In the first run, the company may come up with new products and innovations directly derived from the newly acquired data, but in the future, Specialized could offer consultancy services for other bike manufacturers.
When it relied on third-party wind tunnels, Specialized was testing its products and concepts nearly finalized, only to check their aerodynamics against CAD simulations or to find unexpected surprises late in the development phase. Instead, the in-house wind tunnel and instrument set allows the bike manufacturer to fine-tune its tests and focus on particular data as the prototypes evolve.
With LabVIEW, Specialized can interface with sensors positioned on both the bike and the cyclist in the wind tunnel while engineers monitor the resulting data on an iPad. Real-time visual data captured by cameras is also integrated into the system. The NI PXI chassis allows users to swap hardware for additional tests using new sensors and controllers. It can also reduce turnaround times, for example, when switching between R&D testing on equipment and performance testing on professional athletes.
“We’ve already put 10 of our professional athletes through and it’s a complete game changer” said Cote, “The design is specific for our needs and we can measure very precisely” he added.
R&D engineer at Specialized Bicycle Components, Chris Yu is also convinced that the new-built facility with its adjustable test set and variables, will lead to further innovations in the cycling industry. The engineer relies on computer simulation, airflow modelling and real-world testing.
“In our line of research the wind tunnel is the actual bread and butter of our work. It is our lab space. It is an environment where we can create a realistic situation and at the same time precisely and repeatedly run through tests to see if we’ve made an impact or not”, Yu says.
“When we test a bike we will collect data from the bike in terms of forces on the bike itself. We will collect data from the rider; their heart rate, power output and various things like that. And for the airflow we have airflow sensors and environmental sensors”.
“At the same time we have to control the entire system so we control the wheel speed the orientation of the bike in relation to the wind and also the motion of the bike in relation to the rider. While all that is happening we have a vision package as well, where in real time we are taking like HD video and stills of the entire test so we can not only document the test but at the same time study how the rider is interacting with the bike.”