Aerodynamics: critical success factor

Aerodynamics are key to better times.

Drag slows you down. The faster you are, the more drag slows you down: aerodynamic advantage wins races.

This realization hit cycling like a thunderbolt in 1989 when Greg LeMond, riding an early aero setup, won the final day’s time-trial on the Champs-Elysées to snatch overall victory from Laurent Fignon in the Tour de France.

All race bike components have adapted to this reality in the years since. So too have the UCI’s rules, repeatedly revised to ensure no rider get an unfair advantage from aerodynamic componentry.

3T has long operated on this frontier between technical advancement and fair play, testing the boundary between what’s possible and what’s permissible. Four years before LeMond’s defining Tour victory, 3T built the bullhorn bar that Francesco Moser rode to the world hour record. It was the blueprint for every TT bar that followed.

Fast forward to 2008: 3T builds Ventus, the most radical, slippery aerobar ever. Tour de France winner Carlos Sastre rides it, so too Fabian Cancellara and Gustav Larsson, gold and silver at the Beijing Olympiad.

Like other component builders, 3T tests the aerodynamic performance of its new product designs theoretically, using computational fluid dynamics (CFD), and empirically, in the wind tunnel.

Our mix of creative engineering flair and careful, methodical wind-tunnel development served us well when we set about our biggest product challenge of the modern era: building wheels. Using a heavy-duty CFD system, 3T developed a new rim profile whose drag numbers matched the best, while offering other significant advantages.

Tests at the Mercedes Petronas wind tunnel showed, as predicted, that 3T Mercurio has a consistent, low drag figure at all yaw angles, making it unconditionally stable in the turbulent air of real-world racing. The same design advantages now extend to 3T’s Accelero range of clincher wheels.

3T’s program of aerodynamic studies continues for all relevant new products, now usually at the Pininfarina Wind Tunnel in Grugliasco (TO).