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Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel
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Alright, many of you may have heard that we (Specialized) launched an in house wind tunnel here at Morgan Hill last night. This being a relatively technical crowd, we wanted to open the door to questions and feedback. So ask away! Almost anything is fair game, from the tunnel, to our aero R&D process in general, to the people behind it. I want to be as open as possible, but there will be a few things that I unfortunately can't go into details about (e.g. financials of the project, details about the technical design of the force balance - we can chat specs and capability all day though!).

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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Chris Yu
Applied Technology
Specialized Bicycle Components
@chrisyuinc
Last edited by: chrisyu: May 18, 13 21:32
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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What is the reported precision of the wind tunnel?
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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Not so much a question, more an idea that I think would be super cool, and probably could help convince someone like myself to buy a nicer bike... this goes along with the stories of buying a VW in Germany. You go pick up your car from the factory, and kind of get to make a day out of it.

How about, if you buy an S-Works bike (or something of that nature), a couple hours of wind tunnel testing to optimize you is thrown in. You are paying a premium, sure, but its something you could offer that no other manufacturer can. Your LBS could have the bike shipped to the tunnel spec'ed out and pre-fit to your coordinates, and then you take a little trip there, spend a few hours with the tunnel, go over tech stuff, make changes, etc. Then, its shipped back to the LBS to pick up It could certainly get someone on the edge of upgrading from a Pro level to an S-Works.

I'm sure your dealers would love it, as it would mean extra time spent there. I would love to spend some time in a wind tunnel, if for no other reason that having the neat-o factor, but I would never spend the money on it. My .02 anyways....

Go Cyclones! In Hoc Signo Vinces. Twitter @Cise_Smash
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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story, and photo gallery, will be up on the home page in about 20 minutes. i have this question for you, chris, and it might not be something you can answer, but i think specialized has been nosing around the idea of a wind tunnel for awhile, and came close to buying a wind tunnel that came on the market several years ago. can you give me a chronology in the evolution of mike sinyard's interest in the and execution of a wind tunnel proximate to the design center at specialized?

Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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Hi
Thanks for this opportunity. I am lucky that my local bike store carries specialized.
My question is about helmets. At the age of 46 I am getting into olympic distance triathlons with the goal of being good at it by the time I am 50. Now, I have bought the shiv comp rival 2013 and have been giving it regular rides. What helmet should I get?
Is Specialized coming out with a semi-aero helmet, similar to the Giro air-attack? The true aero helmets seem too radical and niche for me and the typical road helmets not aero enough. My cycling position isnt ideal...I shift my hands...I tuck and then sit up and then may stand on the pedals briefly...I want a helmet that is light and usable daily.
Get in your wind tunnel and simulate an olympic bike ride with a few hills and hairpins and please tell me, for the age group competitive triathlete what is the best helmet?
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [lorenzo7] [ In reply to ]
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lorenzo7 wrote:
Get in your wind tunnel and simulate an olympic bike ride with a few hills and hairpins and please tell me, for the age group competitive triathlete what is the best helmet?

Uhm....seriously?

John



Top notch coaching: Francois and Accelerate3 | Follow on Twitter: LifetimeAthlete |
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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chrisyu wrote:
Alright, many of you may have heard that we (Specialized) launched an in house wind tunnel here at Morgan Hill last night. This being a relatively technical crowd, we wanted to open the door to questions and feedback. So ask away! Almost anything is fair game, from the tunnel, to our aero R&D process in general, to the people behind it. I want to be as open as possible, but there will be a few things that I unfortunately can't go into details about (e.g. financials of the project, details about the technical design of the force balance - we can chat specs and capability all day though!).

Thanks for the opportunity and for taking the time to post on Slowtwitch. This is an exciting move and decision for Specialized, I am looking forward to seeing its impacts on products and R&D overall.

Who at Specialized will be responsible for the prioritization of products that will make it to the tunnel? Is there a road map already? Will all bikes and components include some aero testing or will it be limited to specific models/lines/etc?

Thanks in advance

:)
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [Slowman] [ In reply to ]
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Slowman wrote:
story, and photo gallery, will be up on the home page in about 20 minutes. i have this question for you, chris, and it might not be something you can answer, but i think specialized has been nosing around the idea of a wind tunnel for awhile, and came close to buying a wind tunnel that came on the market several years ago. can you give me a chronology in the evolution of mike sinyard's interest in the and execution of a wind tunnel proximate to the design center at specialized?

If we are thinking of the same wind tunnel, then they made the right decision.

