Sunday, February 23, 2014

A quick way to assess cycling aerodynamics

I finally had a light-bulb moment. I realized it can be pretty helpful having a brother who is a mechanical engineer. He's worked in performance car racing and understands aerodynamics!

There is huge cross-over with cycling and triathlon. How? In both scenarios, car racing (think Formula 1 race cars) and cycling, it's about maximizing power by, in-part, minimizing drag.

Now, if I wanted the gold standard in aerodynamics assessment I'd head to a wind tunnel. Unfortunately, that not exactly accessible to everyone. So, plan B.

My brother told me about this pretty cool app called 123D made by Autodesk (Autodesk also makes the computer program AutoCAD, used by many engineers, architects and land surveyors). Basically, you take a series of photos and the app constructs a 3-D model based on the photos. It's not exactly the gold standard, but constructing a 3-D model of yourself on a bike can provide some interesting insights into biomechanics and aerodynamics.

For me, one of the most helpful aspects was seeing what my torso is doing while in the aero position. The more "aero" you are - i.e. how close your back is to being parallel with the ground - the less wind resistance and drag. Result? You go faster!

Here's a series of still shots based on the model. The app allows you to zoom in and out, and rotate.

Give it a try and leave your thoughts in the comments.

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