The Art of Aero
It is there. You feel it brushing against the hair on your arms. Invisible, inaudible, odorless, untouchable – yet there. Air. On the move aka ‘Wind’ But what does wind mean to the cyclist? To you and I? It can help us go faster, but once we’ve crossed the threshold of our physical limits it is often the catalyst that cruelly breaks us. There aren’t many natural elements that possess such powerful polarities for a cyclist. The wind is our best friend and our worst enemy, a curse and a blessing. It has also been the object of an all-consuming obsession at BMC for decades. Our unrelenting search for ways to cheat it like an enemy, or work with it as a friend has been one intriguing journey...
Our First Attempts at Outsmarting Mother Nature
The balancing act of shunning or embracing, and loving or hating wind can be torturous. Throughout the year in Switzerland, we go through the same ritual as you do. We pedal harder on the way to work in the prevailing headwind, we try to escape, we crouch lower and lower, and we look forward to the freespeed offered by the tailwind on the journey home – but just like you we can never escape its effects. And because of that, since the earliest days of making radical tube shapes for aerodynamic advantage, we’ve been trying to outsmart mother nature and her curse on cyclists.
In 2002, BMC engineers first embarked on a mission to create a time-trial bike that would be the superlative of anything ever seen before. Every facet of aerodynamic research was referenced to gain a comprehensive understanding; sailing, Formula 1 racing, airplanes, bobsledding, luge, kite surfing, golf balls, Aerodynamic efficiency comes from far more than just the form of the bike – it comes from a personalized, unique machine that is an extension of the rider.an endless list. If a highly-engineered performance vehicle has interacted with wind, you can bet BMC engineers have studied it. We even drew knowledge from fields far removed from anything related to two wheels. However, our initial research proved that manipulating bicycles to beat the Great Mother was going to be more of a challenge than it seemed. The more we learned, the more of a challenge it became. But after two years of learning and growing, one conclusion was reached; the unique combination of rider and bike was critical. Aerodynamic efficiency comes from far more than just the form of the bike – it comes from a personalized, unique machine that is an extension of the rider. The rider and the bike must be viewed as a complete vehicle.
Enter the 2004 Time Machine TT01. The most cutting- edge aerodynamic time trial bike the world had ever seen was, of course, made to order in Switzerland. Each bike was created from scratch, with proprietary aerodynamic technology and customized rider position solutions that left the rest of the cycling industry lightyears behind, and copying our technologies for years to come. The fact that the rider is responsible for 70-80% of the overall aerodynamic resistance equation was no secret. But due to its complexity, it had been almost ignored by other frame designers. While the Timemachine TT01 was built for speed and introduced the industry to hinge-fork designs and integrated cockpits, the most important introduction was the concept that rider-positioning is as critical to effective aero performance as tube shape design is.
Putting the Rider in the Center of the Equation
Immediately after the launch of the 2004 Timemachine, the search for new knowledge began again. With various molded resin pieces and multiple carbon prototypes at hand, our engineering and design teams set off on a global mission of working with the most knowledgeable players in the bicycle aero game. After more than a half-dozen stops in the premier North American and European wind tunnels, we recognized a pattern in our findings. The exposed frontal area should become as lean as possible, and hardware needed to be hidden. But perplexing to us, there were still virtually no conversations about the rider, except in the context of professional riders getting lower and lower and lower again. While we leverage our professional road racing and triathlon teams in the design phase of new products, we know they are capable of attaining positions on the bike that most of us could never achieve. They are paid to be aero, and they have an army of trainers and physios to help them achieve this. For the rest of us, folding ourselves in half is simply not an option.
Vmax = p2p x subA: an Unbeatable, World Record-breaking Formula
Making the reality of aerodynamics for the masses come to fruition, in a truly commercial application, was an exciting challenge for our engineers...one that resulted in the development and launch of the 2011 Timemachine TM01 with the aerodynamics recipe of Vmax = p2p x subA. For our professional athletes, the results were immediate and impactful. An overall Tour de France victory coming by way of a resounding win by Cadel Evans in the Individual Time Trial, followed by a world record- breaking bike split from Andreas Raelert in an Ironman distance triathlon. Since then, there have been back-to-back Team Time Trial World Championship Titles (BMC Racing Team 2014 and 2015), and countless long-course triathlon titles including two Ironman 70.3 European Championship wins.
Amateurs go Aero too
But equally as important as Ironman and WorldTour high-speed validation is the adaptability of rider-positioning with the Position-to-Perform (p2p) concept. A highly adjustable stem and seatpost lets the rider create an ideal and sustainable position, eliminating the loss of aerodynamic performance on the bike. Any rider can achieve their most sustainable, best high-performance position without sacrificing overall aerodynamics and integration. The popularity of BMC aero bikes among ‘amateur’ riders has been validated over and over again at the annual Kona Bike Count at the Ironman Triathlon World Championships.
Our Next Generation Project – Extending the Lead
While our engineering and design position is clear (that riders are accountable for 70%-80% of the aero equation), the only way to ensure aero performance is to promote the behind closed doors in our Impec Lab, we have been working on some revolutionary designs to once again turn clocks forward. likelihood of the rider maintaining that aero position throughout the event. Simple. And facilitating this has been our goal for over a decade. From axle-to-axle, and head-to-toe we have enabled riders to create sustainable aerodynamic positions, with frame shapes and component integration to support the look, feel, and performance of what a truly aero bike should be.
Since the launch of the 2011 Timemachine, we have continued our passion for matching riders with powerful frame aerodynamics, while behind closed doors in our Impec Lab, we have been working on some revolutionary designs to once again turn clocks forward.
Our recent partnership with leading Swiss Formula 1 aerodynamics specialist, Sauber Engineering, has opened the doors to a world of possibilities. The world-class, technologically advanced Sauber Engineering Wind Tunnel in Hinwil, Switzerland has been the testing ground for our most recent explorations in aerodynamics. Leveraging their proprietary data acquisition methods and series of room-filling supercomputers, we have engaged in the relentless pursuit of studying frame and component design and integration with painstaking detail. Now, a three-year project aimed at defining the most balanced tube shapes in aerodynamic headwind and crosswind stability has driven us towards creating the most cutting-edge and purposeful Triathlon and Time-trial bike ever seen. With no compromise in our focused rider-position adaptability, our latest creation gives clock-racers the free-speed in headwinds and stability in crosswinds to predictably ensure records are beaten, over and over again. Yet again, we have come a few steps closer to outsmarting Mother Nature and her curse on cyclists, with another wind-defying machine.