QR Athlete Chris Sweet Takes a Trip to the Wind Tunnel
I learned long ago to embrace my inner tri geek. The national and international regulations surrounding triathlon are far less restrictive than those imposed by the UCI on professional cycling. You wanna ride a crazy aggressive forward position or wear obnoxious compression socks? Triathlon says go for it, UCI says no way. Moreover, at this point in my career really long races are the only thing that I am passably competitive at as a professional. When you start looking at how tiny savings add up over the course of 112 non-drafting miles then the geekiness starts to look more like a strategic calculation. For example, at my weight and average ironman bike speed every watt saved through drag reduction (or increased through training) yields a bit less than a 1 minute improvement. A wind tunnel visit is certainly the pinnacle of tri geekiness. You bust out all the aero equipment and start to look for these small marginal gains. For the great majority of riders though, those marginal gains can really add up.
Our joint summer family vacation (where we spend most of a week with my mom, my brother and his family) was near Asheville, North Carolina this summer. This was about a 10 hour drive from Central Illinois, but it had the fringe benefit of putting me within 2 hours of the A2 Wind Tunnel
in Moorseville, North Carolina. Fortunately they had two hours available during the time I would be out there. Generally people know that wind tunnel testing is one objective way to measure the aerodynamic differences between various pieces of equipment and positions. They also know it is prohibitively expensive. Two hours of wind tunnel time will run you around a grand, which just seems absurd to me given that my total investment in my first road bike that I raced for many years was $300. I checked the family savings account and it still had the same 7 cents that we've been able to put away the last five years! Essentially all of our family equity is in the form of bikes and wheels, so I was able to liquidate a few things to fund my tunnel visit! Even with the price tag, I think I can show that this visit was definitely worthwhile.
Outside of the tunnel
There has been a very cool trend among the triathlon community to openly share wind tunnel data. This always comes with the standard caveat that you go to the tunnel because it is the only way to find out what actually works for you. The helmet that tested the best for me (Giro Selector) did so because of my particular position and back shape. If you already know all about drag coefficients, yaw, and aero watts and just want to see the raw data in an excel spreadsheet, click here
. Below, I briefly explain the wind tunnel testing procedures and summarize the tests (runs) that I did during my trip.
The A2 guys had a great sign with the above quote from rocket scientist Werner Von Braun. This is the real reason to go to the tunnel. Cut through all the marketing hype and BS and find out what works for you in real time.
Very easy to see the rotating platform in this pic which allows testing of various yaw angles.
The way wind tunnel testing works is that they mount your bike on pedestal in the tunnel that can rotate in order to test both head-on and cross winds (yaw). The pedestal has a computrainer underneath that records power output. You start out with the baseline position that you came in with and then make incremental small changes looking for drag reductions. Each "run" in the tunnel lasts a little over a minute during which time the fans come on and you test head-on and then at 10 degrees yaw. The tunnel has a very cool projector set-up where while you are riding the floor in front of you displays 4 images: best run of the day, current live image for comparison, an overhead live image and a head-on live image.
The testing is very methodical and progressive. For example they will test bar drop in both directions (higher and lower) until drag stops decreasing and then you are done with that aspect.
For my two hours I wanted to test a few position changes and then a few pieces of equipment. Thanks to sponsors Zipp
and Quintana Roo
I did not need to spend any time worrying about wheels or different frames. My 808/Sub 9 disc combo and Illicito frame are as good as anything on the market! I got a Guru DFU (Dynamic Fit Unit) fit from one of the best in the Midwest: James Coudright at SBR St. Louis. That fit resulted in me comfortably riding far more drop than my past conservative positions. I came into the tunnel with what I thought was a pretty clean position aerodynamically and I really didn't expect any major changes. I did want to find out if I could ride less drop without adding drag, though.
Let's walk through the various runs we did. To keep things (somewhat!) simple I'll just list two numbers here: average aero watts and average drag coefficient. The average includes both head-on and 10 degree yaw runs. Aero watts are the amount of power required to overcome aerodynamic drag at a given speed ( a realistic 23 mph on my spreadsheet). Drag coefficient CdA(m2) is the industry standard measurement and is the product of the coefficient of drag and frontal area.
Run #1 Baseline Testing
178 aero watts, .267 CdA
Run # 2 Tie up front brake cable. This cable sticks out somewhat on the Illicito. Tying it up actually showed a small increase in drag, but this wasn't tested at yaw, so not really a comparable number to above. Looks like QR was right not to sweat it about this cable.
