Recently, I was given the chance to sit in on an aero testing session in a wind tunnel.
After having seen riders be tested on velodromes, I was really interested to keep following the developments in aero testing for cyclists.
It’s quickly becoming common knowledge that optimising your position for aerodynamics is a must if you want to go faster – after all, most people know how to train up to their own peak power output for the amount of free time they have. Once that avenue is exhausted, it’s time to look elsewhere.
However, I was a little wary of the idea of the wind tunnel. All the effort and expense, as well as the attention on the individual rider, struck me as vulgar in the same way that £15,000 road bikes or guided bike tours do. It’s easy to become unsettled and start thinking that the explosion in interest in aero testing is causing the sport to become more elitist and leaving those without seriously deep pockets in the dust.
But I don’t think that’s the case. Wind tunnels and aero testing are not new – it’s just that they were so exclusive in the past that only the very top of the pecking order could ever even get a sniff. Yes, it’s still expensive, but the fact that aero testing has become so popular is evidence of its democratisation. After all, you know what else is expensive? Everything else about cycling. Frames, wheels, power meters, and the ability to take hours out of the day to go training are all enormous luxuries. At what point do we start to feel guilty about this, and why do people get to decide that we should? Is it wrong to want to make the most of the power you’ve worked so much to be able to produce?
Cycling as a sport is as much about the equipment as the physical challenge itself – that’s how it is, and that’s how it always has been. Expecting the nature of the sport to change is fantasy, and pretending that things used to be different isn’t really true.
Whether it’s power meters, running poles, or aero testing, lots of people get up in arms about equipment upgrades and how they feel that it detracts from the sport, and I can sympathise. But your best performances come from a combination of mind and body, from you on the day as well as the hours of preparation and training you’ve put in beforehand.
I find it really hard to have any problem with people making the most of themselves on all fronts, and really easy to get excited about passion, innovation, and tech that lets us do more and do better.