__________________________

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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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What test section size did Specialized choose?

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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [Devlin] [ In reply to ]
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Devlin wrote:
lorenzo7 wrote:
Get in your wind tunnel and simulate an olympic bike ride with a few hills and hairpins and please tell me, for the age group competitive triathlete what is the best helmet?


Uhm....seriously?

John

Sheer gold. Wow.

"One Line Robert"
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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chrisyu wrote:
----

All this effort to plan and build something in secret... why waste time on a wind tunnel when a Death Star is clearly what is needed (plus you guys would do a better job on the design)?

Seriously though, when does Specialized expect to realize it's first product that is directly impacted by having this facility?
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [lorenzo7] [ In reply to ]
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lorenzo7 wrote:
Hi
Thanks for this opportunity. I am lucky that my local bike store carries specialized.
My question is about helmets. At the age of 46 I am getting into olympic distance triathlons with the goal of being good at it by the time I am 50. Now, I have bought the shiv comp rival 2013 and have been giving it regular rides. What helmet should I get?
Is Specialized coming out with a semi-aero helmet, similar to the Giro air-attack? The true aero helmets seem too radical and niche for me and the typical road helmets not aero enough. My cycling position isnt ideal...I shift my hands...I tuck and then sit up and then may stand on the pedals briefly...I want a helmet that is light and usable daily.
Get in your wind tunnel and simulate an olympic bike ride with a few hills and hairpins and please tell me, for the age group competitive triathlete what is the best helmet?

For what reason have you ruled out the conventional aero helmets on the market? There are so many options at the moment with a very wide variety of tail shapes, ranging from the very long (Specialized TT2, Kask K31, LG Superleggera, Giro Advantage, LAS Krono) to medium length (Lazer Tardiz, Bell Javelin, Giro Selector) to short (Rudy Project Wingspan), to non-existent (Kask Bambino, Giro Air Attack, LAS whateverit'scalled). I'm dubious that one of the existing helmets won't fundamentally meet your needs, but this is not to say that I'm not interested in seeing what Specialized can do.

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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [ZackCapets] [ In reply to ]
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it's massive, as tunnels go. there's pics on the home page. it's an interesting tunnel. open circuit. with a gallery for viewers, which i've never seen. you could either watch something being aero tested, or you could watch somebody being executed. it looks kind of like that room. plus, if you put the guy on the balance, you could execute him at various yaw angles, so that the spectators could see it from various points of view.

in all seriousness, tho, pretty cool tunnel.

Dan Empfield
aka Slowman
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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Will you be testing a new aero version of your S-Works Epic 29er in there?

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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [morey000] [ In reply to ]
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Actually, if you read any of the press releases, they'll be testing everything from TT bikes to commuters and designing appropriately.

So no need for pink font. Or red. Or whatever that is you just used.

"One Line Robert"
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [ZackCapets] [ In reply to ]
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Being fairly new to triathlon I havent tried on any of the aero helmets and I dont see them in the stores that I frequent. But, my impression is that they are heavier than road helmets, that they are hard to put on, that they are poorly ventilated and that their benefits are greatest when worn in a stable position at high bike speeds. I have seen posts that say that they should be worn only in triathlons and time trials and not for training rides...this greatly limits their usefulness to me.
When I see broadcasts of olympic distance triathlons I see road helmets and the odd semi-aero helmet. When I see photo galleries from ironman I see aero helmets.
So, given the way that I want to use my helmet I am curious if there is any benefit to a semi-aero helmet over a road helmet.
Living in a semi-rural area...I have one bike store within an hours drive and it carries Specialized. So, I am most interested in whether Specialized will be coming out with a semi-aero bike helmet. And, whether that helmet will have any benefits over a road helmet to me.
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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chrisyu wrote:
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.

What I think might benefit the average consumer (i.e. the one that isn't buying the latest greatest superbike every year) is to go back to some of your older model years (Say the last 5 years) and test them with various wheels/aerobar/bento, etc., and offer value that way. That is something that would absolutely buy my brand loyalty, and probably that of many other age groupers who may only buy a bike once every few years.

I hate hashtags on forums, but #aeroiseverything and #gettingthemostoutofwhatyougot.

John



Top notch coaching: Francois and Accelerate3 | Follow on Twitter: LifetimeAthlete |
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [wsrobert] [ In reply to ]
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wsrobert wrote:
Actually, if you read any of the press releases, they'll be testing everything from TT bikes to commuters and designing appropriately.

