December 06, 2018

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Aero-myths: When it comes to being aero, you don’t want to miss a thing!

HUUB Wattbike

Team HUUB Wattbike’s express pace comes not just from world-class kit, equipment and a dedication to training, but also a devout focus on aerodynamics to reduce drag. The faster the speed, the more wind resistance is created, and the more important aerodynamics become. To help you go faster on race-day, Team HUUB Wattbike’s Dan Bigham and Jacob Tipper explain seven aero-myths riders fall for...

Short tail aero helmets

Riders will often protest that because they move their head about a lot, they should wear a short tail aero helmet. But it’s the wrong way of thinking about it. They should adopt the optimal head position and find a helmet to fit. Quite often a long tail, or at least a medium tail, helmet would be better. If you’re moving your head around, train yourself to stay still. You’d train to find another 20 watts of functional threshold power (FTP), so why wouldn’t you train to hold a better head position for an extra 15 watts?

Low positions are more aero

Very rarely do we find that riders get ‘slammed’ (lower their stem as much as possible) and go faster. Often, we’d go the other way and suggest they raise the stack height instead. New skinsuit technology (as used in the HUUB Anemoi) means riders no longer experience the separation of airflow over their back that used to occur with smooth skinsuits. It means they can now tolerate a higher back position, so when they shrug down, it’s easier to stay relaxed. The higher stack position also allows the hip angle to be more open, making the rider more comfortable, and allowing them to produce more power. Simply put, you’ll go faster for less effort.

Riding on the drops is far more aero than the hoods

Whether riding on the hoods with straight arms or on the drops with straight arms, there is perhaps 5-10 watts difference. But if riders simply drop their elbows, they can save 30-40 watts. Think flat forearms. That’s the key.

Race numbers slow you down

On the contrary, a well-pinned race number is faster than no race number, but only if you pin it in the right place. We’ve tested it a few times in the wind tunnel and think it’s about two watts either way. But it is very specific and needs to be pinned cleanly and stick well.

The bike is more important than the body

About 80-90% of total drag is aerodynamics, and 80% of that is the body (and only 20% the bike). Cyclists will happily spend £10k on the 20%, but ignore riding position, clothing and helmets. Getting a good aerodynamic position that’s sustainable with a helmet that fits your body shape, a fast skinsuit, fast socks and even gloves needs to be the focus.

Aerodynamics don’t matter in road racing

Yes, they do. Many think that because they’re riding in a bunch, aerodynamics are not important, but there are revealing CFD studies showing how drag is created wherever you are. At the front riders are experiencing all of it, of course, with up to a 30% reduction for second wheel, right through to sitting in the middle of a huge world tour peloton and seeing as much as a 95% reduction in aero-drag. However, air is still flowing over the riders, so aerodynamics still has a role and you’d be a fool not to have an aero-bike and aero-kit. Even aero socks that will save you 5-10 watts. Worth it, even if you plan to sit in the bunch all day and save your legs for a sprint stage.

More air in the tyres makes you go faster

Not strictly an aero-myth, but riders inflate their tyres far too much in the mistaken belief it will make them go faster. With road tyres, less is more. We’ve road raced at 85-90psi and time trialled the same. If it’s a glass-smooth road we might go up to 95psi, but wouldn’t recommend going over 100psi unless the rider is much heavy rider. There’s a lot of rolling resistance data to back this up.

 

Dan Bigham is a former Mercedes-AMG Petronas aerodynamic performance engineer turned HUUB aerodynamicist, who rides for Team HUUB Wattbike. The team have started the new World Cup track season in impressive style, finishing as the leading trade team in the team pursuit at the opening event in Paris. Bigham predicted they would need to clock a personal best 3:53 over the 4km for victory. Showing how well Dan’s knows his figures, they achieved that mark, but would eventually finish the fourth, just pipped for bronze by the European champions Italy, who rode a national record to beat them.

The team, who train at the Derby Arena, are currently the fifth fastest track cycling team in the world, having already beaten some of the world’s top teams – including Team GB - at recent UCI World Cup competitions in Germany and Canada.

The team head to London next weekend and you can follow their progress at https://huubwattbike.com/ or @huubwattbike on social media.


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