182 aero watts, .274 CdA
Run #3 Helmet position change. I came into the tunnel with the new Louis Garneau P-09 aero helmet. For this run we positioned the helmet tail more towards my back. First bit of drag reduction seen here.
173.5 aero watts, .260 CdA
Run #4 I was already riding about as much drop as possible on the medium-large Illicito frame. We tried a quick test of removing my elbow pads which dropped me down 1-2cm more. This actually increased drag a bit, so we didn't need to try and get any lower.
174.5 aero watts, .262 CdA
Runs #5-#7 All tested pad width (both moving pads in and out from my baseline setup. I already had a pretty narrow set-up and it turned out my baseline was fastest in this instance.
Runs #8-#9 Were done to find out if I could ride less aerobar drop without creating additional drag. While this is actually the case for some people, raising my bars up did create additional drag. Back to baseline position again.
Runs #10-12 Tested whether or not I would be better off with traditional up-pointed ski bend aero bar extensions as opposed to my current S-bends. The S-bends look like they put you in a very aero position, but this was not the case for me. I should see a nice little reduction in drag going back to the ski bends. As a bonus, I think they are a little more comfortable than the s-bends.
171.5 aero watts, .257 CdA.
Run #13 I had my bars tilted up slightly which caused the airfoil shape not to be perfectly level. Leveling the bars out seemed to create a tiny gain, but it would be within the margin of error for testing.
Run #14 Was a test of my P-09 helmet without the visor. The helmet actually tested better without the visor. I know some others have seen the same result when removing visors from various helmets. Again visors look very aerodynamic, but they turn your head into even more of a sphere, which is not a good thing.
171 aero watts, .256 CdA
Runs #15-17 tested the following aero helmets: Giro Advantage II, Giro Selector and Kask Bambino. The best of these was clearly the Giro Selector. If you look at some of the images from the runs with this helmet it sits really nicely on my back. It kind of looks like I might be straining my neck to achieve this position, but I was careful to only test positions that I could hold for 5 hours.
169 aero watts, .254 CdA
Run #18 tested the Torhans Aero 30 bottle vs. the Profile Design Aero HC between the arms bottle that was part of my baseline. There was no real difference between the two which was nice to know. I will probably use the Torhans for long course since I can start out with more fluid.
Run #19 The last thing that I had time to test was a Pearl Izumi Octane tri suit. This suit has short sleeves and an aero fabric. When I initially heard the manufacturer's time savings claims I just assumed they were comparing to a loose fitting bike jersey which I don't race in. In fact, this suit tests much faster for many (but not all!) people compared to a tight-fitting sleeveless tri suit. A full half of the wind tunnel savings I found came from this last run with the PI suit. With the tunnel fans running at 30 mph I could feel that this suit was fast. When you scale it back to a more realistic speed of 23 mph it dropped my aero watts to 161.5 (a 7.5 watt savings) with a CdA of .242 (.012 savings).
Initial baseline: 178 aero watts, .267 CdA
Best position / equipment: 161.5 aero watts and .242 CdA
That's an impressive savings of 16.5 aero watts and a .025 reduction in overall CdA. It's important to remember these numbers come from a realistic speed of 23 mph. At that speed a savings of 16.5 watts would yield a time drop of more than 8 minutes!
My Baseline Position
Let's put these numbers into context. First the ironman bike time savings from a good aero wheelset vs. a training wheelset at these same speeds (not 40km/hr which is often used) would be in the range of 6-10 minutes depending on whose numbers you use. A good race wheelset will cost you at least $1000 and tops out at $3000. Hey wait, all of a sudden my wind tunnel investment is looking really good for about the same amount of time saved! Now let's look at how this investment might play out for me. My two "A" races last year were Rev3 Branson half and Beach to Battleship full. At the Rev3 Branson race where I qualified for my pro card I was second overall by 12 seconds. Had I done this wind tunnel visit prior to that race it surely would have yielded a nice overall amateur win on my resume. At Beach to Battleship I averaged about 22.5 mph and finished 4th overall. An 8 minute improvement on the bike would have moved me up to 2nd overall along with a $400 increase in prize money.
So bottom line? Wind tunnel uber-geeky? Yes absolutely. Wind tunnel a good investment? For me, also yes, absolutely.
A properly geeky, goofy pic.
