This Is Where the World’s Fastest Road Bikers Go to Learn the Secrets of Speed
The secret to speed can be found in a nondescript building just north of San Diego off I-5. For the past 69 years, companies have tested the aerodynamics of their planes and missiles in the city’s wind tunnel. Now cyclists use the facility, too, with the goal of finding the ideal equation that maximizes speed while minimizing power output. Earlier this year, U.S. pro bike team Rally Cycling visited the wind tunnel with three of its top time-trialists—Rob Britton, Adam de Vos, and Evan Huffman—to dial in their body positions before the season’s big races, including this week’s Tour of California. The team spent a day in the tunnel under the guidance of HED Cycling aerodynamics guru Dino Edin, who adjusted each riders’ ergonomics and cockpit mechanics. Here’s an inside look at that process.
Photo: Wind tunnel testing is a science of millimeters. It involves incremental adjustments to a rider’s position and the bike components.
The San Diego Wind Tunnel first began testing aircraft in 1947. General Dynamics ran the facility from 1961 until a privately held company purchased it in 1994. Nine years later, it started working on bikes. Today, it has logged over 100,000 hours of testing.
After years testing airplanes and missiles, the San Diego Wind Tunnel has applied its expertise in aerodynamics to making athletes and equipment go as fast as possible.
Rally Cycling mechanic Erik Maresjo makes adjustments to the armrests on Rob Britton’s Hed Corsair aerobars.
One of the team’s top general classification riders, Britton looks to improve his time-trialing in the hopes of challenging for the overall title in May’s Amgen Tour of California.
Every angle of the testing process is recorded to allow evaluation of the rider’s position. The camera mounted above the rider shows how changes in position affect airflow over the rider’s back.
Britton fights the wind as the techs in the control room monitor the data. The two most important metrics are drag coefficient and power output, measured in watts. Low drag and high watts equates to speed.
Adam De Vos demonstrates the ideal position for cheating the wind.
Stephen Ryle outlines the rider’s profile on the live feed.
Rally Cycling’s Adam De Vos tests one of the team’s Lazer aero helmets.