So no need for pink font. Or red. Or whatever that is you just used.

Sweet!! Finally a more aero expedition sport!!

_________________________________________________
When all is said and done. More is usually said than done
Ba Ba Booey

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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [Turd Ferguson] [ In reply to ]
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"I feel like I'm always late while trying to navigate to the grocery store. Do you have a more aero commuter bike?"

"One Line Robert"
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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Can I come for a visit? Pleeeeease????? :-)


AndyF
http://alphamantis.com
#findyouraero
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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Hey guys, stoked to get so much response so quickly! I promise I'll get to everyone in a bit...I'm about to head out on course for the ATOC TT to do some last sec. wind data checks for our riders. Will be back in a few!

Chris Yu
Applied Technology
Specialized Bicycle Components
@chrisyuinc
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [lorenzo7] [ In reply to ]
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lorenzo7 wrote:
Being fairly new to triathlon I havent tried on any of the aero helmets and I dont see them in the stores that I frequent.
Many well-equipped bike shops, even those catering to triathletes, don't have a huge selection of aero helmets. My LBS, Inside-Out Sports, is an exception in that they do carry a substantial number for trying on and buying. Otherwise, I think most people would buy online.
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But, my impression is that they are heavier than road helmets, that they are hard to put on, that they are poorly ventilated and that their benefits are greatest when worn in a stable position at high bike speeds.
They are a bit heavier (typically ~350-400g vs. ~200-300g for a road helmet). Some people make a big deal out of this given that from a percentage standpoint there is a fairly large difference between the two, but in the absolute sense 100g is a minuscule amount of additional weight. I think more often than not those who report aero helmets causing some additional discomfort due to the weight would have been equally uncomfortable in a lighter road helmet, that is, it's the position more so than the weight that makes people uncomfortable. A wet ponytail adds more weight to a girl's head than an aero helmet does. As for putting it on, there are many that are quite easy to put on, as well as some that are not so easy. Generally, the larger the ear flaps on the helmet, the more difficult it will be to put it on and take it off. As with everything else, a bit of practice goes a long way. I have one of the most restrictive helmets on the market and it goes on in transition with ease. Regarding ventilation, you're generally correct, sometimes it makes a difference, sometimes it doesn't. Several manufacturers have come up with elegant solutions to the problem of overheating. I've never personally overheated as a result of my aero helmet being too hot, and I've done some extremely hot races.
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I have seen posts that say that they should be worn only in triathlons and time trials and not for training rides...this greatly limits their usefulness to me.
I suppose you could use it in training also. It's generally a race-day only option.
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When I see broadcasts of olympic distance triathlons I see road helmets and the odd semi-aero helmet. When I see photo galleries from ironman I see aero helmets.
So, given the way that I want to use my helmet I am curious if there is any benefit to a semi-aero helmet over a road helmet.
The right aero helmet will make you faster regardless of the distance at which you're racing. Bike speed and positioning play a greater role in the determination as to which helmet is the best for you. For all anyone knows one of these round-ish, tailless helmets you're calling "semi-aero" could be the fastest helmet for you. There are patterns to which helmets end up being fastest for which types of people, but the only way to know for sure is to test.

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Living in a semi-rural area...I have one bike store within an hours drive and it carries Specialized. So, I am most interested in whether Specialized will be coming out with a semi-aero bike helmet. And, whether that helmet will have any benefits over a road helmet to me.

Reasonable.

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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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This is just cool!!!

It brings back memories of when I built my windtunnel (albeit much, much smaller and much less $$$) for my 8th grade science project to test drag coefficients of various shapes.

Of course, one of my goals was just to get out of class, since someone had to operate the tunnel during the science fair :)

Team Kiwami
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [Nick_Barkley] [ In reply to ]
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Hey Nick,

I assume you mean precision of the force balance? For a controlled setup (e.g. not a human pedaling), we expect to see +/-2 gF over a 10s sample. In full disclosure, we are very close to that currently but have some tweaks to perform to nail the target. And of course, once you add in a human, the precision is dictated by how well the rider can hold a position...so the answer there is "it depends."

Chris Yu
Applied Technology
Specialized Bicycle Components
@chrisyuinc
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Re: Ask us (almost) anything about our Wind Tunnel [chrisyu] [ In reply to ]
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I know that you are hiring interns, but do you hire canadian interns (or only US)? I think this detail is not specified in your website and as a mechanical engineering student it would be awesome to work in the tunnel for a few months :)
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