It's Personal: Bernard Vonn Sia
Meet Bernard Vonn Sia, the first PRsix owner in the Philippines:
How is triathlon 'Personal' for you?
It's personal to me in many ways:It's my personal 'me time'. I just race against myself being an age grouper. I am happy to be able to just finish with a good time. Sometimes it's my "me time" during training, a chance to reflect and recharge from the daily grind of work.It's my treasure chest of personal friends. I started running alone and slowly developed riding buddies when I got my first road bike, They then invited me to be part of TTB (team Tyts Bogdo) of which I gladly accepted. I value the team training and we've all grown to be personal friends from all walks of life and different age groupsIt's my sense of personal achievement. No matter how good or bad my time was, crossing that finish line has gives me that sense of achievement and personal gratitude to my training buddies who selflessly share their tips & advice and most especially to my wife & kids whose patience and consideration allow me to train on some days.It's my personal learning experience. I have never been this active in my life before. Traits of discipline, focus, determination, perseverance, and honesty are further honed and are applied in my day to day life at work, in the different organizations I am a member of, and in the family.
When did you start doing triathlon?
November 2012 - Sprint Distance, second to the last out of the water. A month before that, floating on water was not even possible.
Why did you start?
It all just started with running. December 2011, then 39 years old after getting my annual medical check up and found out there were some borderline results, thankfully nothing serious but was a good wake up call. I'd been sedentary prior to that with some bowling & golf on and off. Running alone just to try to get into shape and a few months later, biking for cross training & swim came last.
What have been some of your best or favorite races so far?
Ironman 70.3 Philippines in our hometown has always topped the list due to the size of the event, race route & the cheers of our fellow locals. Not to be left out, I'd say Tabuelan 111 would be next to it, a local almost 70.3 distance race held every June northwest of our island in Cebu, Philippines. It serves as a tune up race for the 70.3 held every August. My personal opinion: this race measures up to ironman organized races.
What keeps you motivated?
Without sacrificing time for family and my business, I would say a good performance during a race is icing on the cake. The real fun is in training. The chance to figure out your skill, fitness level, nutrition and limits is the motivation. The race is just the graduation, as my teammate Rodrick would put it. The camaraderie of TTB mates, their advice, and trying to apply it is something that I look forward to in and out of training. The teaching from our TTB elder Mr. Chaho Chip is the team's drive to be better.
I think it also goes without saying that my family keeps me in high spirits not just in this sport but in all facets of life. Imagining their smiles & laughs give me that extra kick when there's nothing more to give.
What don't you like about triathlon?
The fear of being injured, burned out and sometimes the constant 'targeting' by mates. I perform better working with rather than against team mates. Injuries put you on the side and feelings of "I could have been biking today."
It's addicting! I have to constantly remind myself I have a day job & a family otherwise! Hahaha!
You've already done some races this year; how have they gone so far?
This season has actually been scarce compared to my season 1 last year. Only two races so far. They are both in the opposite sides of the spectrum. My first one last May was devastating but a learning experience, the second this month was great but needs some run time improvement.
What else do you have planned for this season?
My second Cobra Ironman 70.3 this August here in Cebu, Philippines & my very first Ironman next March in Melbourne.
I'm a QR returnee as my first tri bike was a CD0.1. Changed to a different brand out of curiosity but came back to QR on a PRSix because I find QR fit just right. PRSix: Aero and comfy. From my first ride 2 months ago until now I am still discovering her and continue to be pleasantly surprised. Gotta be honest, when I first got it, told myself "doesn't look special", but the design grows on you and I can't help but keep on complimenting her frame design and how it's been "thought of" really well. A bit spoiled in the Philippines as we don't usually take our bike apart for races, but I'm sure the ease of assembly will come in handy come Melbourne next year.
Performance wise, I'm a no elite or pro, but I think I'm performing a bit better than before. PRsix is very responsive and climbs and accelerates like a road bike while being as aero as a tri bike.
Is there anything else that we should know?
42 years old, married to my one and only Cress, my wife of 8 years and blessed with three wonderful children: Cooper, Brie & Bliss. We are engaged in the supply of construction materials here in the Philippines. I believe in a balanced life so after my first season of doing triathlon, I can now better balance work, family & training time. I hope that with this sport, I am able to live a full life and see my grandchildren grow up.
The island of Cebu where we are is a haven for triathletes with the beach just a few minutes away, and has long winding highways good for bike rides. The friendly people and the bustling city life will have you wanting to live here.
