Specialized in the US has crated its own wind tunnel facility and and a collection of companies in ‘Bike Valley’ in Belgium are working together to create a European wind tunnel facility. It’s highly appropriate that cycle companies are at the cutting edge of such technology as it was two cyclists who created the first ever wind tunnel. This was developed at the beginning of the twentieth century by bicycle shop owners Wilbur and Orville Wright. The Wright brothers originally rode bicycles equipped with wing-shapes to test airflow and later developed a studio version.
Today, wind tunnel technology is used to test aerodynamic capabilities of aeroplanes, cars, and, of course, bicycles and bicycle parts.
In Belgium, the Flanders Government has invested 500,000 Euros in the ‘Bike Valley’ initiative, a coming together of five bicycle businesses, who will share a wind tunnel facility. Ridley Bikes, Lazer helmets, BioRacer clothing, EnergyLab athletic performance centre and Flanders Drive, a mobility knowledge centre, have combined forces to help create ‘Bike Valley’. At the centre of this complex will be an advanced R&D facility, including a bicycle-specific wind tunnel.
Marc Hufkens of Bike Valley said “Such a wind tunnel doesn’t exist in Europe, and it clearly indicates our ambition of making Bike Valley the first worldwide, cross-border, open-innovation competence hub of everything related to bicycles.”
Ridley’s Noah FAST TT bike, BioRacer’s SpeedWear and Lazer’s Helium Fast are examples of existing aero products produced by members of Bike Valley.
Hufkins added: “Flanders has always been a heartland of cycling. Bike Valley is a way of reinforcing this status and aims at stimulating start-ups, and at attracting organizations and companies from all over the world. Bike Valley will function as a centre of incubation and as an ecosystem for all things related to the cycling industry.”
Over in the US, Specialized Bicycle Components has already unveiled its bicycle-specific wind tunnel.
"Aero is everything," said Mark Cote, Manager of Performance Road, Triathlon, Aerodynamics R&D at Specialized.
By designing and constructing its own cycling-specific wind tunnel, Specialized will be able to spend more time on its aero projects, including making athletes more aero-efficient on their bikes. Wind tunnel time is expensive and having an in-house facility makes a lot of sense.
"By building and designing a wind tunnel from the ground up, we were able to really concentrate on optimizing the facility for testing human powered flow regimes; from tuning the air flow and force balance sensitivity to having a comfortable, modern environment to work in," explains Chris Yu, Specialized Aerodynamics R&D Engineer.
Specialized said the new wind tunnel wouldn’t be for just top-of–the-line aero bikes; the company’s Globe commuter bikes will also be modified by time spent in the new facility," said Yu.
Specialized will also invite dealers into the wind tunnel, as part of Specialized Bicycle Components University (SBCU) classes. Dealers will learn ehow aero tweaks can work hand in hand with Body Geometry Fit sessions for added comfort and efficiency.