Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chris Lieto Talks About The Wind Tunnel

I showed up at the San Diego Wind Tunnel on Monday morning the day after the final stage of the Tour of California.  Trek bikes invited me as one of their athletes to improve on my position.  It is a huge honor to be a part of the TRek team.  They are by far the most thorough and advanced in their research on aerodynamics.  they don't miss anything and go the extra mile to make sure everything is thought of.  Being a part of that is a humbling esxperience.  To have the best around working with me to help improve on my aero position and a result of a faster bike times at the races.  I was anxious to learn and see what things we could do to give me some free time in a race.

I walked up the stairs and turned the courner and who was in the tunnel?  Ivan Basso, fresh from the Tour of California, and finetuning his position on his new TTX.   I had the priveldge of watching Ivan Basso go through his tunnel testing first. I found that to get the information you really want from a wind tunnel test you end up spending hours.  Trek takes the extra time to make sure ecverything is checked and every thing is thought of.  Scott Daubert from Trek, is the one that fasilitated the day with the help of other Trek engineers like Mark Andrews, and Aerodynamic specialist Steve Hed. They think and look at everything.  From the bottom to the top, from air pressure in the tires to wrist position and angle. 
Seeing him first hand riding his TTX in the tunnel was a real pleasure and unique experience.  to see how comfortable and aerodynamic he is.  It was my first experience in the tunnle so i was not sure what to expect.  so after watching Basso for 6 hours look graceful and powerful on the bike and seeing his position and aerodynamic numbers, which i assumed were the norm and a baseline for what I could compare my numbers to.

I soon found out that is not the wisest way to look at your first time in the tunnel. 

I mounted my bike and tried to get warmed up in a tunnel that must have been 60 degrees.  My bike was mounted on a table a couple feet above the ground.  You look down a hall that opens up to a huge wall of honey comb.  The air passes through the honeycomb straight at you at 30 miles per hour and blows past you down the hall and back around to the huge fan that keeps the air flowing around.  At 30 mph when sitting on a stationary position it feels like 50 mph.  

We started with my base line current position.  Looking at Basso's numbers then seeing what my numbers where was a rude awakening.  Basso and the professional cyclist out there are in a position that is designed for the most aerodynamic advantage possible, not for comfort and longevity in power.  Not to mention that swimming really screws up your aero dynamics.  Not sure who said it, but they said "Stop swimming and we can save you a bunch of time".  Having broad shoulders from swimming is the number one biggest drag.  Most cyclist don't use their upper bodies much at all and have very narrow upper bodies which help out immensely.  I, on the other hand have to swim in a triathlon so I am stuck with dealing with drag.

We tried dropping my bars 2 cm and moving my saddle forward.  My assumption was that if you lower your front end you will save time.  To my surprise dropping my bars really did not change things that much.  So in the end we left my bar height where it was and moved my saddle and bars forward to open my hips a little.  I think this will help with feeling as strong the last hour of an Ironman ride as I do in the first hour of the ride.  

Thanks to Scott Daubert, Mark Andrews, Steve Hed, and Ivan Basso for making my first wind tunnel experience a great and successful one. 

I can't wait to test the position through out the year this year and in Kona.  See you at the races.

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