Monday, November 19, 2007

Texas A&M Camp and Wind Tunnel

Aerodynamics and wind tunnel guru, John Cobb, discusses a few of the basic principles, before the testing begins.

I know many of you have been wondering how the camp went, and let me tell you, I learned a lot! It was pretty awesome to be at the wind tunnel and see how it all worked. Working with and learning from John Cobb was a unique, and insightful experience. It was great to ask him a bunch of questions and get explanations I could use and understand.

The control center, where all the data is configured.

One really cool thing was when we pretty much had the clinic portion over, covering all the basics and our questions answered, only to have about another 75 mins of tunnel time left. Then Cobb asked us, "Well, what do you guys wanna do? The tunnel is ours to do whatever we want with!" It was being given the keys to a Ferrari, when you just got your driver's license.

This Texas A&M triathlon team member was our test dummy for our aerodynamic drag tests. You can see the smoke and how it shows the direction of the air flow, as well as disruption as it comes in contact with the rider.

The tests we did were really cool, and what I expected to get as a result happened about 50% of the time, while the unexpected result happened the other half. Sometimes I was shaking my head, other times I felt like I knew what I was doing. It just goes to show there are certain principles of aerodynamics, but for every principle there are plenty of exceptions, based on the rider's position and equipment.

The two biggest results/learning experiences/memorable moments:

1. Testing the Texas A&M tri-team member, and finding that even with his Limar aero helmet, he was faster with his face down, tail up in the air, than the traditional position of putting the tail on your back. (Lots of reasons for this, but still an important distinction.) Then we tested another team member, and his result was the exact opposite.

2. Cassidy Phillips took the young man, and did a little bit of loosening up his quads, psoas and piriformis with his TP Massage therapy items, and his hips were able to rotate slightly forward, reducing his drag by quite a bit, a pound! I'm talking a difference of nearly 2 mins for 40K! It also equated to nearly 6 mins for an Ironman. And this was done with about 5 mins of loosening exercises to get the hips to come forward. This didn't even take into account how much better he could breathe or how the leverage of the new position could provide more power to the pedals.

Visual of air flow disruption with the head face-down during the testing. Believe it or not, the air flow was worse with the head up!

We also used a smoker, in order to show how the air moves around the body when it hits the cyclist. It was quite cool to see.

So what can we learn from this? More than anything, aerodynamics are related to flexibility! Combine quality flexibility work with a good fit, that follows a lot of the principles of aerodynamic flow, and you've got a good amount of free speed.

Of course, I learned a lot more than that, but I can't give away everything!

Coach Vance

PS - If you want another cool blog to follow, check out John Cobb's.

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