When it comes to the finer points of tuning rider performance, products or services can all too often give with one hand and take with the other. When it comes to aerodynamics, IBFI pro fitter Tony Corke is an expert in beating the wind. Here he mulls over how aero-tuning could become a professional service for shops…
Aero is fashionable. In fact, one of the biggest players in the bicycle industry, Specialized, has gone as far as saying that, “Aero is everything”. It’s clear, the trend is established and customers seek to better understand how to turn it to their advantage.
Aerodynamics in cycling is compelling. The subject has increased customer excitement and added another category of product and service to a bike shop’s offerings. So how do we as retailers capitalise on this interesting opportunity?
At product level, aerodynamic gains are a very easy sell, “buy this more aerodynamic product and for a given power output you will go faster”. We are all familiar with aero wheel/helmet/bike/skinsuit tests claiming X amount of watts saved over the competition’s product, or last year’s model. In the wider market this has created a demand for all aerodynamic products. As long as the retailer has some aero offerings they can satisfy this general demand, and often just stocking the aero product from your chosen brands is enough. Most aero products have the two-fold advantage of being both actually ‘faster’ and more importantly they actually look faster too. It’s very easy for a customer to believe those deep section wheels or aero tube sections will effortlessly sail through the air because they just ‘look’ fast. Any customer even remotely interested in going fast is inherently attracted to these ‘free speed’ propositions and need little convincing to join the aero arms race.
Now that the customer interest has piqued, I believe we are going to see a growing demand for clearer quantification of personal aerodynamic gains, as well as services emerging to help riders navigate through the murkier world of aerodynamic optimisation. This is where it’s easy to forget that the end goal is not just lower drag, but actually a higher sustainable speed.
Knowledge and understanding is key. Aerodynamics is not rocket science, however, it is also a little misunderstood and on the whole over emphasised for the majority of the market place.
Just as power meters have exploded onto the scene and are now becoming ubiquitous on any self-respecting athlete’s bicycle, I believe we are about to see on-bike, real time, aerodynamic drag measuring devices becoming available and eventually common place on elite and recreational racer’s bicycles. Alongside this is the imminent opening of the world’s most affordable wind tunnel thanks to Chris Boardman and a host of trackside testing, 3D scanning and surface area measuring devices that all lead the individual cyclists to understand their own personal aero gains.
This will inevitably lead customers to realise how small the aero gains really are for hardware (bikes, wheels) at recreational racing speeds and also how comparatively large the aero gain can be for the rider’s upper body. At which point we are back to riders pushing their saddles forward and slamming their stems because it shows a lower drag value, only to find that their travelling speeds over distance have not improved because they did not realise the postural and workload costs of such an unbalanced position. It’s here many realise that understanding is greater than data and that they still need expert advice in order to find solutions that work.
My vision of an, ‘Aerodynamically Optimised Bikeshop’, is one that offers a good selection of aerodynamic hardware and clothing and offers products and services to measure aero drag. These must be tempered with a thorough understanding of what individual riders needs to preserve about their own position on a bike in order to maintain the foundation of speed – Sustainable Pedal Force Production.
Here at Torke Cycling, we are enjoying being able to measure cyclists’ power and drag in new and exciting ways, as well as teach bike fitting techniques that preserve and elevate the expertise of bricks and mortar bike shop staff.