Thursday, 15 July 2010

Aerodynamic bikes

Please don't get me wrong. Pro Cycling is one of my favourite sports & the only sport that my wife and I both really enjoy, however, this years, "Tech Focus," sales-spin-off of the Tour de France just strikes me as daft, let me expand....

I like reading about the new bikes at different races, especially about those that race on the pave. I'm aware that part of this is about selling us the next big thing. Last year was Di2, Shimano's electronic shifting groupset. Many said that it was engineering to solve a problem that didn't exist & I would largely agree. This year, however, the engineering has been there to solve a problem that does exist (if you're a pro-level rider), but somehow completely fails to actually address & ignores the elephant in the room of the far more elegant solution that's already been in place almost 80 years & there have been numerous others since....

This year's new revelation has been aerodynamic road bikes. Yes, you heard right, not Time Trial bikes, but road bikes. Aero time trial bikes are almost understandable, especially where they exist to make the position more aero, however, an aero road bike?
Seriously, in a peleton, you're quite sheltered from the wind, on a climb, wind resistance drops massively, so where is it that you need this advantage?
Wind resistance rises as a square of speed relative to wind. Power to overcome this rises by a power of three, so the importance of aerodynamics on human powered vehicles is hard to overstate.
That said, it appears frighteningly obvious that 90+% of this drag is caused by the great big sail on top of the bike; the rider. These bikes are offering 1-2% less drag. That's pretty much unnoticeable for most of us & tiny & insignificant if you're a really powerful rider riding on your own into the wind.
It strikes me that you can't have it both ways: either drag is a real problem & use a recumbent, or that it isn't & don't worry about it.
Their marketing appears to take us as daft, are we really?
Manual Morand used the Mochet Velocar (a 4 wheel recumbent) in 1934 & was banned. Graeme Obree broke records with the "superman position" and was banned.
So it seems that, according to the UCI, saving some drag is good, but saving too much is bad.
The marketing seems to work in the same way: saving drag is good!!!! Unless you save too much of it, then that's bad....
I hate stupid marketing: upright bikes are fantastic, but even if all of the bikes had zero drag, they'd still be trounced by a recumbent!

Part of what I like about pro cycling is the absurd difficulties that must be overcome, but this current sales thing is about as sensible as a tyre that makes Paris-Roubaix smooth. It can't happen, stop lying to me!!!

None of this applies if you are a racing cyclist, bound by the UCI, however, for most of us, this isn't the case.

I just want to see people having access to the tool to do the job, that's not the current state of play & the current marketing drive merely emphasises how unfair & wrong this is.

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