Our team, TTB which stands for Team Tyts Bogdo (a vernacular which means 'something's protruding), started and is still a running team with about close to 1/3 of our members going into triathlon. QR bikes have been more visible in our team with Pam getting a Dulce & Brian having a Seduza and on his way to change it to a CD0.1 for his first full ironman as well. We are a diverse group from all walks of life and believe that this sport has brought us closer as friends and have shared a lot of events together not just in triathlon.
Weekend Review: IRONMAN France, IRONMAN Couer d'Alene, and Challenge Atlantic City
While many of us were still sleeping Sunday morning, Cait and Tim Snow were busy representing QR at IRONMAN France.
Cait came out of the swim with a 56:17, firmly in second place, and never let go...
Her 5:17 bike split, followed by a blazing 2:52 marathon, meant that she finished with an overall time of 9:13:02, just 40 seconds off first place.
Challenge Atlantic City
Back in the United States, QR pros Nathan Killam and Jacqui Gordon were checking out the inaugural Challenge Atlantic City in New Jersey.
A 57:09 swim put him in 10th out of the water.
Killam was able to move up a spot with a 4:46 bike split, and it seemed that he would continue moving up as he ran himself into 7th by the half-way mark of the run.
Finishing with a 3:09 marathon, Killam was able to take 10th in the pro division with an overall time of 9:09:26.
On the pro women's side, Jacqui Gordon used a 1:05 swim, a 5:10 bike split, and a 3:33 marathon to take 2nd overall with a time of 9:54.
IRONMAN Coeur d'Alene
The big race of the weekend, though, was IRONMAN Coeur d'Alene, as there were many QR athletes who pulled off multiple top-10 finishes either overall or in their age-groups (even both!) on a very hard day.
In the women's pro race, Jess Smith and Jennie Hansen provided a QR "tour de force," taking 3rd and 5th in the women's pro division.
Jess Smith did not allow the rough swim to slow her down, coming out of the water into T1 in 2nd place.
A 5:29 bike split on her Illicito kept her in 2nd place as she came into T2 and out onto the run.
Smith held on to 3rd overall with a 3:29 marathon, finishing with a time of 9:58.
Jennie Hansen raced in true QT2 fashion, with even pacing and a blazing fast run.
A 1:05 swim put Jennie in 6th overall in to T1.
Even with some difficulties on the bike, Jennie was able to put that behind her as she left T2 and started the run.
A 3:08 marathon moved her up into 5th overall; not quite what she had been hoping for, but impressive nonetheless.
On the men's side, QT2 coach and athlete Patrick Wheeler was the sole QR pro racing.
A 59:06 swim brought Pat out of the water in 7th overall.
Even with a rough day on the bike, Pat put together a 5:05 bike split.
Off the bike and onto the run, Pat's 2:59 marathon was good to put him in 8th overall with a final time of 9:09.
Of course, it wasn't just the QR pros who had a strong showing. Sean Schnur of all3sports destroyed not only the men's age-grouper ranks, but also snatched a top-10 spot overall.
A 1:10 swim left him out of the water in 64th in his age group, but once Sean got on his Illicito, he quickly moved up into 11th overall with a 5:17 bike split.
Once he started running, however, there was no stopping him and he moved into 1st in his age group just after half-way on the run.
A blazing 2:53 marathon gave him a final time of 9:25.
On the women's age-group side of things, Maggie Rusch decided to go ahead and crush the age-group field to take the title of overall amateur.
A 1:06 swim brought Maggie out of the water in 7th, but a 5:40 bike split put her into 1st almost right away, a lead that she was able to hold on to with a 3:36 run split.
Her final time of 10:26 and title of top amateur have secured her a slot in Kona this year.
Good job to everyone who rode a QR this weekend! Because It's Personal.
Weekend Review: Syracuse 70.3
It may have been a somewhat quiet weekend on the QR professional front, but that means we were very focused on Beth Shutt's 3rd place finish at Syracuse 70.3! A few things really make this a special race for us and her:
2) This was her first race back from an extended hip injury (torn labrum)
after IM Los Cabos, and things are looking good!
Beth came out of the water in 7th with a 29:35 swim, but once she got on her Illicito, she moved up into 3rd place overall by the 25-mile mark, and finished the bike leg with a 2:29 split.
She then held on to 3rd overall with a 1:31 run, good for a final time of 4:34. Go Beth!
