The process is never-ending. Our Research and Development department continuously looks at ways to develop and improve our frames through a combination of experimentation, in-the-field testing and imagination.
Be it a Hard Tail MTB, a hybrid for commuting or a bike destined for the Pro peloton, we approach each design project in fundamentally the same way: we start with a blank piece of paper and identify the core challenges associated with bikes intended use. From there we focus on each of these elements to create the best blend of equipment, tube profiles, geometry and material for the application. Our goal is simple, pure performance... which is easy enough to say but how do we actually do this...
When designing frames with aerodynamic properties, it would be easy to do what most designers do and just pick one of the nice NACA (The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) prescribed profiles and the bike would 'look aero'. Although this what has been done in the bicycle industry for nearly a decade now this is flawed as the aero challenges a cyclist faces are quite unique. Our development process takes the lower air speeds encountered by a cyclist and non ideal airflow conditions into account. But we don't stop there. In our aero modelling process, we take into account not only the speed, types of airflow and equipment shape, but also the effect of the rider themselves as the interactions between all these things have a dramatic effect on drag. When modelled together the 'ideal' tube forms might be quite different to that original NACA form. Our holistic approach to aerodynamics assures a form that is truly aero for the environment in which it will be used. We use three core high-tech scientific tools to achieve this:
1. Computer Aided Design
First step, we convert our ideas (based on years of aero modelling) into CAD designs; 3D models so we can develop them in a virtual environment with virtual tools.
2. Computational Fluid Dynamics
We take the CAD ideas and test them using sophisticated CFD programs, (aero testing in cyberspace) in order to model the effect of airflow over the shapes we are interested in using. This helps us identify areas we can improve and we tweak the designs until we are happy. There are often dozens of trials in CFD before we are ready to move on.
3. Finite Element Analysis
Finally, once the shape is defined, we tell the computer what materials we want to use, how much in each area and, in the case of carbon fibre, what orientation we want the carbon cloth laid. The FEA program then bends and twists the frame in the way that a bike rider would (but with much higher loads). We then know where we need to add material, where we can take it away to save weight or perhaps where we need to tweak the shape to get the desired ride properties. These are marvellous tools... if you know how to use them and that's where the final ingredients come in...
Experience, Expertise and Imagination
Like all computer programs, they are only as good as the people who program them; a computer program may be able to answer a question but it cannot tell you if it is the right question to ask! To be able to do that and fully realise the potential of these wonderful tools you need experience, time, resource and most importantly imagination.
The Boardman Team has been involved in the development - and use - of some of the very best bicycles for the last two decades. In that time, we have learned the value of a team approach, exploring, often outside the world of cycling for new technologies (recently in the world of F1 and military technology) and taking the time to really understand all the demands of the event that the bicycle is intended for. By taking these steps we can blend practicality and technology in the right quantities to offer the athlete the best blend of characteristics.
Understanding the properties of different carbon fibre types is key to gaining the maximum advantages from this wonder material. Because of the amount of experience we have amassed, our frames use a lot of Uni-Directional Carbon Fibre which, if used properly can result in a 70% increase in stiffness and strength over more common, cheaper, woven carbon cloth (this takes considerably more skill and understanding to use). Our particular combinations of carbon type, layup and toughened resin mixture are closely guarded secrets. The last part of the process is when we make it real. We chose our suppliers and partners very carefully, all of them have a very advanced understanding of our high technology process's but just as importantly they share our passion for producing awesome bikes; they go great lengths to make sure the final product meets all our detailed exacting standards. We, the design team, work very closely with the production team right through the process to make sure every ounce of our technological understanding goes into the final product.
Wind Tunnel Testing
Aerodynamics, and the understanding of aerodynamic principles is fundamental to our frame designs. So far we've talked a lot about the materials but just as importantly, our chosen frame geometry allows the rider to assume a super aero position and so allow them to pass through the air as efficiently as possible (and we have the data to prove it!) despite this, the bike geometry also allows for excellent handling. (What's this got to do with aerodynamics? Because if the handling is good, the rider has confidence to stay in the aero position longer through twists and turns. Getting these things in one package is no mean feat!)
When considering aerodynamics, it's important not to just consider the results obtained from controlled wind tunnel testing, these are a fantastic tool but don't fully replicate real-life race situations, where the rider interacts with the bike and where the wind doesn't always come from head-on. Using our Natural Laminar Flow methodology to model and shape tubes, we get better performance in all the airflow situations commonly encountered by bike riders and not just in a head-on air flow. These shapes can be seen clearly in our down tube and fork profile. The Natural Laminar Flow Optimisation process has been applied to all our AiR series of frames, giving up to 25% improvement over traditional teardrop tube shapes.
Of course, the aerodynamic properties of the frame are a small percentage of the overall package (equipment, rider etc), but would you rather have a frame that effectively makes it easier (and faster) to ride, or a frame that holds you back?
|Definitions of the technical terms:|
Computer Optimised Profiling (COP)
Computer modelling tools have proven their effectiveness in both wind tunnels and the real world to create Optimised Profile Tubing that accounts for the flow conditions experienced in bike racing. It has taken no less than 2 years of development, countless computer models and numerous prototypes to create what we know to be the cutting-edge blend you can see in our Elite frames. Not one square centimetre of a Boardman Elite frame hasn't been examined and put through this process, there is not a square millimetre for show or styling alone.
Unidirectional Carbon Fibre
Carbon cloth with fibres running in one direction only. Allows precise use for very controlled strength and stiffness. Allows same or better strength/stiffness over multi-directional weaves for much less material.This material is more technical to use and requires a deeper understanding of the way the carbon is laid in the mould.
Natural Laminar Flow
A Process to keep air passing over the frame and forks attached (laminar flow) as long as possible before it separates and becomes turbulent and causes drag. Smooth airflow = fast ride.
Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)
Computational Fluid Dynamics is a powerful computer modelling process, literally mimicking air flow (down to the molecular level) as it interacts with shapes (in engineering terms, air is considered a fluid) to predict the aerodynamic performance of a given form. As a computer model is only as clever as the person programming it CFD Optimisation is a term we have used to describe what happened when the science of CFD modelling meets a user who is equipped to utilise it fully. In short it's what happens when this technology is blended with the right questions.
20 Degree Optimisation Spread
The frames tubes have been designed to perform well in wind directions up to 20 degrees off head-on (this mirrors what happens in the real world rather than the optimised environment in a wind tunnel test).
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