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Being There: Specialized Wind Tunnel Launch

May 17, 2013
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Specialized had announced their press event a few weeks out. Unlike the usual way they go about things, this one was shrouded in a level of secrecy that even a good bottle of red wine put down at dinner the night before stage one of the Tour of California could dislodge a hint of what was to come. All we were told was that it had to do with something aero.

If it wasn’t the official launch of their new aero road helmet, it had to have been a new bike. Right? Well, unfortunately, not even a delicious plate of tiramisu (that followed the Cabernet) could get us any more info. Alas, we had to wait

And so on the night before the San Jose time trial stage, a gaggle of journos gathered outside a Morgan Hill Hotel waiting for a shuttle ride to Specialized. It was only after we climbed inside the bus that we learned the launch could’ve been much, much worse. As we queried shuttle driver Molly about what was to come, she said that there was an idea floated within Specialized to have all the journos blindfolded and driven around town to confuse us about where we were and what we might see. Eegads! That would’ve been silly (although nowhere near as silly as a Cannondale mountain bike launch in Las Vegas a few years earlier that involved similar circus like antics).

AND THEN IT BECAME CLEAR
As the van drove up to the Specialized headquarters, Molly kept her foot planted on the gas pedal and kept on driving. Neil looked at me with a quizzical look as we headed to another building down the block. “Oh yeah,” I said as we pulled up to a side door of the nondescript building,”Specialized used to work out of this building back in the day.”

The minute the van stopped and the doors opened, Neil said, “wind tunnel.”  And so it was. Specialized had once again upped the bike industry ante in terms of who was serious about pursuing two-wheeled performance. As if having three, yes, three Pro Tour teams wasn’t enough of a statement about their commitment to racing, the construction of their very own wind tunnel definitely did the job.


(L-R) Chris Yu, Mark Cote, Chuck Texiera (wearing a sweet Victor Vincente of America t-shirt) and Chris D’Luisio made up the core team of wind tunnel proponents.

Just over 17 months in the making (from original idea), the tunnel is big and most important of all, designed specifically for testing bicycles. As much as the tunnel once again illustrated Specialized’s storied insistence on pursuing performance at any cost, to me at least, the best take-away was the importance of the people involved in the project. Although company founder Mike Sinyard was behind the whole endeavor, it was his team of engineers and designers, who, always brimming with enthusiasm, put all the pieces of the puzzle together.


The wind tunnel proved what we all already know, that the importance of team work and talent can never be underestimated. In fact, beyond the technical aid from their F1 partners at McLaren and the old-time Specialized aero brain trust of Chester Kyle and Mark Hopkins who helped develop the famous Specialized tri-spoke wheel 25 years ago, to help make the tunnel a reality, and army of Specialized employees volunteered their time to finish construction of the massive tunnel (watch the time lapse video of the construction above).

Of course, much can be, and will be said about the new wind tunnel. As it is, it’s currently a beautiful day after the launch and the Amgen Tour of California time trial is soon to begin. Off to the races, after all, that’s what it’s all about eh?


THE OFFICIAL WORD: SPECIALIZED UNVEILS BICYCLE-SPECIFIC WIND TUNNEL

Specialized Bicycle Components is introducing their bicycle-specific wind tunnel in its very own backyard of Morgan Hill. Continuing in a tradition of industry leading innovation, the new wind tunnel will provide unparalleled aerodynamic collaboration across the entire Specialized product line.

‘Aero is everything,’ according to Mark Cote, Manager of Performance Road, Triathlon, Aerodynamics R&D at Specialized. He added, ‘This is a fundamental shift in how we think about air; every product and athlete will be faster.’

Because wind touches all of their products, it’s everything to Specialized. By designing and constructing a cycling-specific wind tunnel, Specialized is 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’ explains Chris Yu, Specialized Aerodynamics R&D Engineer.

The new tunnel will allow for, until now, unheard of levels of aero-integration. Wind tunnel time is expensive, closely monitored and, because of this, it’s been reserved generally for competitive race bikes and equipment ? not anymore. 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. If there’s the possibility of making a daily work commute less taxing thereby allowing the rider to sweat less and enjoy an extra cup of coffee in the morning, it’s worth it. 

Equipped with this wealth of technical know-how Specialized is not just able to make the products faster, but the athletes too. 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. Cross country mountain riders can now experiment with how different positions can help them gain free speed during grueling races. By also utilizing the facility as an educational tool in conjunction with their Specialized Bicycle Components University (SBCU) classes, they can teach and inform dealers how aero tweaks can work hand in hand with Body Geometry Fit sessions for added comfort and efficiency.

In addition to an industry-leading piece of equipment, Specialized also has an industry-leading team of aerodynamic experts interpreting the data. Chris Yu and Mark Cote are joined by Chuck Teixeira and Chris D’Aluisio, who among them have 50 years of aero experience, with over 20,000 hours in wind tunnels. Their presence at Specialized is unique and a key component in continuing to move the science forward for the industry in bold new ways. They think it, they build it, they test it, and they make it better. Their pedigree, history, experience and expertise are second to none. Already armed with CFD (Computational Fluid Dynamics) and on-bike DAQ (data Acquisition), now the wind tunnel will serve as the final tool towards the next level of aerodynamic gains. 

Specialized will be hosting live, online Q&A sessions on Tuesday, May 21st from 4-5pm PST with Chris Yu and Chuck Teixeira then again on Thursday, May 23rd from 9-10am PST with Chris D’Aluisio and Mark Cote. Please visit Specialized.com for more information.

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