Aero-testing with Watt Shop. Or more accurately: geeky wattage chat and the ‘tunnel of pain’.
It was a dream day for any cyclist who wants to go faster: private access to the ‘boards’ of an indoor velodrome, a British Cycling coach holding up your splits to make you feel like Wiggo himself, lots of serious data crunching and techy chat about wattage, plus a few new acronyms such as ‘CdA’ thrown in for good measure. Not to mention walking away a faster athlete at the end of the session with no change in physiology!
When my friend and fellow multisport athlete, Dan Geisler suggested some aero testing at the Derby Velodrome I thought he was mad, that it was just for the pros and David Brailsford with his obsession for marginal gains. But the more I thought about the more I thought, ‘why not?’: I train my arse off, have never thought much about my position on the bike (so clearly throw away some power) and fancied taking the TT machine for a spin on the boards. Plus, who’s not excited about the possibility of some ‘free speed’?!
We got in touch Dan Bigham of the new company Watt Shop and sorted a session at the Derby Arena. Dan Bigham is a university graduate with an engineering degree, a serious passion for the finer detail, a 3 time gold medallist at the British Track Championships earlier this year (and currently heads the British elite road racing rankings), loves all things cycling and is also a very nice bloke to boot. In other words, he was the perfect person to make it a productive but also highly enjoyable day at the track.
The testing involved 8 or 10 laps of the track at a set power and speed (roughly 45kmh) before downloading the data, making changes to our bike setups and doing it again.
The changes I made included testing a high performance 58mm Zipp carbon front wheel against a new K1-80c Carbon front wheel, (that Andy at K1 had built for me the night before), lengthening the stem, narrowing the aerobars, trying a Huub high performance tri suit, shrugging the shoulders (the ‘turtle’) and several different helmet models amongst other things.
It was awesome fun hurtling round the track with Mick or Simon (local British Cycling coaches) holding up the timing iPad to show whether we were up or down on the target lap splits like you see on TV for the pursuit ‘schedules’. For a few fleeting seconds it felt like I was in the individual pursuit, hunting down Sir Bradley.
The only slight problem with the session was that I got the timing wrong on the first couple of tests: I basically went faster than I thought I had to, pushing harder than the threshold effort mentioned by Dan at the start. As the first two sets were at this pace I had to stick at it to make the data as meaningful as possible: in other words it got quite painful as the session went on! In the end it was really hurting and whilst trying to maintain the aerodynamic ‘shrug’ position with a new helmet obscuring my view I was in what can only be described as a narrow ‘tunnel of pain’- 10 laps was more than enough. The hour record? No thank you!
It was reassuring to find out that my Kask Bambino was faster than the other helmets I tried (no need to buy a new one).
Most interestingly from a K1 point of view: The new deeper K1-80c wheels were worth 2.0 watts per wheel over the Zipp 58mm’s I ran as a comparison. To put that in context: the 4 watt gain from going deeper and running a pair of K1-80c’s would take me incredible amounts of training to achieve from body power gains alone!
Ok, there’s a real world out there with things like hills and cross winds getting in the way. So the deeper wheels would of course not always be the best choice. But you can see the principle at work – get the aerodynamics right for your type of riding and you go faster!
Actua Data Below: Wheel aero test comparisons in yellow
Test 1 _ baseline normal position/ Zipp 58 front wheel /K1 prototype Disc Wheel
Test 2 _ baseline normal position/ Kinetic-One K1-80c front /K1 prototype Disc Wheel
Sadly, as expected, the horrendously awkward shrug position is worth a fair few watts so I’m going to have to get a bit more flexible and spend more time on the tunnel of pain if I want to maximise my speed!
Overall, it was a brilliant day. I highly recommend Dan and WattShop. It’s a brilliant concept that yields great results. With Dan’s expertise, enthusiasm and cycling talent, WattShop is going to grow massively in the coming months and years. Sign yourself up whilst you can! Ultimately, what more can a competitive cyclist ask for than a private ride round the velodrome, some wattage chat and walking away at the end of the day a faster rider?