In collaboration with MAVIC, we have developed the most aerodynamic bicycle wheel on the market. The key feature of this wheel is its ability to sail in a cross-wind, just like a sailboat. The phenomenon relies on features on the tire itself. While it was thought in the past that wheel/tire smoothness was the key to good performance, our team discovered that adequately designed patterns on the tire allowed cross-winds to remain attached around the front wheel. The flowfield is very similar to that of an airfoil at incidence, and thrust forces (in the direction of travel) can even be generated. While most of the development up to date has been performed in a classical wind tunnel, recent work has been conducted in an unusual setting, a hydrodynamic towing tank, in order to achieve low levels of turbulence and facilitate quantitative flow visualization (PIV).
WHAT WE DID