Why We're Excited for Little Debbie IRONMAN Chattanooga
5 Reasons Why Having Little Debbie Sponsor IRONMAN Chattanooga Is Awesome
Seriously, though, there are some very important reasons why having Little Debbie as the title sponsor for IM Chattanooga actually makes a lot of sense, both for IRONMAN and the city of Chattanooga. Some may see it as an example of corporate greed and big money, but it's quite possible that they don't realize that:
1) McKee Foods, the parent company of Little Debbie, has been a local company for over 70 years, ever since O.D. McKee began selling snack cakes out of the back of his car during the Great Depression. Their company headquarters is located right down the road from our company office, so we run and ride past their factory almost every day, tempted by the haunting aroma of freshly made snack cakes.
2) Mckee Foods employs almost 3,000 local workers, placing it in the top-10 largest local businesses. That's actually more workers than the city of Chattanooga itself employs.
3) Little Debbie is the world's #1 selling snack-cake brand, responsible for one-third of the snack-cake market. Their affordability and prevalence also means that more training rides have probably been fueled by Little Debbie than any other snack brand in existence.
4) The McKee's are avid cyclists and are committed to promoting active and healthy lifestyles for them and their employees. Did we mention that they are right down the road from us? Sometimes our boss and their boss go out for a bike ride. Sometimes they bring us snacks, too.
5) IRONMAN Chattanooga is expected to bring over 75,000 people and $40 million in revenue to the Chattanooga area; the support of local businesses and industries in making sure that IM Chattanooga is a success is in everyone's best interest: everyone benefits from IRONMAN Chattanooga being a huge and awesome success. Why wouldn't Little Debbie, one of the largest local corporations that has been an integral part of Chattanooga for over 70 years, want to be part of that?
Bonus) You can expect to burn anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 calories on race day for an IRONMAN. You can afford to eat a few of snack cakes. You'll probably need to.
We are incredibly proud of our athletes who have already begun to integrate Little Debbie into their nutrition plan. As you can clearly see, there was no hesitation on their part to begin experimenting with what could possibly be the on-course nutrition.
Morning swim with Honey Buns!
Noon bike ride with... more Honey Buns!
Cosmic Brownies and Zebra Cakes for pre and post-run fuel.
Oatmeal Cream Pie: long-ride staple since 1960
Weekend Review: Challenge Kraichgau, Boulder 70.3, and Little Debbie
Challenge Kraichgau, Germany:
The last time we wrote about Julia was just over a month ago
, where she blazed to a second-place finish at the 2014 Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Texas. If you haven't heard much of Julia Gajer before, don't worry; she is a German professional triathlete, which means that she is still a little unknown to the American audience. However, if she keeps racing like she has been recently, there will be no reason why you shouldn't know who she is; last November she also won IM Arizona.
Since Julia placed second at IM Texas, which meant flying out from Germany less than a week before into a much different time zone and climate, it really is no surprise then that she was able snatch a win on her home turf at Challenge Kraichgau.
Coming out of the water in third, just a few seconds behind the race leader, Julia rode her Illicito to come off the bike in second, just 1:10 off first place. As she worked to move her way up to first place, she ran neck and neck for the last 14km, ultimately winning by just under 2 seconds for a very exciting finish, with a time of 4:27:35. Winning this race also gave Julia Gajer the coveted German national title.
Meanwhile, back in the States, QR pro Callum Millward was already back in action, just two weeks after a 3rd-place finish at Raleigh 70.3
on his PRsix. There's no doubt about it: Callum is one fast Kiwi, especially now that he's had a chance to ride his new bike more than twice and get the fit dialed in.
In Raleigh, Callum went 3:54 with a 2:16 bike split. This past weekend, though, he went 3:47, with a 2:07 bike split.
Book-end that bike split with a 23:17 swim (1.2 miles) and a 1:15 (13.1 miles), and you get a very fast fourth place finish.
Little Debbie IRONMAN Chattanooga
In one of the most surprising announcements of the past week, IRONMAN held a press conference at Coolidge Park, Chattanooga, where it announced McKee Foods
, the owners of Little Debbie
, as the title sponsor for the inaugural IRONMAN Chattanooga
. There has certainly been a mixed reception from the triathlon community
, with some vehemently against it, while others have fully embraced Little Debbie as an integral part of their nutrition plan. This is a controversial topic that we will certainly look at in the future, and hopefully explain why this announcement is such a good thing for both IRONMAN and the city of Chattanooga.