A grand day out at Drag2Zero for four club juniors

Many of you will have seen recently on Facebook, pictures of four club juniors on an exclusive visit to the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub, run by Simon Smart’s Drag2Zero company.

This blog – with help from Race Secretary Mark Boyles – is my attempt to tell you more about the SSE Hub, how the trip was arranged, the juniors involved and what they got out of the visit.

From left to right – Peggy, Louis, Simon, Poppy and Bella

Many of you will already know Simon, who’s a second claim club member. He’s also been a regular Wednesday evening TT competitor for some time now – no doubt using our local courses to test his developments and theories. Simon set up Drag2Zero in 2007, using tools such as wind tunnels and CFD to aerodynamically optimise a racing cyclists’ riding position and equipment. He’s worked with some of the top names in the professional cycling world, including helping Alex Dowsett on his hour record attempt. The triathlete Brownlee Bothers have also received his help and advice. He’s created some very iconic kit over the years, including the design of the Giant trinity bikes and he works with brands such as, Enve wheels, Endura clothing and Scott bikes.

If you want to know more about the SSE Hub and what if offers, then go to the Drag2Zero website here     www.drag2zero.co.uk

So, how did the visit come about? Well, this was yet another idea of Mark’s, as part of his aim to help and promote the club’s race squad, particularly for juniors. He reached out to Simon at Drag2Zero back in August 2020 to see if he could arrange a visit for the club’s juniors. His original aim was for them to simply have a look around and for Simon to talk to them about position, aero and aerodynamic aids etc.

Everything was then put on hold due to Covid, but Simon and Mark got talking again at the start of the year about the visit. This time Simon offered to take this one step further and put them in the wind tunnel and get some real data to analyse. Now this really was exciting, as this is something most cyclists could only dream about.

It couldn’t have come at a better time as well, because at the moment the club has four very keen and active racing juniors. They are; Mark’s 13-year-old daughter Isabella, 14-year-old, Poppy Kisley, 16-year-old Peggy Simpkins and 17-year-old Louis Bushby. All four now compete regularly in the club’s Wednesday evening TTs and Louis was the youngest competitor in our annual road race last month.

Bella trying a different seating position and a new helmet

Upon their arrival Simon talked to them all about the importance of aerodynamics and his past experience, from starting in the world of Formula 1 and then moving on to cycling aerodynamics.

Each junior was then taken in turn into the tunnel testing area, where their bike was set up ready to go. Their, very envious, parents were able to watch from the side observation room, which was directly opposite the control room.

                                                                                          Louis trying for those marginal gains

The first run was a baseline run to understand the current riders drag coefficient. Simon and his team then made changes to a riders’ position, like moving the saddle forward, raising bar heights etc., to try and get some gains. For some riders the gains were very big. They also had a chance to try on some different helmets to see if the performance could be improved. Each run was photographed in real time from the front and side and the first baseline position overlaid so you could visually see the difference.

The photos throughout this blog clearly illustrate what a great opportunity the juniors experienced. Following their sessions in the wind tunnel they were all given very detailed individual two-page session reports. These included photos and comments on all the main points covered and make fascinating reading. I think TT secretary Oli Wright needs to read them all carefully, as he may need to adjust his seedings in the coming weeks. Below is an extract from the final summary of two of the reports to illustrate my point.

Peggy in action as seen from the control room

Poppy’s report

You are a very quick learner! We made quite a few improvements to your position in the little time that we had. First off, we took your ‘baseline’ position, which is where we look at your starting position. This was great to start with but there were some changes we could make. Firstly, the helmet and head position. We tried a Giro Aerohead helmet and focused on looking through your eyebrows on the road ahead. This change was great as we dropped your drag by 28 watts! Also with the head low, it dropped it a further 7 watts of drag. The second change was to move the saddle forward 2.5cm. This helps to create more power allows you to sit on the saddle more comfortably. This change was good as it allowed you to push your legs a lot better on the pedals and also was slightly more aerodynamic. Overall, from the first run to the last run, we managed to drop your drag by around 40 watts! That is amazing


Bella’s report

We managed to improve your position a lot in such a short period of time. You started off with a very quick baseline run, but we could see that there were some things to work with in terms of changes. Our first change was to move the saddle forward as your weight was slightly too far back meaning that your body was a little upright. This also helped with allowing your legs to really kick the pedals and create power. The second change was to switch the helmet for a Giro Aerohead. This seemed to fit your body very well, even though it felt a little big on your head. We focused on looking through the eyebrows here to get the best head and helmet position possible. The last adjustment was tilting the aero bars and pads up. This meant that you could get more compact and not have to force your head lower which can cause pain. By the end of the test, we managed to drop your drag by 44 watts, while also making the position more comfortable for you to ride in. These are great results.


Fast learner Poppy made some big gains

Whilst I’m no time trialist myself, I do find the whole quest for speed fascinating and the improvements that can now be made and measured with modern technology. The club’s recent Athletes TT, where riders must ride standard bikes with no aero aids, illustrates all this so well. A look at the times of the club’s top riders, shows that a good TT bike set up will reduce their times by over 2 minutes on our popular K4/20 20k/13m course.

To finish off, here are some great comments on the sessions from all those involved;

Simon.    “It was a lot of fun and even I learned a lot – which I didn’t expect.  It was great to give them some inspiration, and hopefully see them all on the time sheets for many years to come ”

Mark.   “This was an amazing evening and I can’t thank Simon and his team enough. It was incredible that the juniors were able to make big aero changes with simple adjustments to position and kit. What an inspirational evening and I’m sure this is etched on their cycling memories”.

Bella.   “It was an amazing experience and it was great to learn how to improve my performance on my bike. Thank you to Simon and the club for this opportunity ”

Peggy.   “It was cool and a great experience to be in the wind tunnel. I have learnt how I can make some marginal gains. Overall, it felt like a very professional experience and we were privileged to be part of it. I am really grateful to Simon and his team for their time and expertise.”

Poppy.   “I really enjoyed my experience in the wind tunnel. It was great trying out new positions and different aero helmets to see how this would improve my racing times. Thank you, Simon, and Drag2Zereo for this opportunity.”

Louis.   “Ever since I joined Banbury Star, I have had nothing but 100% support from everyone and yesterday was certainly no exception. There aren’t many times in your life when you meet legends of the cycling world, such as Simon. It was an amazing opportunity and I can’t thank Simon, Mark and the whole club enough, it has truly been one of the best experiences of my life and I loved every second and on top of it all I got 13 watts quicker.