Designing the fastest bicycle is one of the most complex vehicle aerodynamic applications
Analyzing aerodynamics can help bicycle manufacturers adjust rider position, streamline bicycles, improve the design of each element. Professional teams can use it to choose the best tactics for winning races.
Just like in other racing sports cycling teams are investing resources to seek technological advantage over competitors. The manufacturers experiment with new design solutions to improve their product performance. The primary goal is to improve the aerodynamics of the rider and the bicycle.
Designing the fastest bicycle is one of the most complex vehicle aerodynamic applications since the designers cannot shape at will the silhouette and movement of the rider. Finding the best configuration for the airflow performance of such a biomechanical system is very challenging.
Fortunately, the designers have a new tool to do it: automatic Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) software. It makes visualizations of bike racers in different environments possible at the earliest stage of the design process. CFD software makes it possible to run advanced and precise airflow simulations on a virtual model. The newest generation of CFD software is automatic so that it can be operated directly by a designer.
Bicycle manufacturers and cycling team trainers can identify the high-pressure areas – where air resistance is the highest. It turns out that neck-to-shoulder and pelvic regions of the rider are crucial.
A bike and rider aerodynamics will perform differently when riding alone, in a small group, or in a crowded peloton.
Recent use of CFD analysis led to redesigning bicycles frame, but the process is ongoing Moving the seat, changing the contours of wheels and frame just by millimeters can improve or diminish the racers overall performance.
The airflow changes with the speed and external environment, and it is impossible to predict how a new solution would work during the race without performing many CFD simulations. Using laser scanning technology enables scientists and engineers to produce a very detailed and precise mesh.
A bike and rider aerodynamics will perform differently when riding alone, in a small group, or in a crowded peloton. Their performance will change with their speed and the speed and direction of the wind during the race.
Some results of CFD simulations are counterintuitive. It turned out that in a group of six cyclists riding one after another it is the second to the last rider works the least, not the last one. CFD simulations also prove that a car following a cyclist in a 5 meters distance can “push” him or her substantially leading to even 100-second advantage at the finish line. In bike racing, every gram of drag can be decisive for the final result of a race, and that is why this industry can benefit a lot from automatic CFD software solutions.