Technology plays role in helping champion cyclists

A group of the world's top female cyclists have converged on Morgan Hill in the South Bay to fine tune their craft.
January 21, 2014 7:50:51 PM PST
A group of the world's top female cyclists have converged on Morgan Hill in the South Bay to fine tune their craft.

They're looking to a bike maker who uses state-of-the-art techniques to help shave a few key seconds off their world class race times.

Never has technology played such an important part in helping professional cyclists win. And at Specialized in Morgan Hill it's making a difference.

They like to call the wind tunnel the "win" tunnel because of the importance of aerodynamics in winning a race. Every part of a racing bike, along with the cyclist's helmet, can impact speed and performance.

Engineer Chris Yu's background is in aircraft aerodynamics, but he now applies the same principles to cycling.

"One is reduce the size, so just punching a smaller hole through the air or, improving their shape, so just making them more like a slender wing body and not just barn doors. So, the more we can do that, the better it is come race day for them," said Yu.

Racer Tayler Wiles of Marin County is being subjected to 30 miles per hour headwinds and as much emphasis is placed on equipment engineering. Human engineering is also a critical factor.

"There's a lot of exercises we have to do to be able to actually race in the position that is the most aerodynamic, so it's an on-going process of adapting," said Wiles.

Down the hall, San Francisco team member Evie Stevens is undergoing a body geometry assessment, which will be recorded and analyzed by computer software. Comfort and customizing the bike's seat, or saddle, are also critical to winning a race.

"I want to be a world champion, Olympic champion. And, if you don't, if you're losing a little bit of power because your saddle isn't comfortable and you're doing this, you're going to lose. And, so they help you create the best saddle to how you perform the best," said Stevens.

Fitness manager Sean Madsen will then make adjustments.

"In all my experience, I have never met a symmetrical human being. Everyone has their own nuances. Be it a different range of motion, flexibility, stability, past history, injury or even what their goals are on the bike," said Madsen.

All of this helps Specialized to design better bikes for a fast-growing market.


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