Watt Matters is a blog about training and racing with power and other related musings.

Aside from writing items here on occasions, I also provide cycling performance improvement services via coaching, aerodynamics testing and host a cycling tour.

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Aero for slower riders. Part II

Aero for slower riders. Part II

A couple of years ago in this blog item I explained how there really aren't riders too slow to gain speed benefit from an aerodynamic improvement. I demonstrated how the same aero benefit actually resulted in greater time savings for slower riders over a fixed distance course.

That might seem counter intuitive to begin with, but it's simply because the relative speed gains are almost the same for everyone, and that the slower riders are on course for longer, thereby shaving more time from their ride.

Of course as I mentioned in my previous item the development priorities for every rider will be different, and whether or not spending time, effort, money or other resources on improving aerodynamics is a priority depends very much on your objectives and what your other development priorities are. Keep in mind it is possible to work on various aspects of performance simultaneously, it's not an either/or proposition.

That said, this is really just to cover the physics, which shows us that it really doesn't matter what level of rider you are, there is a speed benefit to improving aerodynamics, and the benefit is pretty much the same for everyone.

So here's the chart*:

It shows three sets of data. The lines plot the speed an rider would sustain on flat road at various power outputs from 100 watts to 400 watts. Put out more power, you go faster. That's pretty obvious.

I plot two of those lines, one each for a given coefficient of drag area (CdA) of 0.32m^2 and one for a CdA of 0.30m^2. Note that these CdA values are approximately midway between values typical for a rider of the size modelled on a road bike and position and a time trial bike and position.

A 0.02m^2 (6.25%) reduction in CdA is entirely possible with clothing, helmet and wheel choices. Of course it's also possible to attain such a drop from positional changes.

How much any individual can reduce their CdA depends on many factors, mostly how (un)aerodynamic they are to begin with. Some people have a greater opportunity for improvement than others.

In any case, the line with the same lower CdA shows a higher speed for each of the power outputs which is to be expected.

Below those lines I show with the red columns the proportional increase in speed attained from that 6.25% reduction in CdA. It ranges from 1.96% increase in speed at 100W to 2.09% increase in speed at 400W.

So while a faster/more powerful rider gains more speed from the same drop in CdA, the relative speed gains are pretty much the same at around 2% across a wide spectrum of power outputs.

OK, as I said last time, putting on some flash aero wheels and a skinsuit won't turn a local club amateur into a pro bike rider, but suggesting that a rider is too slow to gain speed from an aerodynamic improvement is nonsense.

And what's interesting is that all riders, be they fast or slow, benefit almost equally from the same aerodynamic improvement.

* And once again the data is derived using the same model as described in this paper

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Climbing power estimates: Windbags II

Climbing power estimates: Windbags II

W/m^2, Altitude and the Hour Record. Part III

W/m^2, Altitude and the Hour Record. Part III