Friday, June 1, 2012

Backyard Wind Tunnel

Aerodynamic testing is the only way to find an individual’s ideal position and equipment. Wind tunnel trials are the gold standard, but they’re expensive. However, cycling scientist Allen Lim, Ph.D., discovered an alternative to wind tunnels years ago—all it takes is a flat stretch of road and a power meter.

Lim’s research found that “power meters are sensitive enough to … detect the changes in aerodynamic resistances associated with modest changes in body position,” which is precisely the goal of a wind tunnel. Meaning: You can collect data from a road test to refine your position. If you don’t own a power meter, consider borrowing or renting one.

» Step 1: Mark a flat stretch of road with consistent pavement. Lim’s testing ground was about 200m long.

» Step 2: Using a rolling start to get up to speed, ride the course at a constant speed while holding your body still. Return to the start and repeat two more trials with the same position.

» Step 3: Make a single change to either your position or equipment and repeat step 2. Record the time for each trial.

» Step 4: Average the power from each group of three trials and find the condition that required the least power. Ride it for a few weeks to find if you can sustain it comfortably.

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