Recently published patent-applications have alluded to some surprising experimentation with aerodynamics on the part of Great Britain’s “Secret Squirrel Club.” With Rio looming on the Olympic horizon, British Cycling and UK Cycle Sports continue to stretch for gold. Get your fill of fast-and-slippery technology after the break…
Our friends over at Road.cc have discovered these unorthodox aero designs filed by UK Sport on behalf of the English Institute of Sport. The application reportedly states the “flow of air from the rear of the helmet significantly improves the airflow patterns down the back of the rider, thus reducing drag.” There is also mention of a battery powered impeller that would be located within the ductwork to “assist the air flow through ducts.” The UCI’s potential response to this technology will be a matter of debate.
Laminar flow is the uninhibited passing of a fluid over a body resulting in no turbulence of said fluid. This is the core principle of much aero technology, both on and off the bike. Boeing is making fuel-efficient strides in utilizing a perforated tail on their new 777X, and this is speculated to be the same principle used by British Cycling in their ducted helmet.
The “how” is not fully understood, but one aspect of the perforation/exhaust-outlet technology is: by “ingesting the turbulent layer of air through the [perforations/vents], the overall drag over the [affected body] is reduced.” (Wired, Nov 2013) This is seen, theoretically, in both the 777X and the ducted helmet.
With a cyclist’s body being the greatest contributor to drag, the skinsuit is consistently the subject of much aerodynamic attention. The second half of these patent applications employ unique “kicks” in the form of chevrons that are positioned on the cyclist’s arms’ trailing-edge. These chevrons are either plastic pieces attached to the skinsuit, post-production, or by heat-moulding of the suit itself.
Quoted in the Telegraph, inventor/engineer Robert Lewis of aerodynamics consultancy TotalSim, which works with UK Sport, stated, “It has been found that in cycling, air to the rear of an arm or leg flows upwards along the arm or leg and is a significant cause of overall drag on the cyclist…By including an air flow disruption device on the rear of the arm or leg, this flow is broken up, reducing the overall drag.” Whether these technologies, still in development stages, see production or competition (or even Olympic gold) remains to be seen. But the British Cycling Team still has some time before their flight leaves for Rio.