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Engineering is no longer just about oily workshops and adjusting as we go. Whilst these elements still exist and are important to us, modern engineering tools are becoming ever more high-tech. This allows us to push the boundaries further, and faster than ever before. We can test concepts at the click of a mouse, check aerodynamics digitally and ‘print’ prototype components. Our holistic approach to engineering ensures that we develop the very best product for the environment in which it will be used. We all live in the real world, so at Boardman we always test and model our development products using real world conditions. This means testing across a range of headwinds and crosswinds and at variable speeds, as well as testing (or simulating) with riders in situ. The interaction between all of these elements has a dramatic effect on the drag, mechanical forces and overall performance that our customers will ultimately experience on our products.

We have a six stage approach in our development cycle, and at each stage we review and inform our vision for the project:

1.Knowledge, Experience & Expertise

Technology can only enhance what the user puts in to the system - 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 make a real technological breakthrough you need a team with experience, passion and most importantly imagination.

2.Computer Aided Design (CAD)

We take our ideas and blue-sky thinking and convert these into CAD designs – these are detailed 3D model our designs in a simulated world. To our frame designs, we add a full suite of componentry as well as 3D “people” through the use of body scans.

3.Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)

Next, we take the CAD models and test these using sophisticated CFD programs – this allows us to do aerodynamic testing to model the effect of airflow over our designs. CFD can show us a highly detailed aerodynamic analysis of the bicycle and allows us to pin point areas we can improve and tweak until we are happy with the result. There are often dozens of trials in CFD before we are ready to move on.

4.Finite Element Analysis (FEA)

Once we have refined our preferred design using CFD analysis, we then run the design through FEA using specific load paths applied by the rider but at far greater forces, to identify how stresses and loads are distributed across the frame or components. Using this information we can again tweak the design if required and use the data to decide upon the type and quantities of material we need to use in each area, in order to get the best combination of strength, stiffness and weight. When using carbon fibre, the FEA process also allows us to identify which orientation we should lay the fibres in, in order to optimise performance.

5.Rapid Prototyping / 3D Printing

The newest tool in our development arsenal is the 3D printer. We are now able to rapidly convert our theoretical models into real tangible samples. Within hours or days we can ‘print’ one-off prototypes to test the engagement between components and to test in the wind tunnel.

6.Wind Tunnel Testing

As soon as we have a physical prototype, we utilise our wind tunnel, to give highly accurate results of the true aerodynamic performance of the product. At this stage we can decide whether we have the desired result and wish to proceed with production, or if we need to go back through the CFD and development process.

7.Real World Testing

No amount of virtual testing, R&D and design can make up for actually getting out there into the environment and situation the product was intended to be used in. Our team spend countless hours testing every product in real world conditions, to ensure that when it counts, the product performs as it is intended.

Not all ideas make it out into the real world - some concepts never make it beyond the 3D modelled world. However, the most important thing for the team is knowledge. We take note of what we can learn from each idea and use this to inform our next project. Some of our biggest learning’s have come from things that have not worked, and some of our best ideas have been generated as a result of these learning’s.

Engineering in the 21st century offers us a whole world of new exploration – but it is the people who push the boundaries of design.