Time in the Wind Tunnel

Colin and Armand at Wind TunnelAt the end of January, I had the thrill off spending some time in the wind tunnel. It is always very exciting to get in the wind tunnel and do some testing. I had starting working with Armand, the founder and owner of Speed Merchant Aero, a few months back.  We both had expressed interest in working together and Armand told me about a new certification he was putting together for coaches and bike fitters to become wind tunnel certified coaches or fitters.  I took Armand up on his offer and we spent a lot of time together as he educated me on aerodynamics in general and what can really be done in the wind tunnel.  Armand actually designed and created his wind tunnel himself.  It is an incredible design and he is clearly a very intelligent and talented individual.  I was excited at the opportunity to spend some time in the tunnel as well as get some of my clients in there.

Aero position with Rudy Helmet at Wind tunnel on 1-27-2014I thought I knew a good amount about aerodynamics, but I was amazed by the information Armand presented to me.  I used to think that wind tunnels were too expensive and that it was not worth the money.  I had also heard that some wind tunnel experts would just try to get you in a super aero position that could reduce drag, but would leave you in a position that was unrealistic to hold for long periods of time, especially long course triathlons like Half Ironmans and Ironmans.  As a result, I figured I could just go off what I had learned in the past and that my position and my gear were right for me.  I had taken pictures of myself and again, I thought I was doing fine in that department.  However, as a long course athlete, aerodynamics play a big role.  In a sport where every second matters, I wanted to see where I stand and see what recommendations Armand had for me.

Aero position with Rudy Road Helmet at Wind tunnel on 1-27-2014After spending time with Armand, my thoughts on the wind tunnel all changed quite a bit.  We found that my road helmet was actually more aerodynamic than the aero helmet I had been using the last couple years!  We also make a few minor tweaks to make that helped make me more aero.  I was also extremely impressed that he actually cared about comfort and wanted to ensure that we were using a position that was comfortable for me and would be a position I could hold throughout the race.  Armand and I agree that it is more important to be in a comfortable position over a more aerodynamic position.  If you go with too aggressive with a position and you end up spending 1/3 of the race upright because your aero position isn’t manageable then you’re going to end up being much slower than the less aerodynamic position that you’re able to hold for the entire race.

Overall, I was very happy with the time I spent in the tunnel working on myself and my position.  I will be making a helmet change, some bottle changes, and we lowered my position a bit.  Thanks for the help Armand!

Earlier this month, I rented out the tunnel and was able to get 6 of my clients to the tunnel for a 9 hour Wind Tunnel extravaganza.  Each of my clients got 90 minutes in the tunnel.  It was a long day, but everyone left happy and with some adjustment or equipment change recommendations that should be very helpful to them.  Here is a video of Jim in the tunnel during a test run while our good friend Jack Chapman of The Velo Resource taking in some of the action:

Takeaways from the wind tunnel:

Everyone is different!  There are tons of advertisements out there by different companies saying that they have the most aerodynamic/fastest equipment.  They have have some statistics/data to back that up, but do those statistics apply to you??  The right equipment for a 5’2 female and a 6’5 male like myself are most likely very different.  Your position on the bike has a huge impact on which equipment will be best for you.  As a result, my advise is do some testing and figure what is best for you.  Don’t take free speed away from yourself or give your competition an advantage.  My clients get discounted rates at the Speed Merchant Aero Wind Tunnel and I’m pretty sure all 6 of my clients as well as myself will tell you it was worth the investment.

The other interesting discussion point that I found was some coaches and bike fitters don’t want there clients to go to the wind tunnel.  They’re concerned that their position will change or that their clients will feel like the coach or fitter didn’t help them obtain this “free” speed.  However, I completely disagree with this.  My goal as a coach is to help my clients enjoy their triathlon experience and in most cases, that means helping them find ways to cross that finish line as fast as possible.  Am I going to work with them to get faster in the water, put out some more wattage on the bike, and run faster?  Absolutely!  That being said, recommending the right equipment and resources, in this case at a significantly discounted rate, is very important to me and I’m pretty sure my clients will agree with me.

Happy training everyone!  Race season for us New Englanders will be here soon!!!  🙂