Aerodynamic Apparel

Did you know a well fitted skin suit can give 10% more time saving in a TT than aero bars and an incredible 800% more time saving than an aero frame?

Numerous research has shown the airflow around an object can be influenced by altering its surface properties. Under the right conditions, increasing the surface roughness to induce airflow characteristics at the boundary layer can decrease the drag experienced by an object. This technology is used currently in the cycling industry in various applications of wheel and frame design – for example the dimples contained on Zipp’s Firecrest wheelset. The approach has also been used extensively in both the aerospace and Formula One industries for a number of years. We can apply a similar approach to cycling apparel to achieve the same outcomes.

Cycling apparel is not something cyclists intuitively think about when it comes to finding ways to make you faster. The talk generally centers on wheels, frames, helmets etc. However, many pro teams and competitive age groupers understand the potential in apparel design. CyclingTips published an article showing that clothing apparel offers the “Biggest Bang For Your Buck” in terms of performance benefits1 – this is a must read article for any cyclist. Michael Hutchinson’s book ‘Faster’, also observed the best cycling clothing has the potential to give more aerodynamic advantage than upgrading to a better time trial bike.

The truth is, apparel design is being scrutinized very closely and for good measure – your body, and therefore the clothes you wear, is constantly catching the wind. We know up to 70% (or more) of the effort a cyclist exerts can go towards overcoming wind resistance, and close to 80% of all the forces experienced by a rider relate to drag and that the body is the biggest contributor to this. Simple experiment – next time you’re out riding, wear some sloppy clothes and feel how much wind you catch.

Here’s the thing: it’s not about having a race fit or fancy colors – anyone can do that. It’s easy to make these claims but next to impossible to prove them. Compression clothing…have there been any definitive studies to show it works during exercise? Cycling Aerodynamics…unquestionably is a priority for any cyclist.  And when it comes to aerodynamic efficiency and material technology in clothing, this is a highly specialized area. Every millisecond you’re on the road, the wind is rushing over, through and under your apparel. Your apparel plays a crucial role and its design should be taken very seriously. Think about that the next time you wear your regular apparel. Is what you’re wearing helping or hurting you?

“Every watt counts….I generate just under 300 watts on average over the 112-mile bike course. Saving an average of 10 watts by wearing the right suit would be incredible. It would be worth several minutes”

– Sebastian Kienle, Triathlon World Champion

Why spend thousands of dollars on cycling components alone? You can achieve similar benefits at a fraction of the price by choosing the right performance apparel.

About the Author: Hari Gopu is a passionate cyclist, having raced on the road at multiple levels across Australia, South America, North America and Europe. Hari has a background in aerodynamics, having completed a thesis in the field of Aerodynamic Performance Optimization with degrees from Monash University (Australia). He is a co-founder of elv^8 Performance Sports, which makes high-performance cycling apparel focused on aerodynamic benefits. He brings his technical expertise and knowledge to the team, including overseeing the wind tunnel testing program and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) analysis of the elv^8 performance cycling apparel line.