new wheel sponsor with EDCO wheels. Fun fact is that EDCO is a Swiss company/ brand and they name all their wheels after Swiss mountain passes or climbs :) The US headquarters of EDCO actually is at the FASTER wind tunnel so the partnership includes wind tunnel testing.
What did we test at the wind tunnel? The goal of the testing was to make our riders faster on a TT-bike. This means to find the best/ fastest wheel combination(s) but also to optimize and make the position on the TT-bike faster. EDCO offers a bunch of different wheel types/ sizes. We tested the following types: 65mm, 85mm, 105mm (rear) and disc wheel (rear). For each rider the test session in the tunnel took about 1h30. For the whole test session, the riders were wearing their full time trial racing outfit with: long sleeve TT-suit, TT-helmet and aero shoe-covers. The riders had to complete 7 to 11 blocks of 10mins at or slightly below threshold. For each 10min block, another wheel combo got tested and wind speeds and angles were accounted for. As you can imagine, this was a pretty hard WO for the riders!
Interesting facts that I learned from wind tunnel session include:
-using a disc wheel for the rear is not always the fastest solution. It depends on your body position, your equipment, wind conditions etc.
-going lower with the front end doesn't always make you more aero or faster!
-there are 2 general types of TT body positions: people with a flat back and people with a round shaped back
-Long hair or pony tails are not fast...try to hide all your hair in/under your TT-helmet.
-the best/ fastest/ most aero wheel combo it not the same for each rider! It depends on the rider, body position etc.
-relaxing your back between your shoulders and dropping your chin close to your hands as they grip the aero bar extensions is a good way to make your front end more aero
This day at the wind tunnel taught me a lot and our riders will for sure faster on their TT-bikes!