And just to answer a few of the big questions right off the bat:
What's the big deal and why did you do it?
The main thing everyone will think of when they see that we have built our own facility, is that we will now have quick turnaround times in the aero R&D process. Great for us, and hopefully indirectly great for our riders since it'll allow for more wild ideas to have a shot. But, that's just the one of the reasons we pulled the trigger. It'll allow us to do athlete testing (and not necessarily just at the world pro-level) much more effectively since we're no longer limited by time and we can customize the facility to be a better simulator of "real world" riding. But the biggest one (I think) is the outreach component. Since we can walk in and fire up the fans literally any time we want, we're able to connect with riders and help answer some of the big (or small!) aero questions. So I imagine being able to either come here on ST, or have some space where people can ask serious or silly aero questions and we go into the tunnel the next day and shoot a short video clip, answering that question with a test.
So what? Why do I care as a consumer since I can't directly buy a product here?
True, you can't directly buy anything since we're not selling tunnel time. But indirectly, the stuff that comes out of it will have the benefit of a basically unprecedented number of tunnel R&D hours (especially the stuff that gets 0 tunnel test time now). And the bigger part of it is what I alluded to above. We want this to be as much an outreach tool as it is an R&D tool. Aero in cycling is still relatively confusing and misunderstood - ok, maybe not as much with you guys on ST - but the vast majority of riders don't have a good grasp on why aero matters or what it can do for them. We want to be able to help educate and this will very much be a group-think exercise.
Isn't wind tunnel testing off the back already? Is it really that representative of the real world?
There's been a lot of discussion lately about tunnel testing being off the back since it's not that realistic, especially given the rise of on-track data tools. There's two things I want to address:
First, the neat thing about building and designing our own facility is that we can put in anything we want. We're not limited to basically putting a trainer into an existing tunnel and testing bikes that way. We have the freedom to build any apparatus that we feel will better simulate real-world riding. We're not the first here: F1 teams have been doing full course simulations for a particular track in the tunnel for a while now.
Second, aerodynamics is not something that you can effectively study with just one tool. Sure, you can get a pretty good idea with smart use of any one tool, but to get a complete picture you really need 3 big ones: CFD, on-road or field test data, and a controlled test environment in the tunnel. The on-road equipment allows us to determine "boundary conditions" for how to setup a test either in simulation or in the tunnel. It also allows us to double check that what we're seeing on the computer or in the tunnel is actually translating to riding your bike outside. CFD is a very powerful tool in the design space but to do it right and to use it for a full product design (and, trust me, it is *very* easy to do it wrong - there are a lot of virtual knobs to turn to setup a test) requires a lot of computational horsepower. This means that compromises will need to be made, in terms of how many and what dynamic riding effects to include. However, as a quick and dirty evaluation tool at the front end of the design cycle and a very precise, localized design optimization tool at the end of the design cycle, it cannot be beat. And that's where we get to the tunnel: everything in between is just better to do in a controlled lab environment. We can setup a test and be able to apply the same test conditions over and over again. That consistency is how we can make sure something we've changed is actually better.
(edited for typos)
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