On Thursday night at company headquarters in Morgan Hill, California, Specialized introduced their very own bicycle-specific wind tunnel, which is located just across the street from its main HQ building. The bike maker claims this cycling-industry first will provide unparalleled aerodynamic collaboration across the entire Specialized product line.
“Aero is everything,” said Mark Cote, who works in aerodynamics R&D at Specialized. “This is a fundamental shift in how we think about air; every product and athlete will be faster. When you combine this new tool with the engineering resources we already have inside Specialized, we’ll be able to conceive an idea on a Monday and have a prototype of that idea in the wind tunnel for testing on a Friday.”
Traditional wind tunnels typically cater to the aerospace and automotive industries, which was the primary driver in building this biking-specific testing facility. Here’s a time lapse video of the construction process.
By designing and constructing a cycling-specific wind tunnel, Specialized says it will be able to streamline what has generally been a complicated process. Now, under one roof, the Specialized team of aerodynamic experts will have all the tools they’ll need to theorize, test and push the boundaries of innovation into new and exciting directions.
“By building and designing a wind tunnel from the ground up, we were able to really concentrate on optimizing the facility for testing human powered flow regimes; from tuning the air flow and force balance sensitivity to having a comfortable, modern environment to work in,” said Chris Yu, an aerodynamic research and design engineer for Specialized.
The new tunnel will allow for much higher levels of aero-integration. Before, wind tunnel time was cost prohibitive, costing as much as $10 a minute. For that reason it’s often been reserved only for competitive race bikes and equipment. By creating its own, on-site facility, the opportunity to experiment with equipment from the S-Works road line all the way down to the Globe commuter bikes is now a reality.
Equipped with this wealth of technical know how Specialized is not just able to make the products faster, but the athletes too, read a Specialized press release. Thanks to the size of the tunnel it’s possible to accommodate multiple riders at the same time allowing them to determine how certain crosswind angles affect those riding in a group. Even cross country and downhill mountain bikers can now experiment with how different positions can help them gain speed going up or down.
Specialized also plans to utilize the facility as an educational tool in conjunction with their Specialized Bicycle Components University classes, where they’ll teach and inform dealers how aero tweaks can improve the overall riding experience.